Story by Reagan Scott
WELLFLEET (SNR) - If Nancy Schmitz had one word to describe her parish, it would be “family.”
With just 16 registered families, Saint William Parish in Wellfleet has celebrated the coming of Christmas together for 35 years.
It was Schmitz who started the celebration all those years ago, and she saw the completion of another successful event on Sunday, Dec. 16.
“We just like doing family-oriented things like this,” Schmitz said. “We thought it would be a fun thing to do as a parish.”
Each year’s party starts with caroling on Sunday afternoon. Members of the parish load up in a hay sled to carol at each of the homes in Wellfleet, a town with a population of about 70 people.
Today, the sled is pulled by a pickup truck, but was mule-drawn in the past. At each home, the carolers sing while the children of the parish take cookies to the front door.
“We really try to involve the little kids,” Schmitz said. “It’s a family gathering.”
The group usually spends an hour and a half traveling throughout the town. They enjoyed warmer weather this year than they had in the past, with temperatures in the 40s. The carolers have braved the cold and snow in the past. In 35 years, they’ve only cancelled caroling twice, when extreme cold prevented it.
At 5:00, the group returned to the church where pastor Father Bernard Kimminau heard confessions and celebrated Mass.
Father Kimminau became pastor of Saint William Parish in June, along with Saint James in Curtis and Saint Joseph in Farnam. This was his first time as a pastor in western Nebraska.
“The western lifestyle is different,” he said. “The people here are tied to the land, tied to the community and tied to family. That’s what this celebration is all about.”
Father Kimminau noted that it takes time to get to know people every time a priest moves to a new parish.
“This event gave me the opportunity to reach out to and spend time with my parishioners in a way that is unique to this time of year,” he said. “This time of year is about one’s relationship with God, with Christ and with family, and that can get lost really easily.”
The evening concluded with a dinner celebration with soup and sandwiches served. The women received presents from their prayer sisters through the Altar Society, and the men participated in a grab bag. The children were also given gifts, provided by the parish.
It was an evening of fun and celebration for all in attendance.
“We’re a close-knit parish,” Schmitz said. “This tradition makes us feel closer to each other, and closer to God.”