It starts every summer. Around mid-July, Br. Don Houde, CSV, the unofficial curator of the religious art collection at the Province Center, begins searching its nooks and crannies for that perfect something.

Br. Don Houde arranges the nativity figures in front of the altar.

His quest? To find a unique rendering of the holy family that would be suitable for the Viatorian Christmas card. It’s a treasure hunt of sorts, and this year’s gem features one of his favorite images: hand-carved nativity figurines that grace the chapel at the Province Center each Christmas season.

This year’s Christmas card image (Photo by Peter Donahue)

Each figure is hand stamped with Bianchi, Rome on the bottom. Turns out, the figures were created by sculptor Gino Ruggeri for the Bianchi factory in Rome.

They later were purchased for the annual creche at Saint Mary’s of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Kankakee, where Viatorians served for nearly 30 years. Fr. Thomas Langenfeld, CSV, was the last Viatorian pastor, and when he left in 1989 the Viatorian Community acquired the set from the parish.

These classical figures now are displayed during the Christmas season each year, in the Viatorian Province Center chapel, where this traditional — yet classical — image reflects the simple beauty of Jesus’ birth.