A parishioner of Resurrection Parish in Batavia has designed a large display which includes much of the important symbolism and an explanation of the season of Advent, as the Church readies for the celebration of Christ's birth.
Carl Pillo, a Batavia native and retired radiologist, came up with the idea that professional designers at John's Studio in Batavia then made into reality. After the display was finished, he put it on a table in a side altar of the church in November, where it remained through the rest of the season.
"At the studio, they make banners and things you put on the table and everything. You approach it, and the first things that you see on the side altar are the banners," Pillo said.
The display includes a banner that goes over the table and says, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." One of the sides of the banner includes Mary and Joseph, with Mary riding on the donkey, going toward Bethlehem. The color purple, a traditional choice for Advent, is a main focal point of the display, and a banner reading "Be not afraid; let Jesus come into your heart," greets visitors to Resurrection Parish.
The elaborate setup also features Jesse's tree, complete with lights and 30 symbols, and the entire story of Advent. It addresses the story of the Advent wreath, explaining why it is round and why it uses its traditional colors. The stories, printed on large boards, tell stories of the Old and New Testament.
"The banner on the wall is going to be 48 inches wide and 98 inches long," Pillo explained. "It's going to be the prayer for that week. The whole thing is going to be, from beginning to end, 98 inches with the table and Jesse's tree and Old Testament sayings, from the story of David through the birth of Jesus."
Pillo said he was inspired by what Dennis Mahaney, director of the Office of Evangelization and Parish Life, said in a previous issue of the Western New York Catholic about Catholics who do not attend Mass. "At the end of it, it struck me as he said people leave the Church for divorce and other things, because people don't understand the teachings of the Church. They forget the teachings of the Church," Pillo said.
Pillo also received his inspiration from a column in the October issue of the paper, in which Gabriella Simoneit, a senior at Niagara Catholic High School in Niagara Falls, advised readers, "Do not be afraid of God's plan." In the article, Simoneit discussed the phrase "Be not afraid," which she said is written a total of 365 times in the Bible, or "one verse to inspire us every day of the year," she wrote.
Pillo also referenced St. John Paul II, who famously used the quote, after which he modeled a previous display he had created. "I'm thinking of the homecoming (the diocesan Catholics Come Home campaign). I figured that a lot of people have gone away from the Church and they want to come back, so this is done now - I have been working on the display for six months. Instead of saying homecoming, I said, 'Be not afraid.' I combined the unity of the old and the new - the old is revived in the new," he added.
"This would be a good idea for people who come back to Church. They'll have something to eat, meet with the ushers and everything, but it'd be a good idea for them to rethink. My display would be Jesse's tree, to begin with. The top of the tree would be the trinity, and then there are 30 symbols. Each symbol would be described by a card next to it," Pillo said. The individual cards in the display include one that said, "The boat that saved mankind," which references the story of Noah's Ark.
Other facets of the display, which he hopes will educate the younger generation about Biblical stories, include the Annunciation, the incarnation, the announcement of the birth of Jesus, the journey of Jesus and Joseph to Bethlehem, along with the story of Advent, appropriate for this time of year. The Advent wreath, a main symbol of this time of year, will also be welcoming to fallen-away Catholics.
When Pillo had his first St. John Paul II display in his church, people came from as far away as Buffalo and Rochester to come see it. For him, the display also comes at an important time, when those Catholics who return home for Christmas can be inspired by and welcomed home by the elaborate display of the history of their faith. "For people who have been away from the Church, this would come back to them, and give them a better understanding of it," Pillo explained.
"You'll be amazed," Pillo said. "I don't think you've ever seen anything like this, and it's educational. This is not a class project - this is Carl Pillo's project. I've been doing this for years."