Q&A with Janet Patterson Coordinator of Christmas at the Castle


Janet Patterson came to the University of St. Francis in 2005 as director of campus ministry, a position from which she has since retired. She is still teaching, however, in the philosophy and theology departments as well as shining in a job she loves and has been involved with since 2006: coordinator of Christmas at the Castle, which takes place in the historic Bass Mansion on campus.

Q1 : How long has this popular event been going on?

“Christmas at the Castle was originally done many years ago. In fact, there are some alum from the 1960s who have told me about dressing up as the Bass family members and maids for the event. In 2006, after the library moved to the Pope John Paul II Center across campus, we revived the tradition by having the first floor of the mansion decorated. Some of the designers who joined us had done it back in the 1980s. We were open for two years and then didn’t do it in 2008 and 2009 because of the restoration. When we reopened in 2010, we were able to have all three floors open and decorated. ”

Q2: Will there be anything new this year at the event?

“Something new that we’re pretty excited about is the 12-foot tree that will be in the ballroom. Sandpoint Living Interiors is doing that for us. As far as the schedule, the two evenings are new this year. We generally are open only on weekends, but we traded one weekend for two weekdays this year. We are also having an afternoon of guided tours on Tuesday, Dec. 9. That is a reservation-only event. Cost is $10 per person and reservations can be made by calling (260) 399-8140.

Q3: What does Christmas at the Castle mean to you personally?

“I marvel at the ingenuity of John Bass in his many business endeavors and his creativity in building Brookside. I also marvel at the talent it took to create all of the detail in the mansion at a time when so much had to be done without power tools! By having a small hand in making that beauty available to our campus community and to the many visitors who come to Christmas at the Castle. The inspiration that comes from Christmas at the Castle is the many behind-the-scenes people who help decorate, volunteer as hosts/hostesses, sell tickets and do all the myriad tasks that make a lovely affair like this run smoothly. Every year, I marvel that it all comes together so well.”

Q4: Can you share a memorable Christmas at the Castle event that was specially inspirational to you?

“I enjoy hearing from our visitors who have had a connection to Brookside, the Bass family or the university. More than once I’ve met someone who attended parties at the mansion or iceskated on the lake when the family lived here. I even met a man who had a relative who had worked here when the Bass family still owned the house. I went to a small women’s college in Ohio that was housed on a family estate near downtown Cleveland, so I think about the sisters who came here to open Saint Francis College in 1944 with the same fondness I have for the Ursuline sisters who sponsored my alma mater.”

Q5: Can you give us a preview of what to expect this December?

“There are many December happenings including the USF Jazz Ensemble and Guitar Ensemble Fall Concert, the National Contemporary Painting Exhibition, the 50th Anniversary of Rolling Stones Visit to Fort Wayne in photos by Stephen Perfect, Breakfast with St. Nicholas, Star of Bethlehem at the Shouweiler Planetarium, Fair Trade Alternative Shopping Bazaar, Lighting of the Lake, the Living Nativity, The Messiah and much more.”

Christmas at the Castle at University of Saint Francis,
Brookside 2701 Spring Street, Fort Wayne
Friday, Dec. 5: 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 6: noon – 5 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 7: noon – 5 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 8: 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 10: noon -5 p.m. (Senior Day at the Castle)
More information at http://alumni.sf.edu/events/christmas.

Photo by Bonnie Manning, Feature Photographer

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