By Lois Rogers | Features Editor
This year, the “Holy Family” arrived at the school that bears its name in Lakewood a little early…Nov. 20 to be precise.
There, nestled in a “stable,” away from the hustle and bustle of “Bethlehem’s” main street, Monsignor Donovan students Catherine Moresco and Richard Roberts - aka Joseph and Mary – stayed perfectly in character as they tended to the cherubic looking doll appearing as baby Jesus.
Roberts, a Holy Family School alumnus, and Moresco, relayed the difficult nature of their journey to Bethlehem to the 200 or so “pilgrims” who stopped by the stable during the school’s first production of the popular “A Night in Bethlehem.”
Roberts and Moresco spoke of how happy they were to find shelter for themselves and the new born babe and how overwhelmed they were by the welcome they received from shepherds who visited them, kings who were known to be in search of them and, most miraculously, the angels who came to announce the “Good News” of the infant’s birth.
Their enthusiastic portrayals captured the essence of “A Night in Bethlehem,” – now entitled “One Starry Night: A Churchwide Christmas Event for Families” – a package production which has been helping faithful around the country experience the Christmas story for several years by recreating Bethlehem’s main streets, grazing fields and the stable where Jesus was born.
Staged by Holy Family’s PTA on the Feast of Christ the King, the production was viewed as a way to shine the seasonal spotlight where it properly belongs: on the impending Nativity of Jesus.
And while many young children do fill the roles of such characters as angels, it’s usual for adults and high school students to play the main parts including the Holy Family, the census takers and the wise men. That being the case, the Holy Family PTA reached out to Monsignor Donovan which responded with nine drama students, most of whom, like Roberts, are Holy Family alumni.
Tracy Holler, vice president of the PTA and a member of the spirituality committee, took time out of supervising the participating eighth grade students and volunteer parents who portrayed townsfolk, potters, metalworkers, bakers and the like plying their crafts on the main street of Bethlehem that spanned the length of the gym to reflect on the day.
“Every December, the PTA’s spirituality committee tries to do something during Advent that focuses on our faith,” said Holler, whose children Joanne and Mary attend Holy Family School. Last year, the emphasis was on a re-enactment of Our Lady of Guadalupe meeting Juan Diego, she said. The year before the focus was on the real St. Nicholas.
“This year, we chose ‘A Night in Bethlehem,’” said Holler who likened the production to “vacation Bible school meets the Nativity.”
Indeed, the format is much like a vacation Bible school package. It comes with step-by-step instructions that can help create a “you-are-there” Bible adventure, which can be simple or spectacular according to the wishes of the individual planning committee.
The Holy Family PTA volunteers opted for simple, said Holler and the school’s principal, Linda Pesce.
Instead of fabricating a Bethlehem main street as can be done, the crew opted for canopies and tents, staging them with accessories that captured the feel of ancient times. “Everyone brought something of their own to Bethlehem,” said Holler.
“The beautiful part of it was that the community came together to do this,” said Pesce. “They brought plants and bowls and things from home to make it happen. It was very beautiful.”
Pesce said a really wonderful aspect of the event was that students from Monsignor Donovan High School and Holy Family worked together to make “A Night in Bethlehem” happen.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “A lot of the Monsignor Donovan students are alumni here and it was terrific to see everyone working together.”