First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Jesuit Pastor Stages ‘Christmas Revelations’ at Sheen Center
By JULIANN DosSANTOS
Father J.A. Loftus, S.J.
Dancers rehearse “Angels We Have Heard on High” for “Christmas Revelations,” which will be performed at the Sheen Center in Manhattan on the weekend of Dec. 17-18. It was created by Father Robert VerEecke S.J., pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in Manhattan, seen at right, with Christopher Tocco, the actor who plays the role of St. Luke the Evangelist.

 

Ninety-nine years ago, Pietro Yon, the organist at St. Francis Xavier Church in Manhattan, wrote the familiar Christmas carol “Gesu Bambino.” Father Robert VerEecke, S.J., the current pastor of St. Francis Xavier, continues the creativity and Christmas spirit with his new production, “Christmas Revelations.” 

“Christmas Revelations” will be performed at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, 18 Bleecker St., Manhattan, on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 3 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 18, at 3 p.m.

Father VerEecke created the 75-minute production specifically for the Sheen Center stage, and, of course, included a choreographed rendition of “Gesu Bambino.” Professional actors and dancers, including Jamaican dancer Steven Cornwall, will bring the story of Christmas to life on stage. A dozen children will also perform. 

The narrative begins with Advent and moves into the Christmas story as told by St. Luke the Evangelist. That portion features “Mary’s Dance” and “Joseph’s Dance.” The third, more contemporary part highlights the joy of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. Choreographed pieces with universal appeal such as the Carol of the Bells and Ave Maria are interwoven.

“It’s really something for everyone,” Father VerEecke said. “There are a number of children’s stories including Harold the Herald and Shep, the Sleepy Sheep.” 

He added, “A lot of the humor is sophisticated and is really for adults.

“I’m very much a person who wants people to experience God’s grace through the arts, particularly through music and dance. One of my favorite carols in this is ‘Tomorrow Will Be My Dancing Day.’ It’s a medieval carol about God loving the world so much that He wants to dance with his creation.”

Father VerEecke said he hopes that the work will inspire the audience to experience the love and joy that God has for all creation. “When people come to this, it’s entertaining, it’s beautiful, but it’s profoundly spiritual,” the pastor said. “I hope that they are uplifted and feel that sense of joy and the spirit of the season.”  

Father VerEecke is the creator of “A Dancer’s Christmas,” which was performed for 27 years, and “Christmas Reflections,” which was performed for eight years, both at the Robsham Theater at Boston College. He was Jesuit artist-in-residence at Boston College for 35 years and is currently visiting Jesuit-artist. 

Tickets: $15-25. Information and tickets: (212) 925-2812 or sheencenter.org

 

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