To celebrate the coming of the holiday season, Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre is inviting locals from Cochrane and surrounding communities to the facility on Dec. 11, for their 16th annual Joy of Greccio Christmas Pageant.
From 2:15 to 4:15 p.m., guests will have the opportunity to tour the grounds before the outdoor pageant, enjoys snacks provided by the retreat, visit and learn about some of the organizations that work with the retreat, and if weather permits, ride on a horse-drawn wagon. The pageant starts at 4:15 in the outdoor pavilion of the retreat.
The Joy of Greccio will tell the Christmas Story from the perspective of St. Francis of Assisi. It will also feature music, Christmas carols, and locals from the community who will help tell the story.
Franciscan Friar with the retreat and coordinator for the pageant, Michael Perras, said the long-standing Franciscan practice has a lengthy history.
“It started as a very small event,” Perras said. “The Christmas pageant dates back to the time of St. Francis of Assisi [and] we are coming up to the 800th anniversary of his experience in Greccio with all the local people to celebrate and mark this.
“They came to the cave where he was with candles and torches, to celebrate the birth of Christ.”
For the last several years that Perras has been involved with the pageant in Cochrane, he said the community receives the event well and it has become a staple for families in preparation of the Christmas season.
“We have quite a few people from Cochrane and the surrounding area that come to spend the afternoon here as part of their preparations for Christmas,” Perras said.
As a time for the community to gather, remember the story of Christmas, and honour St. Francis, Perras said the tradition allows the retreat to connect with the community as the holidays approach.
“We see ourselves as part of the Cochrane community,” Perras said. “We are coming up on 75 years as a ministry here at the mountain, so it’s just a way for us to continually be a part of the community.”
A free-will offering will also be available at the pageant where all donations will be sent to the Cochrane Food Bank. Non-perishable food items will also be accepted for on site.
“We’ve done that all 16 years that we’ve had this.” Perras said. “And that’s important because we know many people are struggling this year and it’s a simple way for the community to extend itself beyond just coming for a celebration, but as a way to continue to give back.”