Last updated: February 19. 2013 8:16PM - 344 Views

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EXETER -- Members of St. Barbara's Parish gathered after the 10:30 a.m. Mass Sunday for the blessing of a newly updated nativity scene.

The backdrop for the nativity, which is located in the side vestibule, is a new addition this year. The canvas mural, which depicts a desert scene with the cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem in the background, was painted by parishioner Kathy DiMaggio, who is an art teacher at the Pittston Area Intermediate Center.

It took nearly two months to paint the mural, which is 23 feet long and five feet high, said DiMaggio. I painted it in the basement of the rectory while it was held in place by push pins in the wooden paneled wall. The updates also include the transformation of the vestibule to replicate a night desert. Groupings of palm trees and evergreens twinkling with blue lights fill the space, and soft blue sheer curtains cover the floor-to-ceiling windows. When the main lights are out, and it's dark and cool in here, it feels like the desert at night, said DiMaggio.

The Rev. Philip Massetti came up with the idea of the updated nativity as his gift for the parish, said DiMaggio. He wanted the combination of the three parishes to feel as one, she said.

St. Barbara's parish was created in June 2011 when St. Anthony's, St. Cecelia's and St. John's merged. He was involved every step of the way, she added.

Mary King of Exeter commended Father Phil for his efforts. We're very fortunate to have him in our parish.

At the center of the scene is a small stone cave with a 3D effect, protruding from the background. Massetti said he believes Jesus was likely born in a cave, rather than in a stable.

Caves were all over the place in the desert, he said. If you had a stable, you were rich.

He pointed to the figurines of shepherds placed around the cave, noting they were the ones who were first told of the birth of Christ.

Shepherds were considered lowly, the outcasts of society, he said. We have to be concerned about bringing the ‘lowly' into our lives. It's about the spirit of bringing everyone together as one family.

The parish will show a movie on the life of its patron saint, St. Barbara, on Tuesday immediately following the 7 p.m. Mass.

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