Father Michael Wallack, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, and Msgr. John K. Dermond, a retired priest of the Diocese, bless the Nativity scene.
Christina Leslie photo
Father Michael Wallack, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, and Msgr. John K. Dermond, a retired priest of the Diocese, bless the Nativity scene. Christina Leslie photo
A cold, steady rain could not deter a group of stalwart Catholics from celebrating their faith in a public forum Dec. 3 as the Knights of Columbus sponsored a creche blessing on the lawn of the New Jersey State House in Trenton.

The annual event, designed to reinforce the true meaning of Christmas, was attended by about 50 people who huddled beneath plastic canopies to pray, sing Christmas carols and evangelize to passersby by their vocal witness.

Jerry Iacona of the Knights of Columbus St. John the Baptist Council 7333 in Allentown noted the creche has been erected by the Knights for the past 40 years, “and we are not going to stop,” he informed the supporters. “We have the right to be here.”

Father Michael Wallack, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, informed the faithful, “The practice of erecting these scenes began with St. Francis of Assisi. When we look upon these figures, the Christmas gospel comes alive, and we are moved to rejoice in the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God.”

After he proclaimed the Nativity Gospel of St. Luke, Father Wallack sprinkled the creche with holy water, the blessed droplets mingling with the rain on the creche. Msgr. John K. Dermond, a retired priest of the Diocese, led the crowd in intercession and prayer, urging them to “ask God’s blessing on the Christmas manger and ourselves, that we who reflect on the birth of Jesus will share in the salvation he accomplished.”

A festively dressed choir of children and adults from St. John the Baptist Parish sang Christmas songs to nudge the crowd into the holy season. Father Wallack, who serves as the Knights council’s chaplain, expressed his joy of the event.

“As the Knights of Columbus always say, ‘you have to keep Christ in Christmas,’” he said, “especially at our Statehouse, because we want people who are in power to come out and be challenged seeing the Nativity. They should remember faith is important in the life of their constituents and the life of the world. Rain or shine, we do this every year. It is a gift we can witness in the world; this is what we are charged to do.”

James E. Stoever, Knights of Columbus N.J. State Deputy, explained he is a strong proponent of the Knights’ erecting the outdoor creche each December.

“I believe displaying the Nativity is important because it acts as a reminder that one of the foremost principles the United States was founded on was religious freedom. Ours was the first country to declare independence and not impose a government religion upon its citizenry,” said Stoever, a member of Epiphany Parish, Brick. “As society has become more secular, it is important to remind people Christmas is not just another holiday. To Christians, it acts as a reminder that God loves us enough to offer his son as a sacrifice for our misdeeds.”