Diocesan Parishioners Participate in Wreath Laying Event

By Annaleigh Gidosh

While Christians use wreaths to symbolize the eternal nature of Christ and reflect on the Incarnation and second-coming of Christ during Advent, Wreaths Across America and their participants at more than four-thousands sites across the nation uniquely remember deceased veterans by embellishing their graves with an evergreen wreath ornamented with a large red bow.

On Saturday, December 16th, at Resurrection Cemetery on Krocks Road in Allentown, a crowd of more than three hundred members of the community and parishioners of the Diocese of Allentown gathered as a part of a local Wreaths Across America event.

"The mission of Wreaths Across America is to 'Remember. Honor. Teach.,'" said former District Master of the Knights of Columbus John Fitzpatrick, who has organized the event for nine years. Fitzpatrick believes it is of the utmost importance to invite the youth and community to participate in the event to acknowledge the sacrifice of our veterans.

Kate Janis, parishioner of St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield worked with Allentown Central Catholic High School for the last two years to get students involved. Freshman Julia Janis sang the national anthem, and Junior classman Kyle Fleshman wrote a speech that moved the youth to reflect on their freedoms.

Freshman Julia Janis sings the national anthem.
Junior classman Kyle Fleshman gives a speech.

"For those of us who had the luxury of growing up in this country, it is easy to overlook the inherent freedoms we've been blessed with," Fleshman explained. "Especially as a young person, it is easy to overlook the ability to freely speak one's mind, to attend school and work uninhibited, and vote in elections that have a real, meaningful impact. Most importantly, we forget the true cost of these freedoms."

One could see youth from local schools, who came with their parents, listening intently as their peers engaged in the event. Boy Scouts Troop #1600 acted as color guard, and their leader, William Folk, performed Taps.

Jason Andrews of St. Luke's University Hospital Network, who also helped organize the event this year, and the Knights of Columbus, were thankful to let the crowd know it was the first year the community raised enough money to place a wreath at each of the 1,600 veterans' graves in the cemetery.

Jason Andrews gives a speech.
Father Butera leads the invocation and concluding prayer.

The event was a success with the help of various community members, including St. Luke's staff, who came earlier in the day to count and organize the wreaths ahead of time. It provided a unique opportunity for hope at this time of year, as we look forward to seeing our loved ones again.

Some individuals including Karl and Rochelle Korsak of St. Peter, Coplay and their friends Ann and Keith Kovacs of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown appreciate the hard work of the coordinators and return year after year to visit and honor their loved ones buried in the cemetery. Rochelle's father was in the Navy, and she, like many others, is grateful to participate and think about her parents in such a special way before Christmas.

Father Christopher Butera, the Brigade Chaplain for the 213th Regional Support Group of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and Pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus, Bath, who led the invocation and concluding prayer, believes that "participating in Wreaths Across America is a great privilege.” “It's not just a gesture of remembrance, but an act of honor,” he explains. “In this simple yet profound act, we connect with our history and pay respect to those who have served and protected our nation. It's a meaningful tradition that strengthens our national and local unity and keeps the memory of our heroes alive."

Photographs by Nick Chismar


Mass Livestream