WILKES-BARRE – The spirit of giving and generosity filled Saint Nicholas Church on Dec. 6 as parishioners came together to celebrate their patronal feast day.

After several years of subdued celebrations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, children and families were invited to bring forth to the altar toys, games and gifts which will benefit people in need in the community.

“It is a wonderful experience to show the kindness and the giving of the people of Saint Nicholas Parish,” parishioner Bob Hines explained. “It is not just one group of people that get involved, it is everybody. It’s our Social Concerns Committee, our Liturgy Committee, and our Events Committee.”

Father Joseph Verespy, pastor of Saint Nicholas and Our Lady of Fatima Parishes, felt the energy inside the church during the special 6 p.m. Mass.

“The last couple years were very low key because of the pandemic. This year, we really wanted to revive the spirit and enthusiasm so we reached out to the kids in faith formation, the kids in Saint Nicholas/Saint Mary School. I think we succeeded in stirring up the fire again. We’re really happy,” Father Verespy said.

During his homily, Father Verespy invited all of the children in attendance to come forward and sit near all of the toys that had previously started to amass at the altar before the Mass even began. The Wilkes-Barre pastor asked the kids questions about Saint Nicholas and highlighted the gifts being donated at the Mass is one way we can show people we love them, even if we don’t know them.

“Saint Nicholas lived a long time ago but we still honor him, we still love him and we try to be like him,” he explained.

Following the homily, at the time of the presentation of the gifts, anyone who had not previously brought forth their gifts was encouraged to bring them to the altar.

“The kids really understand, as we found out during the homily, they really understand what Saint Nicholas is all about,” Hines said.

At the conclusion of Mass, after the final blessing concluded, the parish received word that a special visitor had arrived – Saint Nicholas himself, accompanied by his helper, Ruprecht – who was played by 11-year-old Adam Martino.

“This is the time to show people that we love them, even when we don’t know them,” Saint Nicholas told the crowd.

Before arriving at the church, Father Verespy said Saint Nicholas was also able to visit Saint Nicholas/Saint Mary School.

“Saint Nicholas went through the school and the littlest kids put their shoes out and got a treat from Saint Nicholas and he visited all the classrooms so they were thrilled. It has been a great day here on the campus of Saint Nicholas/Saint Mary’s,” Father Verespy said with enthusiasm in his voice.