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Christmas traditions across the
Central Pacific Province

Notre Dame of Elm Grove

Notre Dame of Elm Grove (NDEG) in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, has many Christmas traditions, but one dearly held by many sisters is the Christmas Novena that starts December 15 and runs through December 23. The novena is a devotion consisting of nine days of worship services. Many sisters remember the novena from when the Milwaukee motherhouse still existed. A highlight of those services was sisters processing into the sanctuary holding lit candles. The Christmas Novena is held at the Holy Family Chapel on the NDEG campus and begins each afternoon at 4:30 p.m. A candle is lit as the service begins, which brightens the dim worship space. Each day’s service has a theme and the worship elements are chosen to emphasize that theme. Examples of themes include: “God remembers us in love” and “Remain patient, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” The service begins with a hymn, rotating between “Drop Down Dew,” “A Rose Sprang Up” and “On Jordan’s Bank.” A sister then reads a Gospel passage followed by a short reflection period. After reflection, the congregation chants a prophecy and antiphon. Next, a psalm is recited by the congregation with a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” serving as a congregational response. A version of the Magnificat is read as a reminder of the Virgin Mary’s joyfulness and willingness to carry out God’s plan. The verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” that was sung before the Magnificat is sung again. Each day’s service concludes with a prayer and a song, “Alma Redemptoris Mater” (“O Loving Mother”), sung in Latin and English.


Our Lady of Good Counsel

A picture of S. Monica Wagner with the 2017 Christmas tree decorated for the Kiwanis Holiday Lights in Mankato, Minnesota.
Sister Monica Wagner with the 2017 Christmas tree decorated for the Kiwanis Holiday Lights in Mankato, Minnesota

Our Lady of Good Counsel decorates a tree for the Kiwanis Holiday Lights, hosted by the Mankato Downtown Kiwanis in Sibley Park, Mankato, Minnesota. The name "Kiwanis," finds its roots in Native American culture. Today, Kiwanis is an international organization with nearly 8,000 clubs in over 77 countries. Area nonprofits assist with the operation of Kiwanis Holiday Lights, as people and employees of area nonprofits donate service hours to ground patrol, concessions, putting up and taking down the lights, and decorating a tree. Last year, the sisters and employees of Our Lady of Good Counsel assisted with the lights, as well as two separate nights of ground patrol and concessions. When the community comes to view the lights, they also make donations of cash or food. A percentage of the cash is donated to the area nonprofits based on how many service hours they provided and a percentage goes back into the event to buy lights and new displays for next year. The food is donated to food pantries across the region.


St. Mary of the Pines

At St. Mary of the Pines in Chatawa, Mississippi, celebrations of Christmas usually begin with a party for the staff and sisters. While the meal is catered, the dessert is lovingly prepared by sisters. Everyone enjoys a delicious meal, plays games and sings Christmas songs. In addition, each year following Christmas Eve Mass, there is an egg nog social for the St. Theresa Parish Church community located at St. Mary of the Pines. Sisters and parishioners gather in Caroline Hall for egg nog, finger food and a good time.


Sancta Maria in Ripa

A picture of the almost 100 year old Nativity Scene in Theresa Center's Chapel at Sancta Maria in Ripa, St. Louis.
The almost 100-year-old Nativity Scene in Theresa Center's Chapel at Sancta Maria in Ripa, St. Louis

For almost 100 years, one major highlight of the Christmas season at Sancta Maria in Ripa, St. Louis, is viewing the unique nativity scene in the Theresa Center chapel. In the early 1900s, the School Sisters of Notre Dame taught at the parish school of St. Peter Cathedral, Belleville, Illinois, where Father Joseph Schlarmann was administrator and pastor. Through Father Schlarmann, the nativity set was purchased and brought to the motherhouse in the 1920s. The nativity scene is one of only four in the United States. The figures of the nativity were sculpted under the supervision of Sebastian Osterrieder (1864-1932), the only sculptor of religious objects in south Germany in the early 1900s. Through the work done by Osterrieder and his co-workers, Munich became an international center of nativity scene architecture. Osterrieder spent seven years in the Holy Land studying the people, animals and land in order to make the nativity figures more true to life. This naturalism is evident in the postures and expressions of the figures. The nativity set contains over 20 statues such as angels, shepherds, sheep, kings, camels and of course the baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph.

While the Osterrieder nativity scene draws a crowd, so does the well-established nativity display in the Mission Parlor at Sancta Maria in Ripa. Sisters have gathered a growing collection of international nativity scenes and ornaments and have put them on display for public viewing. With the help of many generous donations, there are over 100 nativity scenes from many countries like Portugal, Honduras, Vietnam and Bosnia. If you’re in St. Louis, between Thanksgiving and January, please come see the spectacular nativity scenes on display.


Want to learn more?


School Sisters of Notre Dame

320 East Ripa Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63125

Phone: 314-561-4100



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