McAuley community unites for ‘joyous occasion’ of Christmas Prayer Service

                                                                                                                           Photo by Joe Boyle

The Mother McAuley High School Theater Seminar 1 students reenact the Nativity story during the annual Christmas Prayer Service Monday morning at the school.

By Joe Boyle

Amanda Sullivan, the head of the theology department at Mother McAuley High School, said that everyone looks forward to the annual Christmas Prayer Service.

“It just keeps getting better and it is just a joyous occasion,” said Sullivan about the prayer service that was held Monday morning in the school gym, 3737 W. 99th St., Chicago. “The girls work on this for over a month and they join each other — the theater department, chorus and musicians — to put this all together. It is a lot of fun but they also develop a better understanding of the meaning of the season.”

Along with students, faculty and administrators, the service also draws community representatives and residents from the neighborhood who view the event that includes the Nativity story and music.

Sullivan said this is a busy time of the year for McAuley students in theater, the chorus and musicians.

“After the service, these students go on a road show and visit various grade schools to perform,” she added.

The Christmas Prayer Service began with a performance by the Mother McAuley Orchestra of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” followed by opening comments by school President Mary Acker Klingenberger, from the Class of ’75 and introductions by Laura Snow Gawlik, of the theology faculty department.

Senior Kiley Melean, a resident of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood and graduate of Queen of Martyrs Elementary School, portrayed Mary during the service. She sang “Breath of Heaven” and was joined by three dancers.

Junior Natalie Heilmann, an Oak Lawn resident and graduate of St. Linus Elementary School, was one of the three dancers at the service. Heilmann is accustomed to taking part in large productions after performing for years in plays and musicals for the Oak Lawn Park District.

“I really enjoy this because everyone works together,” Heilmann said. “I enjoy singing and dancing and so many people are involved. Half of the class works on the costumes and the other half on the Nativity. It’s a lot of fun. This is something I want to continue doing.”

Senior Kristen Sullivan plays violin in the string ensemble and said she enjoys taking part in the prayer service.

“My mom always wanted me to play an instrument,” said Sullivan, an Oak Lawn resident and graduate of St. Linus. “I chose the violin because it is a beautiful instrument. I really enjoy playing it.”

Senior Noemi Torres is also a member of the string ensemble. The Oak Lawn resident said she enjoys performing in the annual holiday event.

“It brings in everybody,” Torres said. “It is a moment that everyone can take part together.”

The Mother McAuley Theater Seminar 1 students performed the Nativity story. The McAuley string ensemble and orchestra performed “Oh Holy Night” and “What Child Is This.” Senior Maya O’Neill, a resident of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood, sang “Christmas Time.”

The prayer service concluded with a sing-along of “White Christmas” and traditional carols by the McAuley orchestra, chorus and student body.

“This is such a joyous occasion,” said Amanda Sullivan. “Everyone looks forward to this every year.”

Sullivan said it takes just over a month or so to prepare for the service together. She also applauds the efforts of Gawlik and music faculty members Julie McKee and Carrie Alifantis for their contributions in organizing the holiday event.

Senior Allie Riordan has been a member of the chorus all four years at Mother McAuley.  The Oak Lawn resident and graduate of St. Gerald Elementary School said the Christmas Prayer Service is one of her highlights of the school year.

“I like it because music brings everyone together; the theater department, the chorus and orchestra,” Riordan said. “I like it because it allows everybody to join in. A lot of people in the neighborhoods also come to this. It brings so much joy and reminds us what the season is really about.”

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