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USMMA Brightens the Holiday Season with 40th Festival of Lights

KINGS POINT, N.Y., December 13, 2017 – On Monday evening he United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) hosted its 40th annual Festival of Lights in the Mariners’ Memorial Chapel.  The Festival of Lights is an interfaith celebration that has become a beloved tradition at USMMA. Many of the world’s religions celebrate the significance of light during the holiday season and USMMA’s Festival of Lights brings together the Academy’s faith communities for an evening that celebrates shared values and reminds us to be a light to those around us.

Command Chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Jerry Durham, USN began the celebration with, “warm greetings to Admiral Helis our Superintendent and Mrs. Helis, Admiral Dunlap  our Deputy Superintendent, Captain Stroud our Commandant of Midshipmen and Mrs. Stroud” as well as faculty, staff, coaches, alumni, Midshipmen, families and friends of the Academy. He wished a “very special welcome to Colonel Paul Sutter, Command Chaplain of the United States Air Force Academy.”  

Featuring the talents of faculty and Midshipmen, the evening began with musical prelude that included several holiday favorites, from Auld Lang Syne played on the bagpipes by Plebe Vincent Jenkins to a Jingle Bells guitar and banjo duet, by Plebes Nicholas Austell and Pearce Carrson. The Festival Chorus performed many songs throughout the program while Midshipmen delivered readings and lit candles.

After the invocation by Fr. Gilbert Omolo, CP, USMMA’s Catholic Chaplain, Dr. Michael Melcer shared the Chanukah Story and the significance of the dreydl and menorah.  LT Andrew Baransky, USN, USMMA’14, shared the holiday traditions of his large Ukranian-American family, as well as a few amusing stories of his Christmas dinners at sea. Addressing the Midshipmen, he said, “I have missed 3 out of the last 5 Christmas. It’s an unfortunate reality of being a Mariner.” He said, “This profession teaches you to live in the moment and never take for granted the time you get to spend with loved ones. Going forward into life, I hope you are all guided by an inner strength and no matter how far away you roam may the holiday season remind you that you are grounded in your family friends and loved ones. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.”

At the end of the evening, Admiral Helis wished everyone safe travels and a very happy holiday season.

Click Festival of Lights 2017 for a full list of participants.

Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2017
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