(CNN) This year, the nativity scene on the front yard of the Saint Susanna Parish looks just a little different.
Yes, in the traditional wooden framework visitors can still start to see the biblical characters of Mary and Joseph staring lovingly at their baby Jesus. But tacked on the walls above them will be 16 blue planks, each one a sobering remembrance.
SAN BERNARDINO 14. VIRGINIA TECH 32. LAS VEGAS CONCERT 58. AURORA THEATER 12.
This year parishioners as of this church in Dedham, a suburb of Boston, made a decision to blend the total annual crèche with the ongoing national conversation about gun violence. Each plank says the location and number of men and women killed in one of 16 mass shootings in the US.
The idea to get gun violence in to the Christmas display came from the parish’s Pax Christi group, a Catholic peace organization. The church’s pastor, Steve Josoma, picked which shootings to commemorate.
The point is showing, throughout a traditional season of peace, that mass shootings are happening all over the country, in a myriad of places, says Pax Christi coordinator Patricia Ferrone.
“All of the positive associated with Jesus that people all aspire to, yet we possess a world that’s an awful mess,” Ferrone told CNN. The idea “is really just trying to make connections showing the contrast, in a certain sense, with the way of Jesus and the way of violence.”
Within the last 10 the United States has witnessed 18 mass shootings. In 2017 they averaged at one monthly through early on November, feeding a countrywide debate over gun control and related concerns.
Ferrone said St. Susanna didn’t worry about a backlash since it “felt just like a clear move to make.”
The Pax Christi group always addresses issues of peace, justice and violence at Christmas time, she said. Last year, they handed out ornaments discouraging parishioners from shopping for toys of violence for their children.
“I think that that we need to are more comfortable discussing these (issues) extra,” Ferrone said. “They are serious issues and gloss over them is certainly to forget they’re essential.”
But they likewise don’t want to place a good damper on the growing season or criminalize anyone. Combined with the display comes prayer for the family members afflicted by these shootings, their victims and also the perpetrators of such violence.
Externally of the display is a banner that reads: “If only you knew the things that lead to peace.” It’s a quotation from the gospel of Luke that dovetails with the parish’s press for open conversations about Christian values.
“It truly is rooted inside our faith, inside our belief that Jesus was included with a particular concept,” Ferrone said. “We’re striving to find that out and act accordingly, as ideal as we can.”