Assisi Heights Christmas Event: Lighting the Way to Christmas with St. Francis and the Animals
by Jan Manahan
With the coming of the Advent season, and a chance to welcome the public back to Assisi Heights, a clever and talented group of people imagined how we might host a meaningful Christmas celebration. They decided to plan the event around the theme of Saint Francis and the live nativity experience in Greccio that occurred 800 years ago in 1223. Sister Ramona opened the evening with a recounting of the story of Francis at Greccio and how the Incarnation came alive for him and the participants that special night. Volunteers lighted the way to the nativity “cave” and soft music played with Paula Smith on the harp, James Bajzer on viola, and Kyle Jacobson on the cello.
The amazing Patricia Barrier created the story and script, recruited the willing animal characters and directed the play. The message of the story was that ALL ARE WELCOME AT THE MANGER OF BABY JESUS, even though the hungry and cranky animals didn’t see it that way. When flamboyant Flamingo (played by Sister Patricia George) showed up with her pink feather gift for the babe, nasty Donkey (played by yours truly Jan Manahan) and snarky Goat (played by Mary Wellik) tried to kick and head-butt her out of the cave. However sneaky Cat (expertly played by Kileen Smyth) thought she might make a marvelous meal out of this bird. Saint Francis (played by Don Baldus) comes to her rescue just in time and a beautiful Angel (played by Sister Darleen Maloney) arrived right then with 3 gifts, banners that read: EVERYONE MATTERS; EVERYBODY BELONGS; and ALL ARE WELCOME!
The children in the audience sat on the floor in the front and added a delightful element to the evening. Sister Linda Wieser then beautifully wove the story together for us all, even asking people in the audience to share these 3 messages in different languages. Bruce Rohde and Cathy Nelson provided wonderful music for the Christmas sing along.
Sister Jan Reisdorf created the serene Greccio setting, and she shared this encounter: “Following the pageant on Sunday afternoon, I asked a beautiful little girl what she learned at the play. She responded, ’I learned that we all need to be kind to everyone’ and her Father added, ‘Because everyone counts, right?’”
Others that helped make the event a success were the St. Pius X Knights of Columbus and Lourdes student volunteers. And of course last but not least, Sister Marlys Jax and Bob Taraba coordinated the evening flawlessly. Finally to end the festivities the audience was treated to spiced cider and cookies and then gifted with a pink feather to place in their crèche to remember to welcome “the other” and a prayer card. As many of the participants left they declared it was a perfect way to begin the Advent Season!
Our Amazing Actors: Flamingo: Sister Pat George, Goat: Mary Wellik, Donkey: Jan Manahan, St. Francis: Don Baldus, and Cat: Kileen Smyth.
standing, L to R: Bob Taraba, Sister Marlys Jax, Jan Manahan, Sister Darleen Maloney, Don Baldus, Mary Wellik, Sister Pat George, Pat Barrier and Bruce Rohde. Kneeling: Sister Linda Weiser and Kileen Smyth.