St. Kateri blends holiday traditions

Photo by Sue Suchyta. St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church celebrates the Christmas season Dec. 20 with a journey to Bethlehem culminating at a living nativity. Participants include Allen Park residents Katelyn Drazba (left), 12, as a shepherd, and Erbella Lepage, 12, as a sheep; and Dearborn residents Therese Terns as a donkey, Elizabeth Harris, 9, as Mary, and Colin Harris, 11, as Joseph.

Photo by Sue Suchyta. St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church celebrates the Christmas season Dec. 20 with a journey to Bethlehem culminating at a living nativity. Participants include Allen Park residents Katelyn Drazba (left), 12, as a shepherd, and Erbella Lepage, 12, as a sheep; and Dearborn residents Therese Terns as a donkey, Elizabeth Harris, 9, as Mary, and Colin Harris, 11, as Joseph.

By SUE SUCHYTA
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – From service to Santa to a living nativity, members of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church celebrated Christmas traditions Dec. 20 as the former St. Martha and St. Joseph parishes completed their second year as a combined parish.

From secular displays of Santa bears, life-sized nutcrackers and beautifully decorated trees, to spiritual re-enactments of the story of creation, the Annunciation of Mary, Joseph’s visit from an angel, and a living nativity, multiple generations of families enjoyed traditions of the season while establishing new memories at St. Kateri, 16101 Rotunda.

In keeping with the generosity of the season, parishioners donated more than 300 gifts, and more than $1,000 in food donations for distribution to Vista Maria, 20651 W. Warren, in Dearborn Heights, which serves at risk youth; St. Patrick Senior Center, 58 Parsons in Detroit; and Nativity of Our Lord Parish, 5900 McClellan in Detroit, which serves people in the city’s poorest ZIP code.

“The generosity of this parish is ongoing,” parishioner Therese Terns of Dearborn said. “People are just so generous. Sometimes if you can’t ‘do,’ you give in whatever way you can.”

The Rev. Thomas Leonard, a deacon, said what God did for humanity teaches people to be humble and of service and help to others.

“In  doing that, Christ’s life will shine through us to a world that is hurting and in need,” Leonard said.

In addition to service, the Rev. Terrence Kerner said it is important to establish new traditions to celebrate special times of year like Christmas.

“We have a new parish and new ways of doing things,” Kerner said, “bringing people together, (with) a balance between the spiritual and the secular.”

Terns said holiday celebrations give people a sense of unity.

“Everyone’s familiar with the nativity story,” she said. “Both parishes probably have their traditions, but we all have the same tradition of love for Jesus. So the birth of Jesus is very important and integral to both parishes, so I think it really does unite us.”

She said they are one parish now, and have grown together.

“It’s been a journey, and that’s good,” Terns said. “It doesn’t happen fast. It happens nice and slow. That’s how you grow. And I think these kind of events help in that growth, too.”

Kerner said he was pleased to see many grandparents with their children and families celebrating together.

He said remembering the story of Mary and Joseph through the living nativity reminds people to remember the poor and the homeless year-round.

“Not only in the Middle East, but we have homeless here in Detroit,” Kerner said. “It wasn’t just Joseph and Mary homeless, it was people right in our own day that need our help, so Christmas is every day.”
Kerner said the parish celebration was fun.

“I had a blast,” he said. “I think God just enjoyed it every bit as much as we did, and all the kids here, it is just wonderful to see them smiling, enjoying the day with the Santa bears, and Santa Claus, and their families. That’s the important thing.”

Terns said it should be fun.

“Christmas is about fun,” Terns said. “I think we are going to do whatever we feel we could or should do. We’re trying not to always do the same thing. So whatever gives the parish life, we’re going to do.”

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