Catholic Herald staff
Hosting the faith formation Christmas program at St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception, Hammond, is like Bethlehem, according to religious education coordinator Jackie Aune.
“There’s no more room at the inn,” she said.
With 180 students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade faith formation and more than 300 total, St. Mary’s has a lot of young Catholics for what Aune describes as a two-bar, two-gas station town.
To respond to local needs, they’ve also added Spanish-language faith formation this year.
“We’re blessed,” Aune added, but “space is a struggle.”
More than 500 visitors were expected for the annual program, which featured sixth-graders acting out the Christmas story and musical performances by younger students. Seventh- and eighth-graders helped out backstage and served refreshments afterward.
In the past, family and friends have squeezed into the church, but this year, Aune and Christmas program director Joyanne Kohler decided to make a change.
They moved the program to the auditorium at the Baldwin/Woodville High School, seating capacity 477, and prayed they’d have enough room.
The night of Wednesday, Dec. 14, was “crazy frigid cold,” Aune said, but 525 people ventured out to see the show.
Aune was a little worried about moving the program to a public school – she feared it might change the ambiance, but that wasn’t the case.
“The parents were so thankful, because everyone could see, everyone could hear,” she said. “It was awesome.”
Bill Rohrback, Kohler’s husband, baked 125 dozen cookies, which everyone enjoyed after the program.
“There wasn’t a crumb left,” she said. “So that’s 1,500 cookies, and they’re exquisite.”
They’ve started a new tradition, according to Aune.
“Unless our population drops in half, we will continue doing it at the school,” she added. “It was truly a God moment.”