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After 40 years, a new crèche at St. Mary’s

Ridgefielder Dan Passarelli expects a decision sometime early next year about whether he has earned the rank of Eagle for his work building a new crèche for the Knights of Columbus.

The Nativity scene at the High Ridge end of Catoonah Street has a new, more visible crèche, and after several decades of service, the old manger has been retired.

The new crèche is the handiwork of Ridgefielder Dan Passarelli, a senior at Fairfield Prep, who took on the work as an Eagle Scout project.

“The design criteria were: Make it newer, lighter and having the Nativity more visible,” said Thad Belfanti, of the Knights of Columbus, which funded the project. It sits outside the old Knights of Columbus building, now the parish offices across from St. Mary church.

“It was hard to assemble, and it was very heavy,” Mr. Belfanti said of the old crèche. “Unfortunately, many of my guys are getting up in the years.”

So was the old crèche.

It had been around perhaps 40 years. For much of that time, it was assembled on the Community Center property, until problems of separation of church and state were raised.

“Last spring or so, a member of the Knights of Columbus in town kind of approached me about possibly replacing the crèche that they’d currently been using,” Dan said. “My older brother had done a Christmas crèche for the St. Mary’s School, so I was kind of familiar with it, kind of knew what it entailed.”

He modeled the crèche after one he liked at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fairfield.

“I took pictures of it and took measurements of it, then I approached a couple of leaders in my troop [Michael Ventrella and DJ Townsend] that had a background in woodworking,” he said.

The Knights footed the bill.

“They sponsored me, they funded the project — I’m really grateful for that,” Dan said.

“We received all the materials from Ridgefield Supply; pieces of the project came from Ridgefield Hardware.”

Visibility was key in the redesign.

“It’s on a corner, a very, you know, busy corner, right across from the church. I wanted it to have some presence on that corner,” he said. “So people would walk up to it and maybe spend a little bit of time there.”

The new one has glass on three sides, not just one, and it stands off the ground.

“Before, it sat right down on the bottom … but with mine, I built a base and the crèche sits on top of that base. … Whenever we would have a snowstorm it would be covered.”

Moving away from the more rustic log cabin-style crèche, Dan gave the new one an off-center roof.

Knowing the old crèche had been around so long, Dan said he wants this one to last, too.

“We built the entire crèche out of pressure treated wood. … I didn’t want to cut corners on it at all. I wanted to make it the best that I possibly could. My goal is that it will last a long time.”

Asked how he’d feel to see his crèche decades from now being used to display the Nativity, he said, “I think it would be nice if someday I could return and see my crèche there. That would be satisfying, but it’s really for the parish community — it’s really for Ridgefield. To serve as that reminder in the Christmas season that there is more than the hustling and bustling of the Christmas season and that we should probably take some time to reflect on where we are.”

 

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