On Wednesday, Dec. 7, Jennifer Werness was crowned the 2011 St. Lucia. She was chosen from a court of five women who were nominated for the honor by their fellow sophomore women.
The court consists of five Sophomores: Russian Studies and Classics Major Susan Crane of Des Moines, Iowa; Political Science and Scandinavian Studies Major Annalise Dobbelstein of Bemidji, Minn.; Communication Studies and Management Major Elizabeth Johnson of Plymouth, Minn.; Management Major Ellen Krueger of Minnetonka, Minn.; and Undeclared Major Jennifer Werness of Burnsville, Minn.
The women nominated are chosen based on qualities of the woman the festival is named after, St. Lucia. She died for refusing to renounce her Christian faith, and, in Swedish legend, she later brought relief during a great famine to the shores of Värmland, Sweden. The women are meant to embody Lucia’s leadership, service, charity, kindness and thoughtfulness.
Diversity has become a question this year as those who look most Swedish continue to dominate the court. However, despite the lack of diversity, court member Susan Crane is certain all the court members deserve the honor.
“Getting to know [the other nominees], I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is very sad that Gustavus isn’t completely represented [on the court]. However, Gustavus has certain demographics that make getting … diversity on the St. Lucia court difficult. When I voted for St. Lucia, I wasn’t voting on skin color or diversity, I was voting on who I thought would be most appropriate. I think all of the girls are wonderful and they belong on the court, but I also think that we should try much harder in the future to increase diversity,” Crane said.
“When I found out, they knocked on my door, handed me a rose, and congratulated me. It was really nice. Then, last Monday we were all taken down to the Swedish Kontur shop. There were…all these sweaters laid out for us. They dressed us in the sweaters and we went back to Gustavus and took pictures. It was really good bonding time with the girls. Now I know four other wonderful girls. We also have a couple of informal lunches and dinners together,” Crane said.
On Wednesday, Dec. 7, the girls met in Christ Chapel at 6:00 p.m. to find out the winner of St. Lucia, decided during a campus-wide vote on Monday and Tuesday. Lucia was crowned during a ceremony where the girls are all handed a candle and the candle of the winner is lit. Then, the girls practiced the ceremony to work out logistics.
Thursday is the big day. “At 5:00 in the morning on Thursday, the court goes caroling throughout the residence halls. It’s not just to be annoying … it’s because in Sweden, that’s what they do. Many towns have a Lucia festival. It’s always pre-dawn, and always caroling. Then, the former and current courts and the St. Lucia Guild meet at my place for breakfast and then we gather in [Christ Chapel],” Barb Larson Taylor, assistant to the president for special projects and adviser to the St. Lucia Guild, said.
The service in Christ Chapel starts with the story of St. Lucia. Then, the former St. Lucia delivers a homily, and the traditional procession occurs.
“Generally, [Christ Chapel] is quite full. I think it’s part tradition, part seeing the cute little kids. There’s something kind of cool that there’s a woman with candles on her head. My second year, a woman was on the guild from Sweden. She … gave some input on the service. She said, St. Lucia’s candles don’t get extinguished during the service. We used to extinguish them out of pure logic. Now, they remain lit. I usually stand in the back and have one of the guild members stand in the front with water,” Larson-Taylor said.
After the service is the St. Lucia luncheon, featuring a traditional Swedish smorgasbord and an entertainer, usually a musician or a writer, that relates to Swedish or Christmas themes. The court, former courts and St. Lucia guild attend, as well as the Gustavus Library Associates and general public. The tickets usually sell out within a couple of days.
The day certainly is a celebration of the outstanding sophomore women who were nominated, as well as a reminder and homage to Gustavus’ Swedish-Lutheran heritage. However, the ceremony functions in other ways as well.
“We pause in the middle of a busy, hectic season and remember what the season is really about,” Larson-Taylor said.
“St. Lucia isn’t restricted to five sophomore girls. You see the compassion and the light that St. Lucia represents in so many people at Gustavus. Girls and guys, professors and students, people who serve you in “the Caf” who comment on your food. The celebration is about St. Lucia at Gustavus, and how she can shine through every single one of us,” Crane said. “Most people I know that voted … voted because this person brings a smile to their face every time they meet, and in this Minnesota winter that’s a really precious thing.”
St. Lucia court members Sopomore Jennifer Werness and Sophomore Management Major Ellen Krueger encourage Gustavus students to embody St. Lucia’s spirit.
“If you can find the good in any situation and be joyful about it, it just radiates through you and people see that. Being joyful really becomes contagious and it can impact someone’s day for the better. By just having a positive attitude and outlook on life, without even doing much, you encourage and uplift more people than you think. It makes a huge difference,” Werness said.
“Gustavus students can be a light in the darkness by showing acts of kindness around their community. For example, holding doors open for people, smiling at people that they might not know and taking time out of their day to ask how someone else is really doing,” Krueger said.
This year’s St. Lucia celebration was also streamed live through a link on the Gustavus homepage as part of Gustavus’ new partnership with Stretch Internet. Future Gustavus events that are included in this partnership can also be reached at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/gacadmin.portal#.