ANSBACH, Germany (January 18, 2023) –The U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Catholic Community of Holy Family hosted the neighboring German Parish of Christ König Sunday morning, Jan. 8, at the Katterbach chapel to celebrate the Feast of Epiphany together. While the German Catholic dioceses celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings, Jan. 6, the Catholic dioceses of the U.S. transfer the holiday to the following Sunday. Since the Catholic Community of Holy Family at USAG Ansbach is part of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, U.S.A., the German neighbors of Christ König Parish Ansbach celebrated the holiday twice this year.
The visit of the host nation group had been planned for about four months, after Chaplain (Maj.) Fr. Paul-Anthony Halladay was invited to concelebrate mass at Christ König in October of 2022.
Plans were initiated on that occasion to invite members of the local German Catholic parish to visit USAG Ansbach.
The day started with a 9 a.m. Sunday morning mass, with Father Halladay and his German counterpart, Father Braun, joined at the altar concelebrating mass. Host nation attendees were pleasantly surprised, when they were invited afterwards to enjoy coffee, doughnuts, and casseroles made by the Catholic Women of the Chapel (CWOC) at the fellowship hall. As one visitor noted: “Super idea to have breakfast together after mass, we usually just go home. It is so nice to chat for a little while and catch up.”
All attendees of the fellowship received the traditional blessing of the Three Wise Men from Father Halladay, in the shape of a wooden sign that reads: 20+C+M+B+23 in adaption of the traditional “chalking of the doors.” Catholics throughout the world follow this tradition on Epiphany (also known as Three Kings Day) where chalk is used to write the annual blessing above the entrance of the home.
The letters stand for the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat: “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross, and the “20” at the beginning and the “23” at the end mark the year. Folklore claims that the letters also represent the initials of the Magi — Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar — who came to visit Jesus in his first home. The inscription is performed to bless the home so marked and those who dwell therein throughout the entire year.
Traditionally the blessing is done by either a priest or the father of the family. The blessing can be performed simply by just writing the inscription and offering a short prayer, or more elaborately, including songs, prayers, processions, the burning of incense, and the sprinkling of holy water.
In the German communities, children and youth form groups dressed up as the Three Kings and a star bearer; with their church’s blessing, they walk from house to house to collect donations for charity. As they ring a doorbell, they sing a couple of songs and mark the door frame with the familiar letters.
The visit of the Christ König Parish group to the USAG Ansbach Catholic Community of Holy Family concluded with a stop at Hangar 2, where Soldiers of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (12th CAB) had a static helicopter display set up. Everybody, the host nation group, as well as members of the military community, got to take a close look at the helicopters that they usually just hear and see in the sky above Ansbach.
A knowledgeable 12th CAB Soldier was available to answer questions.
Father Braun was impressed: “A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience this amazing aircraft up close.“
While speaking with the host nation church members, Father Halladay expressed the importance of the visit: “For the first time in two years that I have been here, I am able to welcome you to our little bubble of America”. He added: “You being here is like shaking hands across this fence that often seems so tall.”
“The occasion was yet another effort to deepen friendships with our German partners and to just be good neighbors. Most of the participants had never been to USAG Ansbach, so just to pass through the gate of the U.S. military installation that they drive past so frequently in their neighborhood was welcoming.” Father Halladay further explained.
He went on to say “To do so with fellow Catholics on the Feast of the Epiphany was indeed a great opportunity and occasion to deepen friendships.”
Initial plans were set for a reciprocal visit by members of Holy Family to Christ König in the spring.