Buffalo priest looks to create museum for massive Nativity set collection

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – If you’re looking for inspiration as you get ready to celebrate Christmas, you can check out the massive Nativity set collection on display now at Saints Columba and Brigid Catholic Church.

Father Roy Herberger, the retired pastor at the church, has collected 607 Nativity sets over the last 30 years.

The sets represent the full spectrum of cultural and artistic expressions of the birth of Jesus, from classic to contemporary, with everything from a traditional Armani set to a Harry Potter set, complete with Dobby in the place of the baby Jesus.

Father Roy says the diversity of his collection is the point. “It reminds us that we are all in this together. We are on planet Earth and we share so much in common,” he told News 4, “and that we have to get over our differences as a negativity, but see our differences as something positive, to enjoy the richness, the creativity, the beauty that comes from the human heart, the human soul.”

Father Roy’s collection started three decades ago when he got a set from Africa. “I was very intrigued seeing a scene depicting an African family, an African situation, and then it got me thinking about how other cultures express the fact Christ came for everybody,” he said.

Over the years, Herberger’s collection has grown to include sets from 58 different countries, with new additions arriving even this week. “I share it so other people can be inspired, so other people can have a smile on their face with some of the more humorous sets that we do have,” Father Roy said.

Among the humorous sets is a rather irreverent display showing a scene of hipsters. Joseph, with his man-bun, is taking a selfie, while Mary holds a latte, and the Wise Men arrive on Segways, carrying boxes from Amazon in their arms. Father Roy says some people have been offended by this one in particular, but the Bishop smiled when he saw it, and he says, it certainly gets people thinking about what the Nativity would look like today, if nothing else.

“We’re not trying to be sacrilegious, but to show – Even with nature, with the sets that show the whole family and everybody, they’re animals, they’re fish, whatever they may be, but the fact that all creation by its existence gives praise to the Creator,” Father Roy said.

Father Roy has been displaying his entire collection of Nativity sets at Ss. Columba-Brigid every Christmas season for the last 19 years, ever since he became pastor of that church. In September of this year, though, he retired, and there was some talk about moving his collection somewhere else.

Now, however, the talk has turned to ways to keep the collection at Ss. Columba-Brigid, and to make the display permanent.

“We have a committee together already and we’re trying to come up with a plan for another building, a different building, but on the property here at Ss. Columba-Brigid Church,” Herberger said.

The goal, we’re told, is to create a sort of museum, with a display up year-round for visitors, including those who come to town to see the Shrine of Fatima in Lewiston and the Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna.

Father Roy also wants to invite local schools to bring students to see his Nativity sets, not from a religious perspective, but from an artistic one. “Let them see the sets that are made out of newspaper, that are made out of bristles, or whatever the case may be, then have a section for them where they can go and be creative,” Father Roy suggested.

For now, the display is temporary. The public is invited to come view it at Ss. Columba-Brigid, 75 Hickory Street, on Saturdays and Sundays between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. through January 7th. The display is closed December 23 and December 24 for Christmas Eve weekend.

The hope is to have the permanent museum open on the grounds by July.

News 4’s Katie Alexander had the chance to see some of the unique sets in Father Roy’s collection Thursday morning. Watch our full Wake Up coverage below.

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