There are holiday traditions, and then there are holiday traditions. One of them -- a longstanding practice with a new flair -- may have caught your attention if you found yourself out front of the Francis Building at Saint Marys earlier this afternoon. A new nativity scene was installed today near the main entrance on Second Street, and the Bishop of the Winona Diocese stopped by to give it his blessing.
The new crèche is a gift from the Saint Marys Auxiliary to the Sisters of Saint Francis and the hospital. It replaces a smaller display that had been on the scene for many years and is one of four such displays on the Saint Marys campus. During a brief (and cold) ceremony, Sister Tierney Trueman noted that the displays trace back to the hospital's earliest days and are deeply rooted in the traditions of the Franciscan Sisters. Saint Francis of Assisi is said to have originated the idea of nativity scenes. Bishop John Quinn says the tradition also symbolizes the hospital's commitment to care for the most vulnerable.
The nativity figures are life-size and created by Italian artists (working in that well-known Italian city, Frankenmuth, Mich.). The manger scene was built by Keith Larson, Brent Haimes and colleagues from Mayo's Carpentry shop. It should be easily seen by hospital visitors, passersby, and even those staying in nearby hotels, says Sister Lauren Weinandt. "People get a sense of warmth and comfort when they see the scenes," she says. "That's why we carol on Christmas Day, too, as a way to bring a bit of the Christmas spirit to them."
Interestingly, you might credit the Sisters for a little more than just local holiday spirit. The original crèche scene at the hospital was the brainchild of Sister Theodora Mikolai, back around 1900. Years later, she wrote a remembrance indicating that decorating the hospital for the holidays was unique at the time to the Rochester Sisters, and one year, a visiting Minneapolis businessman was so inspired by the display that he went back and installed window displays in his store, beginning a tradition in that city as well.
After the blessing, the Sisters of Saint Francis invited the Auxiliary members and others for a Christmas tea, where they enjoyed apple pie with cheese, as they had at the very first meeting of the Saint Marys Auxiliary. The annual Auxiliary teas were the beginning of the holiday receptions held throughout Mayo.
"The Sisters of Saint Francis began the Auxiliary 55 years ago, and today we maintain a strong bond and partnership," says Christine Hindt, coordinator of the Saint Marys Auxiliary Volunteers. "We feel honored to give this gift to help the hospital and the Sisters continue this long-standing tradition for all to enjoy."
The crèche will be on display through Jan. 6. Make a visit part of your holiday tradition. Then share a little holiday spirit of your own by leaving a comment below.