As Lillian Ratcliff sits and studies the Nativity set at St. Mary’s Medical Center, one piece in particular catches her eye.

As Lillian Ratcliff sits and studies the Nativity set at St. Mary’s Medical Center, one piece in particular catches her eye.

“I think my favorite piece is the shepherd with a sheep over his shoulders,” she said. “That is significant to me because there is a story where Jesus talks about a shepherd having 99 sheep. He is missing one, so the shepherd goes out to look for that one sheep. I think that figure represents that story.”

The 17-piece Nativity set is thought to be at least 100 years old and was used at the former St. Mary’s Hospital that was once in downtown Kansas City. Made in Germany, the set came to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs in the 1980s after the old hospital was torn down.

“It passed on to us,” said Ratcliff, a representative with the Spiritual Care Department at St. Mary’s. “I think it is an important set because it represents the history of St. Mary’s. It shows where we came from and that we are still very much part of the community.”

The Nativity set has been restored twice in the last 10 years – once in 2002 by Bob Doll, an art teacher in the Blue Springs School District and again in 2009 by Barbara Silvius, a local artist who lives in Lake Tapawingo. Ratcliff said the restoration projects have been crucial to keeping the Nativity pieces in quality condition.

“The Nativity is stored here at St. Mary’s in special crates built specifically for each piece,” she said. “It really takes an entire day to set up because so many people want to be involved with making sure each piece is placed just right.”

The Nativity set has so much meaning to people that Baby Jesus was once “missing” for a short time in 2003. The special needs daughter of a patient in the hospital had taken Jesus because she felt only He could save her dying mother. She had taken Jesus from the Nativity on Christmas morning and placed the figure at her mother’s bedside.

Ratcliff said staff searched the hospital looking for the missing baby. As a temporary replacement, a baby doll was even purchased to take its place in the manger until the original could be found. Later in the day, it was discovered what happened to Baby Jesus. The figure was left with the patient until the next day, and then placed back in the manger. The patient died shortly after.

“It is quite a story,” Ratcliff said. “But that woman’s daughter knew that only Jesus could save her mother.”

Ratcliff said she believes what makes St. Mary’s Nativity stand apart is the  attention to detail.

“I think this nativity set is so unique because of the real to life quality of the characters,” she said. “The set is ageless. Everyone will enjoy looking at it and seeing this wonderful display.”