St. Edna brings Nativity story alive in drive-thru living stations

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, December 16, 2020

St. Edna brings Nativity story alive in drive-thru living stations

St. Edna Parish in Arlington Heights hosted its first live, drive-thru enactment of the Stations of the Nativity on Dec. 13, 2020. Guests drove through six tented stations to learn about the Holy Family’s experience in preparing for Christ’s birth. Parish families, in their household cohorts, acted out each scene along with religious education and youth ministry staff. Each family received coloring and story books with each scene’s description for families to read as they drove up to each station. As guests left the Bethlehem station, St. Nicholas greeted children from their cars. He offered each family an ornament to decorate at home that can then be placed on a designated tree outside on St. Edna’s church campus. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Lorie Crepeau, director of adult faith formation and one of the three event coordinators, hands a program book to a participant in a car as they start the drive-thru. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
From left, mother-daughter team Sara and Tracy Black portray Mary and the Angel Gabriel in the first station, which was the Annunciation. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Husband and wife team Katie and Peter Pisello portray an angel and St. Joseph in the second station where an angel appears to Joseph in a dream telling him not to divorce Mary. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cars make their way past the stations. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
From left, Mary, Daniel and Josephine Petrelis portray the Magi in the fifth station. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Nicholas Marzigliano portrays St. Nicholas and hands out clear globe ornaments to people in cars. All are encouraged to decorate the ornaments and return them to hang on the parish’s outdoor family Christmas tree. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Heather Daudelin, director of religious education, greets people in cars dressed as Mrs. Claus. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Because not everyone could come to church this Advent to celebrate the season, St. Edna Parish in Arlington Heights took Advent outside in “Advent-ures,” drive-thru stations of the Nativity story set up in the parish parking lot on Dec. 13.

Participants received a CD of Christmas music and a program book with Scripture readings for each station — the Annunciation, Joseph’s dream, Jesus’ birth, the angels’ announcement to the shepherds and the visit of the Magi — when they arrived at the entrance. Parishioners of varying ages acted out each station, including three young siblings from the Petrelis family portraying the wise men, or “wise guys,” as volunteers affectionately dubbed them.

At the last station, St. Nicholas (portrayed by Nicholas Marzigliano) and Mrs. Claus, portrayed by Director of Religious Education Heather Daudelin, greeted the cars and handed out candy canes and a clear plastic globe ornament for participants to decorate and return them to the parish to hang on the outdoor family Christmas tree.

To further get in the spirit, the parish decorated all its buildings with white lights for the first time.

The parish held a similar drive-thru event at Halloween in place of trick-or-treating, said Danielle Pitzer, the parish youth minister who coordinated the event along with the director for religious education and the adult faith formation director.

“We can’t do as much in the inside of the church like we always do, so we thought, ‘What can we do on the outside?’” she said.

Staff members are already brainstorming what they can do for Lent and Advent next year. The parking lot has 378 spaces, so there is a lot of room to be socially distanced.

Pitzer said the event was intended to give people “a deeper appreciation of Advent, a deeper connection to the community of the church, just a feeling of normality. God is still here. Jesus is going to be born again.”

Daudelin said the event was meant to be a bright spot in a difficult time.

“We were hoping just to mostly give back in a time when everything has been taken away,” Daudelin said. “Our kids have just been so sad and just wanting some normalcy. We just wanted to give them some hope during this dark time. We’re all about light during Advent.”

The pandemic has been an opportunity for parish teams like the one at St. Edna to think of new ways they can reach out to their parishioners.

“Everything we’ve done has had to be different,” she said. “I think this is going to be our new norm and we want to think outside the box. This has given us the platform to do so.”

The event also reinforced the sense of community at the parish, she said.

“Seeing these faces drive up and the kids warms me up. I’m not cold because it warms me up,” she said. “I think this is something that we will do post-COVID.”

Parishioner Sara Black, 14, portrayed Mary at the first station for the Annunciation. Her mother Tracy portrayed the Angel Gabriel. Playing Mary gave her the opportunity to stay involved in the parish during COVID-19, she said.

“I love helping people and theatre is one of my passions,” she said.

Father Darrio Boscutti enthusiastically supported the plan to have the Advent stations, he said.

“We have the best faith-formation department in the entire archdiocese. This team is so creative. They are always coming up with something,” he said.

Much like Pitzer and Daudelin, Boscutti sees opportunities coming from the pandemic.

“I think this whole pandemic, while it’s not from God, there is the potential here for us as church to rethink things, to reshape things and to create some of the evangelization efforts that the archdiocese has asked us to make as part of Renew My Church,” Boscutti said. “We can do it in a whole new way, different from anything that’s in the book or that anybody would have designed. I think this is all of God and it’s beautiful.”

For example, in June the parish moved the tabernacle to a front window where people can see it from outside. There is a small bench across the pathway from the tabernacle where people can sit and pray.

People come at all times of day and night, Boscutti said, often just sitting in their cars to pray with the Eucharist. The parish has also held outdoor confessions by the window when the weather was warmer.

“One of the best things we ever did was put that tabernacle in the window,” he said. 


  • parishes
  • covid-19

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