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For its Christmas video (watch it above, or here), Benedictine College created an evocative presentation of the Christmas story starring familiar faces on campus.
Joseph is played by Father Simon Baker OSB, the college’s chaplain, and Mary is played by Sister Joan Kolbe Kjerstad MS, a sophomore pursuing a nursing degree.
The college chose consecrated people to play the roles of Joseph and Mary to highlight the special commitment of the Blessed Virgin Mary and “her most chaste spouse.”
Excerpted verses from the nativity story in the Gospel of Luke are read in the video by Abbot Barnabas Senecal OSB, of St. Benedict’s Abbey, while Sister Janelle Maes OSB of Mount St. Scholastica performs “What Child Is This?” on the piano. The song also features senior Jenna Rudolph on cello.
College videographer Nathan Pickman conceived and directed the film.
His idea was to feature a living nativity scene that showed Mary and Joseph’s journey, their destination at the manger, and the shepherds’ visit.
“We have done videos each year showing the fun of Christmas, but this year I thought we should go back to the beginning and show the true meaning of Christmas,” said Pickman, who is taking RCIA classes and plans to enter the Catholic Church at Easter.
“It was important to try to make it look as authentic as possible,” he added. A line from the college’s fight song is used in the video to sum up this approach: “Faithful to the story.”
The process of filming made an impact on the actors.
“I wasn’t exactly excited about it at first,” said Father Simon of his role as Joseph. “But now that I see the final product, I’m glad I went. It was beautiful to experience the humanity of their journey and how Joseph would have behaved caring for Mary and her child.”
Father Simon said getting to work with donkeys was part of the fun — but one part was potentially less fun for Sister Joan Kolbe.
She said she grew up with animals and so falling off the donkey “made my day.” She shared a gif image of the donkey bucking her off with her community and “The sisters laughed pretty hard when they saw it. I think this should be a commercial for the video. If I can say so myself it was a very graceful fall!”
Overall, though, said Sister Joan Kolbe, “After doing this video I realized how much Mary and Joseph had to go through on their journey to Bethlehem and how joyful they were on the first Christmas night holding the Baby Jesus.”
The brief film was shot at Red Barn Farm in Weston, Mo., which supplied the stable, the shepherd’s field — and the animals. Steve Johnson served as producer of the film, with Claire Peterson. Costumes were donated by Theatre Atchison and the Benedictine College Theatre Department.
Three shepherds were played by residence hall directors Eli Pruneda and Horacio Gonzalez, along with senior Peter Kinskey. Jesus was played by the child of Christa Rieger, who works in the college marketing office. John Paul Hoopes played a shepherd boy.
Benedictine College presents a Christmas video each year. Last year, the video featured a student a cappella group singing “Angels We Have Heard on High.” In 2014, the video featured internationally known philosopher Edward Macierowski as Santa Claus.
Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.