Bringing Christmas joy to Los Banos

St. Joseph Catholic Church will be the site of a Dec. 16 Christmas choral pageant.
St. Joseph Catholic Church will be the site of a Dec. 16 Christmas choral pageant. glieb@losbanosenterprise.com

Los Banos will have an opportunity to experience peace and joy Dec. 16 when St. Joseph’s Church presents its third annual Christmas choral pageant for everyone in the community.

The free event will start at 4 p.m. People of all ages – from children to senior citizens – and all denominations are welcome. Young people from the parish will fill the silent roles of Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds and wise men; Christmas hymns will be sung by a multi-generational choir that regularly sings at the church’s Saturday evening Mass.

The Christmas choral is once again directed by St. Joseph’s parishioner Joan Spevak, who happens to be my sister and whose musical talent exceeds mine by several miles.

Joan moved to Los Banos four years ago from Ohio, where for six years she had been the caregiver for our brother Frank, who survived a form of ALS much longer than anyone would have predicted.

Soon after she started attending church on Saturdays, Joan noticed that music and singing – which she feels uplifts the spirit – were missing from the Mass. Working with pianist Kurt Silva, Joan started a new choir for that Mass, attracting persons of all ages, from children to seniors.

When she later realized St. Joseph’s hadn’t had a Christmas choral pageant in years, she organized one. She selected Christmas hymns in July in 2016. The first choral pageant was well received and last year’s event was even more successful. The choral pageant takes less than an hour from start to finish.

This year Joan is receiving help from Kirt Silva but also from choir member Gloria Clifton and Sister Fernanda of New Bethany, who teaches St. Joseph’s second grade first communion class and will be including her students in the pageant.

I’m looking forward to this year’s pageant, a Christmas event without any annoying advertisements that accompany holiday TV shows. (We’ve hardly entered December and I already feel overwhelmed by Christmas commercials.)

I know merchants, including those in Los Banos, need to sell a lot of stuff between Thanksgiving and December 25, but sometimes I’d like a little more focus on the spiritual aspect of Christmas.

During last year’s St. Joseph’s Christmas choral pageant, I felt not only peace but also joy seeing the innocence of children in the pageant. The little girl who played Mary expressed natural wonderment, and the little boy who played Joseph looked as amazed as Joseph must have been 2018 years ago.

“Many families are feeling stressed because of the pressures of the holiday season,” Joan told me. “We want to remind them of the beautiful story of Christmas. And Christ came for everyone, so I hope persons from all of the cultures in the parish attend.”

Those of all religious denominations will feel welcome at St. Joseph’s for this pageant. “The story of the nativity is appreciated by all Christians,” she said. “It’s a story that everyone who has read the Gospels is familiar with. So everyone should enjoy the narrative and the songs.”

The choir has been practicing for months singing more than a dozen Christmas carols. One of the boys in the choir, Andrew Sousa, will be singing a carol in Portuguese, as he did last year.

I hope there’s a good turnout of St. Joseph’s parishioners and many others from the community. If this event, amid all the turmoil of life today, increases a sense of peace and joy, then all of the hours of preparation and work that have gone into St. Joseph’s Christmas choral pageant will have been worth it.

IN MEMORIAM – I saw with sadness the obituary of long-time resident Bill Buffuna, who passed away recently. Bill and his family were among the first and kindest to welcome me and my family to Los Banos when we arrived in 1971. Bill was the plant superintendent for Los Banos Gravel for many years. Though he worked with rock, his personality was gentle. I appreciated Bill’s friendliness, warmth and good humor. I will always remember his kindness.

John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email john.spevak@gmail.com.