The Chiara Center is hosting their 13th annual Franciscan Nativity Festival — a display of more than 100 Nativity sets, a majority of which are new to the annual event. The event is free and open to the public on Friday, Dec. 6 from 2-7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 7 and Sunday, Dec. 8 from noon-4 p.m., at Chiara Center, 4875 LaVerna Road, Springfield — on the grounds of St. Francis Convent.
One of the unique entries of this year’s festival is in tribute to this year’s 175th anniversary of the founding of the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.
The following Nativities are among those that will be displayed:
Made in Germany —This hand-carved wood set was a gift to Sister Francesca Goebel, OSF (1909-2002) from her family in Germany (circa 1955). It was displayed in the administrative offices of the Hospital Sisters and later in the administrative offices of Hospital Sisters Health System;
Made in Poland — This cross-stitched framed Nativity scene was made by a woman in Opole, Poland and purchased by Sister Jomary Trstensky, OSF, during a visit in 2017;
Made in America — Cybis, a fine art porcelain company founded in 1942 in Trenton, N.J., first released these figurines in 1982. This Nativity collection is shared in memory of Rose Ann Fenstermaker (1937-2018) by her family;
Made in Japan — This porcelain figure of Mary and infant Jesus, as well as the screen, was made by the Sisters of the Disciples of Jesus in Japan and was given to the American Province of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis by the Japan Province in 2011; and
Made in India — Sister Anjali Koodamparmpil, OSF, while on a home visit to India earlier this year, purchased these clay figurines in Idukki, Kerala, India. Sister Anjali is a member of the Indian Province and cares for the Hospital Sisters who reside in Loretto Home at St. Francis Convent.
“This event is two-fold. First, it tells the story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem,” explained Dan Frachey, Chiara Center program director. “Second, the people who share their Nativity tell us the story of its significance: family heirloom, travel memento, hand-made creation, and an addition to a personal collection.”
Historians claim that the tradition of a Nativity display began with St. Francis of Assisi in Greccio, Italy in 1223. Throughout the centuries, Christians worldwide have continued this tradition with cultural depictions of Christ’s birth.