Bishop Douglas J. Lucia holds a figure from his family’s Nativity scene, now displayed in his office. (Sun photo | Chuck Wainwright)
The Nativity scenes in Bishop Douglas J. Lucia’s office and retired Bishop Robert J. Cunningham’s residence are full of well-loved figures and childhood memories. Both bishops recently took the Sun on a trip down memory lane.
The manger in Bishop Lucia’s Nativity scene was built by his father, Leward, a carpenter, when the bishop was a teenager. Some of the figures, however, including the angels and the camel, are likely 50 years old, Bishop Lucia estimates.
“I remember the night some of those figures came home,” to the family’s house in Altona, N.Y., he said. The bishop was 6 or 7 years old at the time, and his grandmother had been babysitting. “I remember my parents coming home from shopping, the figures coming out, unwrapping them,” he said.
The Nativity scene was always in the family’s living room near the fireplace during the Christmas season, Bishop Lucia recalled. After giving his parents a new Nativity set some years ago — purchased during his studies in Rome, Italy — the family set came into his possession last year.
The bishop said he wanted to put the Nativity scene in his office this year not only because that’s where he spends most of his time, but also because of the set’s sentimental value. “It’s special,” he said.
Bishop Cunningham has some 16 Nativity scenes displayed in his residence this Advent (there are more in storage), but the one from his childhood home greets visitors in the front hallway.
“This is the one that goes back,” he said. This set is the one with sentimental value.
The bottoms of the hand-painted figures are still marked with prices — 39 cents for an angel, 69 cents for a camel — and likely came from a Buffalo-area store such as Woolworth’s or Kresge’s, Bishop Cunningham speculates.
The infant Christ is his favorite figure, but it is different in style and size from the figures that surround it. What happened to the original baby Jesus figure?
He’s not sure, but “every 75 years or so something has to change,” he said with a laugh.