McGrath Institute Marks Sixth Annual International Crèche Pilgrimage with African Theme

By Anna Bradley

Crèche Pilgrimage and ExhibitionCrèche Pilgrimage and Exhibition

Notre Dame, IN — On Sunday, December 8th, 2019, the McGrath Institute for Church Life will welcome members of the Notre Dame and local communities to the Jenkins Nanovic Halls at 2:00 P.M. to celebrate its sixth annual Crèche Pilgrimage and Exhibition. This year’s theme is a continuation of the geographic focus that has characterized the past two years, featuring nativity sets from Zambia and the Congo. 

The McGrath Institute has partnered with the Marian Library at the University of Dayton to choose a crèche theme since the pilgrimage’s inception six years ago. Carolyn Pirtle, Program Director of the Center for Liturgy at McGrath and organizer of the exhibit, is especially excited to expand the viewer’s imagination by offering another glimpse of how members of a different culture present the Incarnation. 

“The gift of these geographically and culturally specific exhibits is that they show a particularity to various cultures—many crèches in our Eastern European exhibition last year were made of paper, while the African crèches are carved from wood in a very simple, beautiful style. Each of these representations reminds us of the universality and particularity of the Incarnation.”

New to the exhibition this year is a partnership with the Snite Museum of Art, which will serve as one of the hosts for a number of crèches this year. Pirtle is excited to add the Snite to this year’s lineup because of the additional opportunities it provides to point participants to other pieces in its collection that are related to the Nativity or are sacred in nature.

“We do this pilgrimage to remind people that these are meant to be objects that deepen our prayer life and are meant to help us encounter Christ incarnate in the sacraments and in our hearts through grace.”

The displays will be on campus for several weeks between November 27th and January 12th and available for viewing by those interested in making a self-guided pilgrimage. Information on the artist’s style and interpretation will accompany each crèche. 

As it has in years past, the guided event will feature prayers, Scripture readings, and songs related to the Nativity. Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs Father Gerard J. Olinger, C.S.C. will offer a prayer at the conclusion of the pilgrimage in the Main Building. More information and a full listing of crèche locations can be found on our website.

“Providing people an opportunity to gather and pray together in the presence of these crèches is beautiful because it creates a sense of community,” Pirtle says. “It keeps the Incarnation within its proper place in the season of Advent, the season of Christmas, and the spiritual life.”

Contact: Amy North, Program Director of Communications, 574-631-2894,