Chat with… Sister Cheryl Driscoll, Director

FAIRFIELD — Telling the story of the nativity, every student will play a part in passing along the Christmas message at the Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs annual pageant Friday.

“They are all participating in it, and I think that is very very important — that it doesn’t make any difference who you are, what disability you have, you are capable of offering something through this pageant,” said Sister Cheryl Driscoll, pageant director.

If students are nonverbal, for example, Driscoll said they may enhance songs by playing instruments during the numbers. Each student can participate in the “special” and “holy” experience, she added.

“No one’s excluded,” she said. “I think that’s the beauty of it. Every student is accepted for who he or she is.”

Driscoll, in her 13th year as a special education teacher at the school, said she has seen the pageant grow over her time working there. Its draw was primarily students’ families just over a decade ago, but now the annual festivity attracts a crowd of more than 200.

“These kids are just touching the hearts of so many people,” she said.

As the pageant process began, early rehearsals went scene by scene. Driscoll hoped to show students what they can do on stage and the role they can play in bringing the Christmas message to hundreds.

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Getting there

The pageant is open to all and scheduled for Dec. 23 at 10 a.m. at Saint Catherine Academy, 760 Tahmore Drive in Fairfield.

Some students have expressed a bit of nervousness, and for some it is the first time they have ever performed on a stage. But mistakes, she lets students know, make no difference as they all help tell the Christmas story.

“It’s helping the students really see what they can do on that stage to bring the Christmas message to the people. I really try to instill in them how important it is. Even if they’re not talking, just by their singing, their acting that they are telling the story of Jesus’ birth,” Driscoll said. “Year after year people keep coming back because they’re so touched by that.”

She has watched the experience be emotional for students’ families, noticing parents with tears of pride in their eyes.

“For the families, I just see it as a very moving experience for them,” she said. “Because their child is on stage performing in front of 200 people.”

In line with annual tradition, this year’s pageant will incorporate the nativity scene. Setting the 2016 performance apart, students will also tell three parables from the story of Jesus’ life. A student will read the curing of those that came to Jesus as others act out three scenes.

Every staff member helps to prepare the pageant, Driscoll said, and while she is directing, Sister Eileen Boffa wrote this year’s pageant.

“It’s really an honor, a privilege for me to be able to do this with all the folks who help out here,” Driscoll said.

After the 45- to 50-minute show, the students perform several carols. Audience members will receive copies of the lyrics and be encouraged to sing along.

The pageant is open to all and scheduled for Dec. 23 at 10 a.m. at Saint Catherine Academy, 760 Tahmore Drive in Fairfield.

To any interested, Driscoll said, “Come right in.”; @LauraEWeiss16