Young people from Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish, Beverly, from left, Bruce Lee Yanez, Nicholas Viereck and Alexandra Davan, take part in the Stations of the Nativity.
Young people from Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish, Beverly, from left, Bruce Lee Yanez, Nicholas Viereck and Alexandra Davan, take part in the Stations of the Nativity.

By Dubravka Kolumbic-Cortese | Correspondent             

“Take a look. Listen. Breathe. And expect.”

Such were the words Maria Gimello offered her fifth- through eighth-grade religious education students in hopes of getting them to focus more on the greatest gift of the season – Jesus.

Gimello, parish religious education coordinator in Jesus, the Good Shepherd Parish, Beverly, offered the advice during the first Stations of the Nativity in St. Joseph Church Dec. 10. The Stations were designed as a prayer tool to be used during Advent as a way to open hearts and minds and prepare for the arrival of Christ Jesus.

“They talk a lot about the gift-giving,” Gimello said of the students. “Sometimes, we are the only face of Christ they see. It’s important they understand it is more than just [what happened] in Bethlehem.”

In the Stations of the Nativity, the traditional Stations of the Cross are replaced by Stations marking the events leading up to and immediately after Jesus’ Birth, from the First Station, The Annunciation, to the 14th station, The Wise Men Came from the East.

Gimello wrote meditative prayers to go along with each Station. At the Seventh Station, Joseph Takes Mary into His Home, Gimello reflected on Joseph’s pious devotion to God’s task for him.  “Give me the zeal that you blessed Joseph with,” Gimello wrote in the prayer.

Each Station’s Scripture passage and reflection were read by an eighth-grader, while fellow students processed from Station to Station with a Crucifix and candles. Intermittent stanzas of Christmas carols added a festive touch to the celebration.

“I hope this helps you to understand and reflect on the key elements of the Birth of Christ,” Gimello said.

That was certainly the case for Michael Gianpietro, 13, who said, “I never really heard anything like this.”

Emma Rider, 13, felt the message had more of an impact coming from her peers. “Hearing it from our classmates helped us to understand it better and made us really listen.”

Though this may have been the first year for the Stations for Jesus the Good Shepherd, Rumson’s Holy Cross Parish had its first Stations of the Crèche 10 years ago, when it was presented by school and religious education students processing around the Stations.

About five years ago, the event took on a new look and new name. The Crèche Blessing now begins in the church with a short liturgy and then moves outside, with religious education students dressed as Mary and Joseph, along with a live donkey, processing by candlelight to an outdoor crèche scene, complete with live manger animals. It all culminates with the lighting of the parish tree, followed by refreshments. New this year, parishioners brought statues of the baby Jesus from their own Nativity sets to be blessed.

“The focus is trying to make the life of Jesus real for people,” parish pastoral assistant Lori La Plante said, “so that way they can see their own life in the life of Jesus. Anytime we make that connection between Jesus’ life and our life, it is a powerful link. That is something that you come back to in your spiritual life over and over.”