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Making a Cultural Connection

The three Magi were played by Alianza staffers

From Yonkers to Staten Island, Catholic Charities celebrates the Three Kings’ Feast of the Epiphany

The Three Kings were welcomed by Catholic Charities last weekend from Yonkers, Manhattan, to Staten Island.

The kick-off celebration took place Friday, Jan. 6, as 150 children engaged in arts and crafts and experienced the cultural and religious dimensions of the Epiphany feast at the Alianza Dominicana Cultural Center in Manhattan. The Magi, who were played by Alianza staffers, also provided the children with gifts, including dolls, basketballs, soccer balls and action figures. Food and refreshments were provided.

The event, sponsored by Catholic Charities Community Services and the Alianza Division Youth Services, highlighted a feast day celebrated universally in Christianity but is particularly important in Latin America. The feast marks the journey of the three Wise Men, representing various corners of the world, to the infant Jesus. It is traditionally celebrated Jan. 6, closing the Christmas season, with the Catholic church also marking it as a Sunday celebration which this year took place Jan. 8.

“It was a learning experience,” said Pedro Mejias, Assistant Program Director of  la Plaza Beacon Program of Alianza, who performed a Magi role. “The tradition can keep on, so it doesn’t fade away. It makes the connection to the homeland.”

He noted that many of the children at the event, from Plaza Beacon, P.S. 132 in Manhattan and the Highbridge Cornerstone in the Bronx, are from Dominican, Puerto Rican, Central American and Mexican backgrounds, countries where the feast is rooted in the culture. But Pedro noted that children born and raised in New York from those backgrounds can connect with the culture of their homelands through the celebration of the feast day.

The story of the Three Kings was explained by Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, and Leonardo Ivan Dominguez, Cultural Program Director of Alianza.

The children participated in an art project drawing masks, watched a performance by the Alianza Dance Troupe, and picked out a toy at the conclusion of the event.

In Yonkers, the Day Workers program of Catholic Charities sponsored a Three Kings celebration on Saturday, Jan. 7. The event included a visit from both Santa Claus and the Three Kings, with gift disbursement provided by the Yonkers Police Department. Food distribution was followed by Mass celebrated by Msgr. Sullivan.

Catholic Charities of Staten Island was a sponsor of a Three Kings event at Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Benedicta-St. Mary of the Assumption Church on Sunday, Jan. 8. Food and music were provided through the help of co-sponsors, including the Moore Catholic High School Performing Arts Institute, the Notre Dame Club of Staten Island, BOLD Bread of Life Drive and Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Catholic Charities donated toys and food pantry items.

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