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Father Dan raises a village

It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes Father Dan Hopcus to raise a village at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Father Dan Hopcus talks about the Christmas village.

Father Dan (pictured, at left), chaplain for the Sisters of Providence, welcomed sisters and staff members to his Dec. 22 open house to view the village he has worked on, and added to, for three decades.

So just how did this fascination with the village people and miniature town begin?

“Some 30 years ago, I was given this first piece — a Starbucks,” he said, pointing to the tiny coffee shop. It was a gift from Sister Paula Damiano, who knew he loved coffee.

“Then, I got another piece and someone said, ‘Oh, you collect those?’ I didn’t know I was collecting them,” he said, with a chuckle.

Guests admire the village, as Father Dan welcomes them to his Open House.

But over time Father Dan was bitten by the collecting bug. “I’d go into a shop and there would be a sign … 60 percent off!” he noted.

How could he resist?

The Christmas village and adjoining works are a beautiful and fun way to celebrate the season. Father Dan has counted on Sister Paula Damiano, Sister Marie McCarthy and Sister Jan Craven to help him set things up. The sisters were happy to help, telling him: “You help us decorate our house so we should help decorate yours.

A choir “performs” in the village.

“Father Dan’s village includes several houses and shops, an airport (with a plane approaching and ready to land), a Post Office and a police station with a doughnut shop next door. You’ll see a choir performing carols and there’s wildlife, too, as a tiny fox peeks out among the buildings. The village is well lighted. Lights adorn the trees along the streets and homes are aglow. By golly, there’s even a full moon.

“Who pays the light bill?” one sister joked at the open house.

Father Dan said there is a little something new added to the village each year. This year’s additions included a flower shop and a Main Street pharmacy. He still receives some village items as gifts; others he buys.

For many of us this year, our gift was seeing Father Dan’s Christmas village representing Peace on Earth.

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Becky Igo

Becky Igo worked as a marketing manager for the Office of Congregational Advancement. She was an Indiana State University grad and former newspaper reporter/editor who worked with Providence Center, Volunteer Services and the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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