The crèche that started it for Resurrection Sister Virginia Ann Wanzek doesn’t look like much: white plastic figures on a black plastic background, the whole thing maybe 5 inches wide and 4 inches tall. For Sister Virginia Ann, who grew up in a devout Catholic family in southern Minnesota, it was the first nativity scene she owned, an inexpensive gift given to all the sisters in the convent in 1962, the year she entered. “I don’t know why we never had a crèche at home,” Sister Virginia Ann said. “That was always something that was at church. But the one we had at church — I grew up on a farm, and it looked just like a barn, with a lean-to on the side for the animals. I loved seeing it.” People all over the world seem to love images of the nativity story, based on the variety of nativity sets that are available. The Loyola University Museum of Art, 820 N. Michigan Ave., is hosting its seventh “Art and Faith of the Crèche” exhibit, featuring crèches that come from countries ranging from Armenia to Zimbabwe. Sister Virginia Ann’s collection includes items from every continent except Antarctica, hand-made and mass-produced alike. Now the provincial superior for the Sisters of the Resurrection, Sister Virginia Ann has combined the dozens of crèches she has collected over the years with several owned by other sisters or the congregation itself in a display of about 110 pieces that fills the corridor outside the chapel at the convent, 7432 W. Talcott. That doesn’t count the Madonna and child sculptures displayed in the chapel, or the statues of the Madonna in the sisters’ sitting room. “I really never intended to start a collection,” Sister Virginia Ann said. “But people started giving them to me.” The size of the collection grew when she was in Rome serving on her congregation’s generalate from 1998 to 2004, she said. She had a handful of nativity scenes that were important to her, including that first one, and displayed them, and when people saw them, they started giving her more. At the same time, she found many on display in Roman shops, and had the opportunity to find more when she traveled to visit Resurrection sisters in other countries, including Australia and Argentina. One section in the collection includes figures that Sister Stephanie Blaszczynski, a Resurrection sister from Chicago, got when she was serving in the early 2000s in Tanzania. Other sets came from sisters who came to Rome or Chicago to visit. The oldest is a wax figure of the baby Jesus, brought to Chicago in 1902 by Celine Borzecka, who founded the order with her daughter, Hedwig. Now the collection includes figures made from glass and wood and wax, one tiny enough to fit into half of a hazelnut and some nearly life-sized infants. There are matchbox nativities, music boxes and a lamp with a nativity scene. Among the newest ones are a bronze sculpture of the Holy Family by Sister of St. Joseph Mary Southard and a Willow Tree set given to Sister Virginia Ann by her family to celebrate her 50th jubilee. Jonathan Canning, curator at LUMA, said most of the crèches on display over the years at the museum come from the personal collection of James and Emilia Govan. The Govans loaned items to the museum for its first crèche exhibit in 2007. Then, after a one-year hiatus in the exhibit, the couple began donating 70 to 100 crèches each year, with each donation becoming the centerpiece of that year’s exhibit, Canning said. “After we closed the first exhibit, we started asking, ‘What do you intend to do with your collection?’” Canning asked. James Govan has been collecting crèches for 60 years, and hasn’t stopped acquiring new ones, Canning said, so he expected more additions to the museum’s collection going forward. The exhibit is perennially popular, drawing repeat visitors and foot traffic from the Christmas shoppers along the Magnificent Mile. It also provides an opportunity for the museum to raise money, by allowing supporters to sponsor a crèche from a country of their choice, Canning said. More than 100 countries have been represented. Canning said the display shows the universal appeal of the Nativity story while showing the ways that people from different places and different cultures have adapted it by using their own styles and materials. “A lot of people around the world grew up with crèches,’ Canning said. One of his favorites this year is a crèche from the United Kingdom in which the structure is in an Indian style, reminiscent of the Taj Mahal, while one of the wise men is dressed in a traditional Liberty print. There’s also a bronze creche from Benin, which has been renowned for its metalwork, and a Thai crèche in which the three Wise Men are attired in traditional Thai, Chinese and Indian dress. For more information on LUMA’s exhibit, which runs through Jan. 4, visit www.luc.edu/luma.