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Angel figurines deliver message of love

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BEDFORD, Ohio — Sister Helen Scasny studied the wall of glass-enclosed cases stretching from floor to ceiling inside the entrance of Light of Hearts Villa, a senior care center in Bedford.


Almost 900 angel figurines of various ages, sizes and materials crowded well-lit shelves, but Sister Helen wouldn't choose a favorite among them.


"My favorite is sitting at my bedside in Bertha," Sister Helen said of the guardian angel she named years ago. "I say goodnight to Bertha. I thank her for keeping me upright. I haven't fallen!"


The senior care facility welcomes the public to check out its angel display all year-round, but Christmas angels come out of storage to take a prominent spot during Advent.


Now 85 years old, Sister Helen keeps bees and promotes her honey as "nun better," but in the late 1940s she was a young teacher who witnessed the angel collection blossom.


"People like to give nuns gifts, but they never know what to give them," she said. "People gave us angels. In those days, we couldn't keep our gifts, and so we turned them in."


At Christmas, the Vincentian Sisters of Charity, as they were known then, welcomed the faithful to the motherhouse chapel and its large Nativity scene. The sisters eventually started placing their angels around the creche, prompting even more presents of boxed figurines wrapped in tissue paper. Donors returned year after year to see "their" angel.


"People would come to the convent and it was like they were giving something to the baby Jesus at Christmas," Sister Helen said. "It was their love that brought them to that crib. They treasured that angel."


Realizing how important the angel collection became to the lay community, the late Mother Joseph Slavic designated a nearby room for overflow angels. Displayed on "steps" draped with fabric and placed against the walls, the exhibit soon included angel choirs, angels wearing ethnic garb, and angels playing sports.


When angels on skis joined the collection, maintenance staff devised a mountain to display them. Lights and Christmas music were added, too.


People brought their children to the display, and adults often lingered to share a cup of coffee with the sisters.


"It was such a joyful time," Sister Helen said. "Hospitality is so important."


Noting that angels are God's messengers, Sister Helen believes each donated figurine was a missive of love.


"The whole bottom line for angel giving is love," Sister Helen said. "Jesus — who was born because of God's love for us, and then these angels (present) at the birth of Jesus — Mary, Joseph and this choir of angels. It must have been beautiful!"


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017