A New York pastor is looking for a new home for his large collection of nativity sets from all over the world.
Father Roy Herberger of SS. Columba-Brigid Church in Buffalo got his first nativity set about 30 years ago while attending a religious convention in Baltimore, Herberger told ABC News Today.
“It got me thinking about other countries and other artists and how they would express this artistically,” Herberger said. “What would Jesus look like? What would Mary and Joseph look like?”
From there, Herberger started buying sets online and from a shop that sells items from developing countries. Local artists who build the sets receive money from each sale, according to Herberger.
“One family that I knew went home to Poland and they brought back a set, hand-carved out of a birch tree,” Herberger said. “One went to Mexico for a business convention and brought one back that was very colorful made out of corn husks.”
Herberger’s collection includes 570 sets from 59 different countries.
“I have a set from an artist in the Andes in Peru and everything, including the Holy Family, is made out of automobile parts,” Herberger said. “I have a set from Africa and they are all made of out Coca-Cola cans.”
The collection includes scenes made up of peanut shells and painted grains of rice, as well as a children’s section where the Holy Family is represented by reindeer, rubber ducks, bears and cats, Herberger said. There are, of course, “more traditional, more inspiring” scenes as well, he added.
“They remind me that when Christ came into the world, as we celebrate Christmas, that he came for all people, all nationalities, all languages,” Herberger said. “This allows people to identify with Christ and God no matter where they live.”
Herberger’s collection is on display at his church every holiday season, but next year will be the final showing as Herberger plans on retiring in 2017. In preparation for his retirement, he is looking into other dioceses, abandoned schools or “any other possibility” for a new, permanent home for his nativity sets.