Last Friday evening the Awake community gathered for an Advent prayer service exploring both darkness and the gift of light. A recording of the service, “A Light Shines in the Darkness,” is available below. The recording is just under 30 minutes long.
Some attendees gathered in person at Holy Rosary Church in Milwaukee, while many others from across the country participated via livestream. Led by volunteer Pat Conlin, the service featured music, prayer, scripture, and a reflection offered by Awake chaplain Cathy Meleske Dante.
Sara Larson, executive director of Awake Milwaukee, opened the evening with a nod to the darkness that many people experience at this time of year. “We want to acknowledge that a lot of people have heavy hearts during this holiday season for what is going on in their lives or in the wider world,” she said. “We want to be a people that can recognize and welcome that darkness even while turning toward the light.”
Larson also read part of the poem “How the Light Comes” by Jan Richardson, which includes the lines, “I cannot tell you/how the light comes,/but that it does.”
Later in the service, Dante offered a reflection, noting that survivors, their loved ones, and their advocates have experienced many forms of darkness as a result of abuse in the Church. She also acknowledged the pain caused by other sources of darkness, including job loss, COVID-19, and racism.
But Dante also sounded a note of hope. “Yes, there is darkness in our world and in our Church,” she said. “But we’re still here. We’re gathered together. We’re praying. We are longing for light. We’re longing for God, a God who gives us light and life. The darkness has not overcome us.”
Mary Robertson, a member of the Awake Prayer Team, led a quartet of music ministers during the service. She and the team were deliberate about selecting music that would be welcoming to people wounded in Catholic settings by church leaders. “I think one thing Awake can and does offer is a safe space for survivors to be and to share their stories,” she explained. “If we can invite survivors and advocates to pray together, especially in a church environment, and make it a safe space for them, we are hopefully moving toward some healing.”
—Erin O’Donnell, Editor, Awake Blog