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Creche Pilgrimage features nativity scenes, brings community in to meditate

| Monday, December 9, 2019

Song, prayer and children’s voices rang out across campus this Sunday as the South Bend and Notre Dame communities came together for Notre Dame’s sixth annual Creche Pilgrimage. 

Hosted by the McGrath Institute for Church Life, the event featured 30 creches — Nativity scenes — from Africa which were distributed around seven different locations on Notre Dame’s campus, including Jenkins-Nanovic Halls, the Eck Vistors Center, Coleman Morse Center, Geddes Hall, Hesburgh Library, Main Building and the Snite Museum of Art. 

Starting at Jenkins-Nanovic Hall, participants spent time viewing and meditating at the various creches while the Notre Dame Our Lady’s Consort Chamber Choir serenaded them in the background. After a gospel reading and recitation of a mystery of the Rosary, participants filed out to repeat the same program at the next few stops on the pilgrimage. The event was widely attended by residents of the South Bend community, especially parents with young children.

Senior Theresa Rice, a Church Life intern for the McGrath Institute, said the event was intended to unify the South Bend and Notre Dame campus communities during the Advent season. 

 “It seems a really intuitive union of a campus community that sometimes a little insular — and a larger South Bend community,” Rice said. “It’s one of those events the McGrath Institute does that reaches out — that doesn’t just serve Notre Dame or the academic community but serves the parish and local family community as well. I think one purpose [of the event] is just to foster that engagement but also to enrich our understanding of the Nativity.”

Each creche depicted the Nativity uniquely, inviting the viewer to contemplate a different aspect of Christ’s birth. While some creches show Christ being welcomed with joy and celebration, others focused more on the poverty and lowliness he was born into. All sought to emphasize Christ as the central figure, according to the printed brochure for the event.  

“I think my own engagement with the Nativity story has been really cool,” Rice said. “We have 30 creches and I got to write the descriptions for each of them. So I meditated on the pictures provided … and think about, what does it mean that Mary is kneeling in this one? What does it mean that there are four shepherds in this one but no shepherds and three wisemen in the other one?” 

Many of the participants of the event expressed similar appreciation for the beauty and compelling narratives the creches offered. One creche made of corn husks captured the attention of Gail Dukes, a librarian at the Holy Cross School in South Bend.  

“Their eyes were huge. I think eyes are mirrors to the soul and the explanation of how they were amazed at the child and what was happening — their eyes were just amazed,” Dukes said. “And I liked the detailed creches with the beads — to make those ones you have to sit down and connect every bead. … You have to be dedicated to finishing such detailed work.”

Rice said seeing the enthusiasm of participants like Duke is one of the things that makes the event so special. 

“Just seeing people’s engagement with the displays … that’s been really cool to see the way it has enriched the campus community,” Rice said. “And it’s so great to have them [the creches] around to remind me of Christmas, you know, when life gets busy.” 

Graduate student Angela Martinez said she appreciated the way the event spread Christmas spirit to the broader community.

“I live in town now, so it’s nice how campus is able to offer this for the community and for families, and help us enter into the Christmas spirit in the life of Christ,” Martinez said. 

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