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Priest's family will join Boniface tradition

By GAYLE WEBER

gweber@dailynews.net

VINCENT -- In its 85th year, the Christmas Crib at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Vincent will be getting some special visitors.

Not only will Sunday be the first day for the public to view this year's version of the crib, but relatives of the late Father Callistus Rectenwald also will visit the church and its famous "Little Town of Bethlehem" Nativity scene Saturday. And, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of the Diocese of Salina will say Mass at 9 a.m. Sunday. It will be the first trip to the church in southeast Ellis County for Rectenwald's great-nieces and Weisenburger.

Rectenwald started the crib when he began serving the parish in southeast Ellis County in 1927. He continued to watch over and build the scene for the next 52 years. And his parishioners carried on his passion after his death, adding rocks, shells and other artifacts from across the world.

"We have a big weekend coming up," longtime parishioner Carol Freitag said.

The parishioners will gather Saturday evening at the Victoria VFW for a soup supper and a "walk down memory lane for Father Callistus" with his niece, her husband and three great-nieces, Freitag said.

"His niece is bringing lots of pictures that (her) mother had with Father Callistus," Freitag said. "And everyone here in the parish who has a rosary made by Father Callistus or has old pictures will be bringing them."

Freitag said the parish decided to have the supper for the Rectenwald family Saturday, so they would get to know the parishioners before Sunday morning's Mass.

Weisenburger is in his first year as bishop of the diocese and will be making his first trip to the parish Sunday. Following Mass, the bishop and Rectenwald's family will be treated to a breakfast at the Victoria VFW.

"We want him to become familiar with who we are and what we do out here," Freitag said.

But parishioners will be scurrying back to the church for the opening day of the crib Sunday. The crib -- with artifacts from 105 countries -- is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, as well as Dec. 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23 and Christmas Day. Last year, nearly 300 people visited the Nativity display, Freitag said.

Group tours are available by calling (785) 735-4836 or (785) 735-9282. The nearby renovated Vincent schoolhouse, owned by Eric and Pat Austin, will have an open house from 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9, coinciding with the crib's open house. Vincent is located 5.5 miles south and 2 miles east of Victoria.