It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Umbrian Christmas


If you’re dreaming of something other than a white Christmas, look no further than Assisi Heights where the Sisters of Saint Francis will host Umbrian Christmas III on December 1, 2 and 8.

Representing Italy in location and spirit, this three-day celebration takes place in Assisi Height’s beautiful Romanesque setting and includes festivities reminiscent of Italy’s Umbrian hill towns.

Enjoy the sights, music and tastes of the Italian region, while engaging in the holiday ambiance of a special community event.

Prayerful planning
Event coordinator Sister Marlys Jax and others started planning the celebration—now in its third year—in March. Over 70 Sisters and volunteers bring their energy and expertise together to prepare for the event that includes tours, holiday décor, silent and live auctions and crèches from around the world.

The goal is to share the picturesque venue of Assisi Heights with the local community, form new friendships, share the ministries of the Sisters of Saint Francis and raise funds to support those ministries.

“We want to make Franciscanism concrete for the public, just as Saint Francis did,” says Sister Marlys. “He brought the manger scene to life and wanted to bring it to the masses.”

An Event for Everyone
Umbrian Christmas begins Saturday evening, December 1, with a special event for adults, emceed by Tom Overlie, KTTC-TV. It includes hors d’oeuvres, wine, live music, dessert and a silent and live auction. Fabulous auction items include a one-week stay at Magelli Italian Villa in Castel di Casio, Italy, an iPad and a custom-made Sisters of Saint Francis 2013 calendar.

There will also be a splendid candlelight service in Lourdes Chapel at 7:45 that evening.

“We do a Compline worship service. It’s like a sung prayer,” says Sister Jan Reisdorf. “Lourdes Chapel looks mystical in candlelight.”

On Sunday afternoon, December 2, Umbrian Christmas continues with tours for the whole family of the parlors of Assisi led by Saint Francis of Assisi—the Italian religious leader from the Umbrian region who founded the religious order of the Franciscans—and several of his friends and fellow saints. It concludes on Saturday afternoon, December 8, with a family event filled with storytelling, crafts, treats and door prizes.

Year after year, guests like Dave and Kim Klocke look forward to the event.

“Attending the Umbrian Christmas is a wonderful way to experience Assisi Heights in the Franciscan tradition,” says Kim. “Many rooms are beautifully decorated for Christmas, and as we go to each room we learn about the life of Saint Francis.”

Meet Francis, Clare and Friends
Robert Gardner, a teacher at Lourdes High School for over 20 years, has immersed himself in the event, last year as a guest and this year as a volunteer.

“When I left last year I remember thinking this was one of the most sane ways to celebrate Christmas,” he says. “The environment is utterly beautiful.”

With this year’s theme, Saint Francis will roam the corridors. You’ll also meet Saint Clare, a follower of Francis, and many other saints and historical figures.

So come and be warmed by the hospitality and ambiance of the Assisi Heights community, and depart with an appreciation for the Franciscan tradition of taking time to contemplate and retreat from life’s distractions.

Trish Amundson is a Rochester freelance writer.