A collection of crèches at Sacred Heart

04:09 PM, Dec 13, 2013

The Great Adoration is made of painted clay by Mexican artist Josefina Rodriduez. (CAURIE PUTNAM)/


Written By Caurie Putnam

In the foyer of Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, a Christmas celebration like no other is on exhibit: more than 80 crèches on loan from the University of Dayton’s World Nativity collection of the Marian Library of the International Marian Research Institute.

This is probably the most beautiful (creche) exhibition we’ve ever had,” says the Rev. Kevin E. McKenna. “I’m impressed by the great difference in style and countries represented, but all sharing the same basic theme: a call to reflection on the nativity.”

The 2005 renovation of the cathedral at 296 Flower City Park created the foyer space, and the Catholic Diocese started the exhibit the same year. Each year has brought a different collection.

The full University of Dayton collection, part of its International Marian Research Institute, is one of the largest in the world with more than 1,000 nativities. More than 100 of the creches in the collection were donated by Henrietta resident John J. Larish, and several of those are currently in the cathedral.

It’s a feeling of great joy to share these with people,” says Larish, a University of Dayton alumnus who helped coordinate this year’s exhibit in Rochester. “It’s such a wonderful way to recognize the holy family and the true meaning of Christmas.”

This year’s creches come from 14 nations, including Italy, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Peru and El Salvador.

They were made in different time periods, with myriad materials, including clay, bread dough, corn husks, gourds, tree bark, lead, olivewood, papier mâché and gold.

They are a beautiful representation of the cultures that made them,” McKenna says. “The variety is amazing.”

McKenna’s favorite crèche in the exhibit is called New Life in Old Skins, a papier mâché nativity made by Mexican artist Raphael Arista that depicts senior citizens bringing the gifts of wisdom and life experience to the baby Jesus.

I had never seen a nativity of elderly people bringing gifts and talents,” McKenna says. “It is really quite striking.”

Larish’s favorite nativity in the exhibit is A Heavenly Ballet — a creche produced in the United States in 1998 by the Franklin Mint. This creche is a reproduction of one of the Vatican’s baroque-style nativities and shows the Christ child surrounded by dancers.

Others include a Faberge egg called The Glorious Adoration, a wood carving called Princes and Paupers by the late German artist Karl Kuolt, several sub-minature rock nativities from Peru, and The Great Adoration, the largest in the collection, made of painted clay by Mexican artist Josefina Rodriduez.

The crèches are on display at the cathedral daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Dec. 29.