St Nicholas Institute, Santa School Michigan, Santa Claus Training, Santa Claus School

Register for the 2017 Seminar!

“Where the North American St. Nicholas Revolution Began”







Monday, October 2nd thru Thursday, October 5th, 2017

St Nicholas Institute, Santa Claus Training Schools

Join St. Nicholas, Santa, Mrs. Claus Professionals and Serious Amateurs From Across North America

The St. Nicholas Institute is the one-of-a-kind spiritual retreat and educational symposium uniquely designed with the professional St. Nicholas, Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and the serious “St. Nick” amateur in mind.  

Conducted each October in the beautifully serene setting of Detroit’s St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center, the multi-day St. Nicholas Institute represents a refreshing change of pace for “men and women in red.” Institute participants will experience: informative seminar sessions presented by knowledgeable speakers representing diverse fields of expertise. As an added plus, there opportunities for private reflection and/or prayer, recreation, welcome periods for relaxation and/or “siestas.”  This balanced combination of informative seminar sessions held within a warm environment that encourages mutual sharing, socializing and building comradery is all shared among faith-based men and women who recognize that "Jesus is", indeed, "the reason for the Season." 

The St. Nicholas Institute is open to all Mrs. Clauses, St. Nicholases and/or  Santa Clauses (traditionally bearded or theatrically bearded “St. Nicks”) from all Christian backgrounds (Eastern Orthodox Christians, Protestants, as well as Roman and Eastern Catholics). Our program is uniquely designed for cross-training of individuals to effectively portray Santa Claus and St. Nicholas for a wide variety of venues (both secular and religious). Just as importantly, the program encourages a prayerful openness to the very same Spirit that animated the life and actions of the original "jolly old St. Nicholas", whose heart was made glad by the Babe born in Bethlehem.

Fr. Joseph Marquis, Founder and Executive Director, St. Nicholas Institute, is likewise the pastor of Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church, Livonia, MI. Possessing over 43 years of professional Santa Claus and St. Nicholas experience. Fr. Joseph is an Emmy Award winning Santa, was judged “Super Santa” by The Detroit News, and is also a member of the Santa Claus Hall of Fame. Most recently, He appeared as St. Nicholas and Santa Claus, accompanied by six puppet characters of his creation, for the children’s Christmas DVD, “Saint to Santa: How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus.” (See “Saint to Santa” trailer and additional information, below).

Rev. Rennie Kaufmann,Associate Director, St. Nicholas Institute, is the pastor of Risen Christ Lutheran Church, Plymouth, MI. A true "Renaissance Man" in the field of entertainment, he has distinguished himself professionally in a wide variety of venues for more than two-and-one half decades. His long list of credits include: numerous private parties hosted by Oprah Winfrey, working with the legendary Quincy Jones, musical presentations at Walt Disney World in addition to countless appearances on television and radio. Pastor Rennie’s musical and performing gifts offer added pizzazz during the Institute seminars and as the featured vocalist for the gala St. Nicholas Institute Awards Banquet.

Guest Instructors, St. Nicholas Institute.  We gratefully acknowledge the contributions made by volunteer professional instructors who generously donate their individual time and talents in order to make the St. Nicholas Institute possible. Click here for the 2016 Guest instructor list. (NOTE: The announcement of each year’s team of instructors is announced on this web site every June 1st.)

All proceeds realized from the St. Nicholas Institute to benefit the ministry of Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church in Livonia, MI.

Schedule Outline

The St. Nicholas Institute “went global” when Pastor Rennie Kaufamann (pictured above, left) and Fr. Joseph Marquis (as St. Nicholas, at right) participated during the World Meeting of Families, Philadelphia, PA. Both clerics met an estimated 16,000 attendees from across the globe, during this multi-day event that concluded with the historic arrival of Pope Francis in September of 2015.

2016 Schedule (2017 schedule will be similar, and announced soon)

Monday, October 3rd thru Thursday, October 6th, 2016
St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center
23333 Schoolcraft Ave., Detroit, MI 48223

NOTE: Please be advised that the schedule outline below, may be subject to minor changes.

Monday, October 3, 2016
4:00-5:30 p.m.: Arrive at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center
(Check-in, registration, and assignment of private rooms)

5:30-6:30 p.m.: Dinner (Refectory)

6:30-7:00 p.m.:  Welcome and Introductions (Main Conference Room)
Co-Presenters: Fr. Joseph Marquis,
Executive Director/ Rev. Rennie Kaufmann, Associate Director

7:00- 8:50 p.m. OPENING Session: “A Shared Faith in the Babe Born Bethlehem” Co-Presenters: Fr. Joseph Marquis, Executive Director/ Rev. Rennie Kaufmann, Associate Director

9:00 p.m.: Night Prayer (Retreat Center Chapel)

9:30 p.m.-? : Informal Social (Main Conference Room)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

7:00 a.m.: Rise and Shine

7:45 a.m.: Morning Prayer (Retreat Center Chapel)

8:00 – 8:45 a.m.: FULL Breakfast
(Dining Room)

8:45-9:00 a.m.: "Wake-Up, You Sleepy-Heads" (Musical Warm-Up) 
Performer: Rev. Rennie Kaufmann
, Associate Director

9:00-9:50 a.m.: Session: “St. Nicholas: A Christmas Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone?” (Main Conference Room) Presenter: Dr. Adam C. English, Campbell University

(Break) Performer: Rev. Rennie Kaufmann (Musical)

10:00-12 Noon Session: (RED GROUP) “St. Nicholas: Fresh Perspectives“
(Main Conference Room) Presenter: Fr. Joseph Marquis / Pastor Rennie Kaufmann

10:00 – 12 NOON: (GREEN GROUP) “Effective Verbal and Non-Verbal Performance Techniques” (John XXIII Room) Guest Presenter: Catrina Ganey, New York Stage and Screen Actress

11:00 – 11:10 a.m.: (Break Time)

12 noon - 1:00 p.m.: Lunch (Dining Room)

1:00-2:00p.m.: (Break / Siesta Time / Private Prayer / Explore Retreat Center Grounds)

2:15-4:15 p.m.: (RED GROUP - “Effective Verbal and Non-Verbal Performance Techniques” (John XXIII Room) Presenter: Catrina Ganey, New York Stage and Screen Actress

2:15-4:15 p.m.: (GREEN GROUP) - “St. Nicholas: Fresh Perspectives”
(Main Conference Room) Presenter: Fr. Joseph Marquis, Pastor Rennie

4:15 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (Break / Brief Siesta / Tour Retreat Center Grounds)

5:30-6:30 p.m.: Supper (Dining Room)

6:30-6:45 p.m.:
(Musical Break) Rev. Rennie Kaufmann, Musical Entertainment

7:00-9:00 p.m., Session V: “Lights, Camera, Action!” (On-Camera Workshop)

Production Team: Chris Stepien, Director, Stepien Creative Services Kevin Hewitt, Cinematographer Kevin Hewitt Cinematography, Livonia, MIGatrina Ganey, New York Stage & Screen Actress

9:00 p.m.: Night Prayer (Retreat Center Chapel)
9:15-(?) : Social
(Main Conference Room)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016
7:00 a.m.: Rise and Shine

7:45 a.m.: Morning Prayer
(Retreat Center Chapel)

8:00 a.m.: FULL Breakfast (Dining Room)

8:50 a.m.: Musical Interlude "Laughin' Ho-Ho-Ho!" Staff Presenter: Rev. Rennie Kaufmann,

9:00-10:00 a.m. Session: “Christmas: Theological Anticipations” Guest Presenter: Dr. Adam C. English, Campbell University

(Main Conference Room)

10:00-10:15 a.m.: (Break )Staff Presenter: Rev. Rennie Kaufmann, Musical Entertainment

11:00 a.m.-12 noon, Session: "Kris (Kringle) and Make-Up "

Guest Presenter: Ron Wolek, Professional Hair & Makeup Supervisor (1st National Tour of "War Horse;" Disneyland Training Supervisor for 50+ wig stylists; "Walt Disney World Christmas Parade", ABC TV; 2007-2010).

12 noon - 1:00 p.m.: Lunch: (Dining Room) 

1:00-2:10 p.m.:
After Lunch Break Period (Siesta Time / Private Prayer / Explore Retreat Grounds)

2:10-3:15 p.m., Session: “There’s More to St. Nick Than You Think” (Part 1): Guest Presenter: Dr. Ray Guarendi, Family Psychologist, “Living Right with Dr. Ray”

3:15-3:30 p.m. (Brief Break)

3:30-4:15 p.m. Session: "Q" & "A" Session - “There’s More to St. Nick Than You Think” (Guest Presenter: Dr. Ray Guarendi, Family Psychologist, “Living Right with Dr. Ray”

4:15 – 4:55 P.M. Prepare for Chartered Bus transportation from Retreat Center to Awards Banquet

5:00 p.m.: "ALL ABOARD" (Board Special Chartered Bus to Gala Awards Banquet)

5:10 p.m.: Board Chartered Bus to St. Nicholas Institute Awards Banquet (Transportation via Chartered Bus to Sacred Heart Banquet & Conference Center)

5:30 p.m.: Arrival at Sacred Heart Banquet & Conference Center

6:00-9:50p.m.: 4th Annual Gala St. Nicholas Institute Awards Banquet
(Reserved Seating)

Certificate of Achievement: Each Institute participant will be honored by the general public present, as they receive an individually framed Certificate of Achievement.

Spirit of St. Nicholas Award: Honoring 4 outstanding individuals who, to an extraordinary degree, embody the Spirit of Christmas that are summarized in
the St. Nicholas Institute's Core Values, 365 days a year. Winners represent
a wide range of occupational backgrounds.

Spirit of Christmases Past Present & Future Award:
This prestigious award
recognizes noteworthy individuals who have made an indelible contribution to
the tradition of Christmas on a worldwide scale.

SNI Lifetime Achievement Award:
By means of this honor, we recognize
individuals whose personal lives have dramatically personified the Christmas
Spirit over the span of many decades; thereby inspiring others to share in
the same peace, joy and hope that the angels proclaimed on that very first

Copyright 2015, St. Nicholas Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Ordinis Sancti Nicolaus Numisma
("Order of St. Nicholas Medal"): This
October 7th will be the inaugural year for conferring the distinguished
"Ordinis Sancti Nicolai Numisma" ("Order of St. Nicholas Medal"). The medal
(pictured above) is to be presented to all members of the St. Nicholas Institute Alumni who
have completed four year of formation.

Sancte Nicolaus Numisma Honoris
("St. Nicholas Medal of Honor"): The medal
will be presented in the future to all members of the St. Nicholas Institute
Alumni who have completed eight years of formation.

10:00 p.m.: Return Trip to St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center
10:15 p.m. Arrival at Retreat Center
(Informal Social)
Friendly Reminder: St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center is set aside as a place of prayer and reflection, as well as an ideal environment for individual enrichment, please be advised that beer, wine and/or any form of alcoholic beverage is strictly prohibited during our entire stay.

Thursday, October 6, 2016
7:00 a.m.: Rise and Shine

NOTE: Strip bed linens, gather towels in room (Laundry hampers are located in retreat hallways). Pack travel bags for later departure.

7:45 a.m.: Morning Prayer
(Retreat Center Chapel)

8:00 – 8:45 a.m.: FULL Breakfast
(Dining Room)

8:45 -10:45 a.m.: Session : Group Sharing (Main Conference Room) Facilitator: Fr. Joseph, Executive Director

11:00 a.m.: Closing Liturgy & Commissioning Service for Institute Participants

Those who wish to do so (Catholic or non-Catholic), will be blessed with the
*"Manna of St. Nicholas" at the end of the Liturgical Celebration as part of
the formal commissioning. 

*NOTE: The "Manna of St. Nicholas" is a liquid that has miraculously flowed
from the bones of St. Nicholas of Myra for centuries, and continues to do
so to this very day (see: Numbers 20:11).

12 Noon: Informal Group Photo (Retreat House Courtyard)
NOTE: Don't forget to bring your camera!

Departure time 12:15 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

*FINAL NOTE: Prepared bag lunches "to go" are available on Friday, at a modest additional charge.  Please see Marcia Sansotta on Tuesday morning, if you wish to make arrangements.

2016 St. Nicholas Institute Team

2016 Guest Speakers (in alphabetical order)

Dr. Adam C. English, Chair of the Department of Christian Studies and Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Campbell University, Buies Creek, N.C. The author of “The Saint Who Would be Santa Claus” (Baylor University Press, 2012). Dr. English’s newest book, Christmas: Theological Anticipations”, will be released to the public in time for this Christmas Season (Cascade Press, fall 2016). His other scholarly interests include: constructive, confessional theology and, in particular, areas that reveal how the early church thought and practiced the faith. Dr. English a licensed and ordained Baptist minister, who obtained his Ph.D. from Baylor University. He has done advanced research at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium, and at the Centro Studi Nicolaiani.

Catrina Ganey, Professional New York City Stage & Screen Actress / Teacher / Poet. / Adjunct Lecturer at Laguardia Community College (Queens) and Borough of Manhattan Community College. Ms. Ganey has a B.F.A. (Howard University), M.A.(University of Michigan) and studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, London. A New York City based actress, Catrina’s credits include appearances in: “The Sopranos”, “Law and Order” and in a variety of performances on HBO, CBS, NBC. She also appeared on the HULU series: “Deadbeat” and "The Path," opposite Kathleen Turner.  She is seen in the Christopher Award winning show: "The Jim Gaffigan Show," opposite Jim Gaffigan. Her film credits include: “Bringing Out The Dead” with Nicholas Cage, “Freedomland” opposite Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson, “Carry Me Home” with Jane Alexander in the Sundance Film Festival award-winning independent film,  “3 Backyards”. She recently performed in the critically acclaimed play: "Brownsville Song" at the prestigious Long Wharf Theater.

Raymond M. Guarendi, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Author, Professional Speaker; Global Catholic Television Host: “Living Right With Dr. Ray” / National Radio Host:“The Doctor Is In”. Dr. Ray is a father of ten (now 16-28 years of age), clinical psychologist, author, professional speaker, and national radio and television host. His radio show, “The Doctor Is In” is heard on over 440 stations and Sirius XM channel 130. His TV show, “Living Right With Dr. Ray” is aired in 140 countries on EWTN (Global Catholic Television Network). Most familiarly known as, “Dr. Ray”, he’s been a regular guest on national radio and television programs, including: Oprah, Joan Rivers, Scott Ross Prime Time, 700 Club, Gordon Elliot, and CBS This Morning. In addition, he’s the program psychologist for Cleveland’s The Morning Exchange and Pittsburgh 2-Day. Dr. Guarendi’s diverse professional background includes: school districts, Head Start programs, mental health centers, substance abuse programs, inpatient psychiatric centers, juvenile courts, and a private practice. During the 2016 St. Nicholas Institute, you will learn practical skills that will enhance your interpersonal effectiveness with children and their families. As you portray “jolly old St. Nicholas.” So, be prepared for some active role-playing, too.”

Kevin Hewitt, Director, Kevin Hewitt Cinematography Corp., Livonia, MI. Kevin Hewitt, the recipient of multiple Emmy Awards, is a highly sought after and respected Director of Photography. He is unique to the world of cinematography for his truly amazing proficiency in film, video and steadicam. He owns and operates Kevin Hewitt Corporation; a production company he founded in 1993. As a Director of Photography, Kevin has worked on many feature length films and hundreds of local and national spots. Also, he has traveled to 29 different countries around the world photographing everything from a powerful documentary on the Holocaust, cooking adventures in search of exotic food for the Food Network, a series of programs on flight for Discovery Channel, to mixed martial arts with M-1 Global. Prior to starting his own business, Kevin worked for the NBC affiliate WDIV in Detroit. There he was the Electronic Field Production Supervisor of a seven person team filming commercials, documentaries, music videos and special programming aimed at syndication.

Chris Stepien, Director, Stepien Productions, Dearborn, MI. Chris Stepien, has spent his career as a journalist, asking tough questions and telling intriguing stories.  He's worked as a television producer-director and writer for the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). From 1979 to 1987, while at WXYZ-TV, ABC (Detroit), he won six EMMY awards for his documentaries, sports and celebrity specials, and children's programming, as well as many other honors. Bible studies, spiritual exercises, and praying the rosary inspired Chris to write a novel about the young, pre-teen Jesus: "Three Days: The Search for the Boy Messiah". Now in its second printing with Dynamic Catholic publishing, the Scripturally-based fictional account of the young Jesus' loss in the Temple follows in the literary genre of Henry VanDyke's durable 1895 classic,"The Other Wise Man." Stepien relied on his humble love of God and his passion for visual storytelling to help him shape this account of the Boy Messiah, and His Passover pilgrimage that is found in the Gospel of Luke. This book will grip your imagination as you explore the Temple and experience the drama of ancient Hebrew traditions with the boy Messiah. As Stepien points out: "It's a story for the child in all of us." In his most recent text, “Dying to be Happy”, Stepien shares Christ-centered insights drawn from his personal confrontation with the mystery of human suffering.” In early 2014, Chris and  Fr. Joseph Marquis, co- authored the final draft of their original script for the children's DVD, "Saint to Santa: How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus" (released: Dec. 1, 2014). The uniquely engaging and entertainingly informative educational production, featuring live action youngsters, six original puppet characters and two St. Nicholas songs, was the fruit of a wonderful collaborative effort between Pauline Media, Boston, and Catholic Television Network, Archdiocese of Boston.

Ron Wolek, Professional Make-Up & Wig Artist, Orlando, Florida. A third-generation hairdresser, Ron Wolek became an assistant makeup artist for the New York City Ballet, a hairdresser for the Disney Cruise Line, a freelance designer of his own theatrical shows, and in time was head of the Orlando Opera's makeup department. After obtaining a paid apprenticeship under Tom Blasco, eventually, in 2007, Ron was hired as Manager of Entertainment Cosmetology at Disneyland. In addition, Ron employed his artistic talents during first national tours of: War Horse and Motown the Musical. His exceptional make-up skills have also been called upon by: National Geographic Channel and (not surprisingly) Disneyland® Resort, where he served as head of their Hair & Makeup Department for: "A Christmas Fantasy Parade". Ron Wolek is presently completing work on a book that is likely to become the quintessential makeup reference for the professional Santa Claus and/or St. Nicholas. Both “real” bearded and theatrically bearded Kris Kringles will benefit from its use-friendly compilation of makeup techniques, resources and an array of practical recommendations. The book will be on sale during the 2016 St. Nicholas Institute, just a few short days following its official release to the public.

Executive Staff

Fr. Joseph Marquis, Executive Director, St. Nicholas Institute. He is pastor of Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church, and founder of the St. Nicholas Institute, Livonia, MI. He served as Director of Pastoral Care at Detroit's Holy Cross Hospital, and as a resident pediatric chaplain at Children's Hospital of Michigan. Fr. Joseph is an Emmy Award winning Santa Claus (Christmas Special with Motown’s legendary 4 Tops and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra) and also portrayed “St. Nick” in the Emmy Award winning program, “Santa Goes Back in Time”, directed by multi-Emmy Award winner, Chris Stepien (WXYZ- ABC TV –Detroit), in addition to other Emmy nominated productions. His most recent DVD is “Saint to Santa: How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus”. The recipient of several Santa-related awards and recognitions over the years, Fr. Marquis now marks his 45th Christmas as a professional St. Nicholas and/or Santa Claus. Fr. Joseph received is M.Div. degree from Orchard Lake Seminary, Orchard Lake, MI, and has yet to complete his doctoral degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Rev. Rennie Kaufmann, Associate Director, St. Nicholas Institute. Rev. Kaufmann is the pastor of Risen Christ Lutheran Church, Plymouth, MI and a graduate from Northwood University with a BBA (Management) who continued his graduate work in theology at Moody Theological Seminary and Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana. A true "Renaissance Man" in the field of entertainment for nearly 30 years, Pastor Rennie (a.k.a., “One Man Band”) has distinguished himself professionally in a variety of venues, including: numerous private parties hosted by Oprah Winfrey, working with the legendary Quincy Jones, musical appearances at Walt Disney World, and appearances on television and radio. Drawing upon his diverse gifts over and over again, he delights countless audiences with his warm, upbeat personality, sleight-of-hand magic tricks, storytelling and improvisational performances that reveal a quick wit and engaging sense of humor. Prior to becoming associate director, the Spirit of St. Nicholas Award was conferred upon him during the annual gala St. Nicholas Institute Awards Banquet in 2013.







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