Marywood University News

See all News
Celebrating the Season by “Making Spirits Bright” at Marywood University
Marywood University News
Marywood University News
November 06, 2020

Christmas and Advent traditions at Marywood University are changing this year in response to challenges posed by the pandemic. To ensure the health, safety, and well-being of students, faculty/staff, and the community, a series of outdoor and virtual seasonal events is planned, along with community service endeavors.

“Making Spirits Bright” is Marywood’s answer to encouraging prayer, sharing gifts, and uplifting people throughout the holiday season, starting in mid-November and continuing through New Year’s Day. Why the early start? Students, who have long cherished the meaningful Christmas and Advent events at Marywood, will be leaving campus right before Thanksgiving and finishing the last two weeks of their fall semester remotely. Their desire to help plan and share in holiday events, which have become such a special part of their Marywood experience, was the catalyst for campus representatives to gather with students and find creative, community-minded solutions. The timeline also connects to the spirit of Marywood’s sponsors, the IHM Congregation, who celebrate their Founders’ Month in November.

“After all the challenges we’ve faced this year because of the pandemic, we wanted to give people something to anticipate and celebrate,” said Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Marywood’s President. “This sacred season encompasses preparation, sharing, and rejoicing. We think our collective efforts to count our blessings, to give back to the community, and to celebrate our traditions, in simple but meaningful ways, certainly will make spirits bright.”

Student and Staff Events and Service Projects

“Making Spirits Bright” will kick off in mid-November, prior to students leaving for Thanksgiving Break, with an Outdoor Tree Lighting and Blessing of Nativity at the Marywood Memorial Arch. For safety reasons, this event is closed to the public and will be open only to Marywood students and staff, with physical distancing, masks, and outdoor gathering limits observed. Specific details will be sent to students and staff through their Marywood email. For those unable to attend, the event will be available on the Marywood website once it is conducted and will feature seasonal music from student musicians.

Student groups typically create ornaments for the tree, but, since it will be outdoors this year, the student organizations have decided to participate in campus decorating efforts with Marywood’s Grounds/Maintenance staff, which will take place on Thursday and Friday afternoons in the first two weeks of November, and in community service projects organized through the Office of Service Learning and Community Service. Projects include a Virtual Giving Tree and a Community Christmas Card project. Cards can be requested from and can be picked up at the Swartz Center. They should be returned by November 16. Gifts for the Virtual Giving Tree should be unwrapped and are due at the Tree Lighting, but gifts can be brought to Campus Ministry any time before Thanksgiving Break. Staff members have until December 7 to bring gifts. Students and staff can get more information by contacting Ann O’Brien at Beneficiaries of these efforts are Friends of the Poor, Marywood Heights and Our Lady of Peace residents/staff, NativityMiguel Scranton students/staff, veterans and active members of the military, and agencies who work with the local homeless population. 

The Office of Student Engagement will make sure that students’ spirits are bright prior to their campus departure, by hosting a Student Gift Exchange. The office began accepting sign ups on October 25, and the deadline to sign up is November 6. There is a $5 gift limit, but the Office of Student Engagement will have a pop-up shop for students to make baskets with snacks and small gifts for their partner for free. Students will be paired and notified on November 9 and are asked to exchange their gifts prior to Friday, November 20. 

A virtual ticket giveaway for “Joy Through the Grove” – A Christmas Light Experience at Knoebels” will be held, starting on November 17. Michael Kalage, Director of Student Engagement, will send a call for signups to students by email. Tickets will be valid for November 28 and December 5. Finally, there will be a Virtual Christmas Trivia event on Thursday, December 3, at 7 p.m., with monetary prizes of $200 for first place, $150 for second place, and $100 for third place. 

Fireside Chat

Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Marywood’s President, will connect with students and the Marywood Community through a recorded Fireside Chat video on December 13, at 6 p.m.

Community Events

Marywood will continue to spread cheer by making the campus festive for the community with its 2nd Annual Light Up Campus event. Starting November 18 and throughout the holiday season, members of the local community are welcome to drive through Marywood’s campus to see the main Christmas display at the Arch and the other seasonal outdoor displays after 4:30 p.m. 

Marywood’s award-winning, student-run radio station, VMFM 91.7, will again become Christmas 91.7 and continue its traditional community gift of broadcasting commercial-free Christmas music, 24/7, beginning Wednesday, December 2, and continuing through New Year’s Eve. Those who do not live within the station’s local broadcast range can stream it for free online or through the Tune-in app.

Several virtual events are planned, including  concerts and spiritual celebrations. The virtual concerts presented by the Music, Theatre, and Dance Department (MTD) will be available on the MTD website.

Solemnity Mass Immaculate Conception on December 8 at the Marian Chapel will be live-streamed at Noon, at, and later available on the Marywood website. Additionally, a pre-recorded Advent Prayer Service, which will be filmed prior to the students’ departure from campus, will be made available on Campus Ministry’s website for viewing/reflection throughout the holiday season. 

The IHM Sisters, who sponsor Marywood University, will also videostream an Evening of Prayer during Advent on Wednesday, December 9, at 6:30 p.m., featuring Advent Taize prayer and remembering the 40th anniversary of El Salvador martyrs Maura Clark, MM; Ita Ford, MM; Dorothy Kazel, OSU; and Jeanne Donovan. To view the IHM prayer service, go to:

Alumni Events

Marywood’s Office of Alumni Engagement will contribute to “Making Spirits Bright” by hosting a Virtual Cooking Class about Baked Manicotti on Tuesday, December 8, at 6 p.m., and a Christmas/Winter Virtual Trivia Night on Thursday, December 10, at 7 p.m. There also is a Drive-in Movie Night, featuring The Polar Express, on Friday, December 11, at 7 p.m. 

To maximize safety, after students leave campus to conclude their fall semester remotely, an Alumni Christmas Tree Gathering will be held near the Memorial Arch on Monday, December 14, 4:30 p.m. The first 100  participants will receive an ornament, and individually wrapped cookies, hot cocoa, and apple cider will be served to all participants. An outdoor Santa Reading will take place on Sunday, December 20, at 6 p.m., in the Upper Visual Arts Center parking lot. Alumni can also participate in a virtual basket raffle to benefit Marywood’s Lackawanna Chapter Scholarship.

Alumni participants must register through the Alumni Engagement Office, and more details can be found for both virtual and in-person alumni events at Please note that capacities for each event are limited to comply with gathering practices and to promote safety. 

Near or far, Make Spirits Bright wherever you are!

We invite alumni, students learning remotely, and all members of the community to join in sharing Marywood's holiday spirit! Visit Spreading-Holiday-Cheer. Find recipes, jokes, prayers, music, info on letters to and from Santa and more!

See all News