Mary, Joseph thrilled to be in L'Arche pageant

Mary (Meranda Parravano) holds baby Jesus (Felix Murphy) as Joseph (Jeff Fidelak) looks on in the annual L'Arche Christmas pageant Dec. 14.


Mary (Meranda Parravano) holds baby Jesus (Felix Murphy) as Joseph (Jeff Fidelak) looks on in the annual L'Arche Christmas pageant Dec. 14.

December 21, 2015

At least 250 people know what Christmas is all about to Jeff Fidelak.

That was the size of the audience that packed St. Thomas d'Aquin Church on Dec. 14 for the annual L'Arche Christmas Pageant.

Fidelak, in his wheelchair, was pushed to the stage and lifted by a stagehand to triumphantly assume the starring role of Joseph in the beloved rendition of the birth of Jesus.

The yearly production, with the main characters played by developmentally challenged members of the L'Arche community, is often unpredictable. This year, it was remarkably smooth.

"It went great," said Fidelak. "Everybody enjoyed it, that's what was special. And my family was here."

Fidelak smiled widely at the crowd and then down at the baby Jesus, played by six-month-old Felix Murphy, as his co-star Meranda Parravano, who played Mary, masterfully held the baby throughout the show.

Sandy Enns, Parravano's mother, sat in the front row, coaching and motioning her daughter to remember to smile.

Parravano, who played an angel in the Christmas pageant last year, had been talking about the show for weeks.

"Mom, I'm going to hold the baby Jesus!" Meranda exclaimed as the big night approached.

"She was just delighted," said Enns.

The involvement of every member of the L'Arche community was "heartwarming and touching," said Enns.

"It's just beautiful. As a parent of a child with disability, the way my daughter is treated is just huge - and it's not just because she's Mary and Jeff is Joseph; everyone brings gifts to the table. There's such a level of respect and dignity."

Sister Pat Desnoyers, executive director of L'Arche Association of Edmonton, said the pageant draws a larger crowd each year.

"People come and say, 'This is the Christmas event I want to come back to every year,'" said Desnoyers.

"I think part of it is the spontaneity but I think it's also just the naturalness, the humanness, and I think it's also just the enjoyment of coming together, singing Christmas carols, and seeing a story acted out very simply."

The play, scripted from the Gospel of Luke, ended with the choir leading Silent Night in several different languages, as audience members brought bags of food bank donations to the stage stable.


Children were also invited to greet baby Jesus. The father of the baby, Casey Murphy, said he was nervous to see his infant son brought up on stage.

But Murphy is not surprised that Felix, who played the serene baby with little fuss throughout the evening, nailed his first acting role.

"He's good with people," said Casey.

Mackenzie Murphy, baby Felix's mother, said Meranda did an "amazing job," despite the baby pulling her hair throughout the production.

"It was really wonderful, just amazing to sit back and see how into it they were," she said.

By the end of the night, Fidelak said he was relieved the show was over.

"I'm glad it's over," he said. "Now I don't have to wear this costume anymore . . . until next year, maybe."