APPLETON — Thousands of people have enjoyed the annual production of Christmas Stars produced through the St. Francis Xavier Catholic School System since it began in 1993. But unless a person has actually had the opportunity to be a part of the cast or crew, they probably have no idea of the work it takes to bring this show to life every year.
Theresa Rohm knows. She’s been working behind the scenes on the production since 2009. “Our daughter Callie had auditioned and was accepted into the cast that year,” said Rohm. “She was in the cherub choir.” She and her husband Duane were there to support and learn about the production’s process.
“After that first year, I volunteered to be a room parent and ended up being a lead room parent with another mom and we’ve been doing it together ever since,” said Rohm, explaining that a room parent’s role is to help the directors in various ways.
“It takes a lot of work and those parents are there from the first day the kids start rehearsing in early September,” noted Rohm. “We work hand-in-hand with the directors, so we help with choreography. … The choreographer will get them going and then we kind of work with them on that.”
The lead room parents also help the director with the youth choir, doing paperwork, getting the music out to the kids, “or breaking them up into groups so they can practice small ensembles or larger ones.”
Working with Christmas Stars is just an extension of the other volunteer work Rohm does for things that involve her daughter. She has a degree in elementary education but when she and her husband adopted Callie, Rohm decided — after waiting so long to be a mom — that she was going to retire from full-time work. When Callie started school at Catholic Central, Rohm took a part-time bookkeeping position at St. Mary Parish, located across the street.
“I did a lot of volunteer work at school and could be at St. Mary’s and it was very convenient,” recalled Rohm. Through her work on the home and school board at Catholic Central, Rohm got involved with the family ministry program at the parish called St. Mary’s ROCKS (Raising Our Catholic Kids).
“We’re developing more family ministry here at the parish because the school closed,” said Rohm. “We wanted to keep our families together. They were such a big part of the Xavier system, but we wanted to include all of our families here at the parish. We brought some traditions from Catholic Central over to the parish, like the Boo Fest Halloween party.”
The group also coordinates things like Baptism Sundays for young families preparing for the sacrament of baptism; graduation celebrations with the students; an Easter egg hunt for our families; and a Scouting Sunday for scouting families. “We’re going to have a birthday party for Jesus in December. We try to do little things to include everybody.”
The group also started a legacy scholarship in the name of St. Mary Parish and Catholic Central which is in partnership with St. Mary, St. Joseph and St. Bernard parishes. “This past year, we were able to give out three $500 scholarships to parish families,” said Rohm. “We should be able to offer $3,000 in elementary scholarships going forward. The parents in all three parishes have been so generous and there is so much support for the Catholic school system.”
As it gets closer to production day for Christmas Stars, things get kind of crazy, said Rohm. There are 44 kids in the youth choir this year and not only do they need to be supervised, they need multiple costumes fitted, they need props which are coordinated for all the different numbers they are in.
While Christmas Stars producer, Jim Romenesko, works with the directors for voice casting, Rohm and the other room parents help figure out who would fit in well in the various scenes, who should be in the different ensembles, and who fits into the costumes used in particular vignettes.
“I have really enjoyed Christmas Stars because the families are fabulous,” said Rohm. “It’s been such a joy because you really get to know them. You become this little family unit because you spend so much time together.”
She has also enjoyed watching children in the cast mature and develop their leadership skills and compassion as they work with the younger cast members.
The show has raised more than $1 million for the St. Francis Xavier Catholic School System since its inception and she encourages people to make this a part of their holiday tradition.
“Christmas Stars is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. It has the Christian music and theme, but it’s really a fun family show,” she said. “It’s really a great way to celebrate the holidays for any age. If you’ve gone before, there’s always something new and if you’ve never been I think you will be absolutely surprised with the level of talent. I’m amazed every single year.”