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The Christmas Room:
Mater Ecclesiae College carries on annual tradition; students design Christmas ‘experience’ at their Rhode Island home

The Christmas Room at Mater Ecclesiae College

By Carolina Tavares

Greenville, Rhode Island -- The “elves” are hard at work Mater Ecclesiae College (MEC).

From now until December 18, 2011, these volunteer student “elves” will be building the school’s traditional Christmas Room. For now, the creative process lies behind a curtain.  But on December 18, 2011, the curtain goes up!

Up until last year, the Christmas Room was not unveiled until Christmas Eve. Students, staff and guests were not allowed to view the Christmas Room until after Midnight Mass. But, according to President Deb Bauer, the date has been moved up for the benefit of the entire community.

“The Christmas Room is definitely a creative form of coming into contact with the mystery of the Incarnation,” said MEC student Becca Olek. “It is designed to be an ‘experience’ -- a prayer in art form. That is why we have decided to work a little bit faster to have it ready earlier this year. We want to share the experience with our families and friends and anyone who wishes to partake of this original form of prayer.”

MEC is extending an open invitation to all to come and experience the Christmas Room to “touch and see the mystery of Christmas” in a unique way.

“We especially invite all the children, who will enjoy finding the little animals throughout the display and, at the same time, see what Christmas is really all about,” said Ale Curiel, MEC student. “And for all those who just enjoy the Christmas spirit, viewing the Christmas Room is for you too!”

Each year, the Christmas Room design turns out slightly different, depending on the inspiration of the student volunteers.  “The experience affects each person who sees it in a different way,” said MEC student Amelia Hoover. “And each person goes away with a different reaction to what they’ve seen. There are enough symbols integrated into the setup which lend themselves to different interpretations.”

In 2009, the room was designed to incorporate the entire life of Jesus.  The “Little Town of Bethlehem” included a carpenter shop, illustrating Jesus’ hidden life, and a bakery representing His public life, specifically the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.  The myrrh from the magi was intended to represent Jesus’ passion, and a bonfire with fish represented the Resurrection account in Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John.

In 2010, the design team built the Nativity scene in a cave to give the impression of the inner chamber of the soul. 

“The staircase next to the cave symbolized how we can go down into our own heart to find Jesus who truly is born within us,” said Sarah Pacini, MEC student.

Under the staircase, some took the stream of water to represent how grace leads us to find Jesus. 

Faces and positions of the statues can invoke different feelings as well. Some people might identify with the bewildered shepherd, thinking, “How is this possible…God among us?” Others might respond to the little girl who looks like she wants to give baby Jesus a kiss. Still others might relate to the young man lost in thought, asking “Is this baby for me?”

“By identifying with a character in the Christmas Room, a person might realize where they are on their own faith journey and decide to keep walking along with the shepherds, or the magi or even the animals,” said MEC student Gaby Ruiloba.

The MEC Choir will be giving a Christmas concert followed by a guided tour of the “Christmas Room,”  refreshments will be available to cheer weary travelers.

If you would like to be part of this yearly MEC tradition, mark your calendar for the following open viewing dates and times.

• December 18, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
• December 20, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
• December 28, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
• January 1, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

For more information, go to or contact Susan Girard at (401) 949-2820

To read a consecrated woman´s description of the Christmas experience at Mater Ecclesiae, click here.



Related links

Official web site of the Vatican.
Legionaries of Christ
For Your Vocation
Mater Ecclesaie College

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