Trains, St. Nick, and 200 Nativity scenes: Advent in the Northwest Deanery

North Texas Catholic
(Dec 13, 2023) Local

The Nativity scenes at Christ the King Parish in Iowa Park. (NTC/Jenara Kocks Burgess)

WICHITA FALLS — Advent season for the faithful in the Northwest Deanery is in full swing. Read how parishioners celebrated the second week of Advent with God in their hearts and sight.

An Annual Nativity Display

The annual Nativity scene display at Christ the King Parish in Iowa Park started 20 years ago, said Marilyn Putthoff, one of the event’s chairwomen. It then stopped for a while, but she and other parishioners helped restart it again seven years ago.

“It’s kind of nice. Every year, it’s a little different,” Putthoff said.

Parishioners from Christ the King, community members from Iowa Park, as well as those from other surrounding towns such as Burkburnett, Electra, and Wichita Falls were invited to put their family Nativity scenes on display in the parish hall, Putthoff said. As a result, there are usually more than 200 Nativity scenes on display, she said.

This year’s collection included a tremendous variety, from a large lighted yard Nativity scene to a tiny one with figures that were just a few centimeters tall. Some scenes hung on the wall; others were made of many different types of materials, including metal, ceramic, cardboard, wood, and even chocolate.

Marilyn Putthoff's Chocolate Nativity. The information card reads: "When our son went away to college, I sent him and his roommates a chocolate Nativity to "decorate" their dorm room. Before they left for the holiday, they could eat the candy. When he arrived home, he had Baby Jesus in his suitcase. It seems no one could eat Baby Jesus. But his younger sister, upon seeing the candy, popped Jesus in her mouth and said, "Problem solved!'" So having a chocolate Nativity has become a tradition in our house. And our youngest daughter still gets Baby Jesus!"
(NTC/Jenara Kocks Burgess)

Putthoff makes a chocolate Nativity every year. Like many of the scenes, her holy confectionery had a small card sitting beside it, featuring a fun anecdote about how her daughter had eaten the baby Jesus figure.

The event’s chairwoman said many people pick up their Nativity scenes after the event, but some donate their scenes to be used every year. One scene was donated by the late Roger Hinesh, a prison counselor. Hinesh wrote that Karla Faye Tucker, who was executed by the state of Texas, gave him the Nativity scene for Christmas in 1997. He also wrote that she’d had a conversion and turned her life around before she was executed on Feb. 3, 1998.

This unique collection of Nativities attracts many Catholics and their families.

A longtime parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in Wichita Falls, Susie Solorio brought along her adult son, Fernando, and her granddaughters Miliana, 12, Valentina, 9, and Gabriella, 8, on the 20-mile trip from Wichita Falls to look at the Nativity scenes in Iowa Park.

“I really love it. That’s why I bring my granddaughters,” she said. “I come here every year.”

Janice Davis, who has lived in Iowa Park for more than 20 years, brought her two granddaughters, 12-year-old Kaybree Davis and 7-year-old Anderlee Davis as well as her mother Rosemary Wheeler to the event.

“We’ve come to this before,” Davis said. “We just like to see the different Nativity sets.”


Breakfast with St. Nicholas

Knights of Columbus Council #10998 Grand Knight Michael Moulds dressed as St. Nicholas during the Breakfast with St. Nicholas Event at Sacred Heart Parish Hall in Wichita Falls. (NTC/Jenara Kocks Burgess)

In nearby Wichita Falls, families flooded into the Sacred Heart Parish Hall after 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Dec. 10 for the Knights of Columbus Council #10998 Annual Breakfast with St. Nicholas. Usually, most of the young families at Sacred Heart attend that Mass.

“We do the event as a service to the parish,” said Bob Butterfield, a charter member of Council # 10998.

Each year, one of the Knights wears a costume that resembles the dress of the fourth-century bishop of Myra, St. Nicholas. This year, it was the Council’s Grand Knight, Michael Moulds, who dressed up, complete with a red miter — the ancient headdress of a bishop — and a golden crosier — the symbolic shepherd’s staff.

Kids play with the train set brought by Father Jonathan Demma, pastor of the Sacred Heart Parish in Witchita Falls. (NTC/Jenara Kocks Burgess)

Some children gave St. Nicholas high fives. Some small ones cried during photos but were all smiles once St. Nicholas offered them candy canes.

 A new addition to the festivities this year was a Christmas-themed model train set provided by parish pastor, Father Jonathan Demma. Fr. Demma said the train was a gift from his father, Michael Demma. At the sight of it, one little boy squealed, “Train, train!” with delight as the locomotive chugged along atop a small table monitored by Council member Evan Stubbs. 

Alyssa Keeler, whose husband Josh is stationed at nearby Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, said her 2-year-old son Weston loves trains. She said this is the first time her family, which includes their 6-week-old daughter Wren, attended Breakfast with St. Nicholas.

“It was a great event,” said Keeler. “The train was the highlight for Weston.”


An Advent Mission

(L-R) Father Joseph Moreno, Father Kyle Walterscheid, Jon Leonetti, and Fr. Demma (NTC/Jenara Kocks Burgess)

Later that evening, Sacred Heart Parish hosted an Advent Mission for the Northwest Deanery. Jon Leonetti, a Catholic author and the Catholic Morning Show radio host presented a two-night mission.

The theme for the mission was “Surge of the Heart.” On the first night, Leonetti focused on the questions, “Who is God,” and “Why that matters.” On the second night, he spoke in practical terms about how to become a saint, and why becoming one should be our main goal as Catholics.

Fr. Demma of Sacred Heart, Father Kyle Walterscheid, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls, and Father Joseph Moreno of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Burkburnett, St. Paul Parish in Electra, and Christ the King Parish, each attended the event along with parishioners from all their churches.

WICHITA FALLS, Advent season, Northwest Deanery, St. Nicholas, Fr. Demma, Sacred Heart Parish in Wichita Falls, Father Kyle Walterscheid, Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls, Father Joseph Moreno, St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Burkburnett, St. Paul Parish in Electra, and Christ the King Parish, advent festivities, trending-english