Donnely #8

About Us

The founding of Friends of the Creche happened at a series of two meetings, one held in Bethlehem, PA, and the other in Dayton, Ohio.

In December 1999, Rita Bocher gathered fourteen interested people together at the Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (where else?), to explore the possibility of a crèche organization in the United States. Present at the exploratory meeting were: Rita and Bud Bocher (Wynnewood PA); Jay Bullock (Columbia MD); Julie and Dave Colflesh (Folsom PA); Karl Fluck (Bethlehem PA); Mary and Frank Herzel (Harrisburg PA); Roy Ledbetter (St. Louis MO); Rev. Carol Reifinger (Bethlehem PA); Brother Bob Reinke (Hoboken NJ); Rev. Johann Roten (Dayton OH); Mike Whalen (Clinton Township MI); and the late Marjorie Yefchak (Dayton OH).

At this initial meeting it was decided that a national creche society would indeed be a viable concept. The group accepted the written organizational goals suggested by Jim Govan, who was unable to attend the meeting. A Steering Committee, headed by Jim Govan, was appointed to work out the details of founding Friends of the Crèche.

In August of the year 2000, sixteen FOTC charter members gathered for the follow-up organizational meeting at the University of Dayton, Ohio, site of one of the largest Christmas manger collections in the United States. Present at the Dayton meeting were Rita and Bud Bocher, Jay Bullock, Julie and David Colflesh, Judy and Bob Davis, Jim Govan, Mary and Frank Herzel, Brother Bob Reinke, Mary Jo Riegel, Rev. Johann Roten, Michael Whalen, the late Marjorie Yefchak, and Holly Zenger. A By-Laws Committee was set up, a Board of Directors was established, and the election of officers was held. Length of terms on the first Board of Directors was established by lot.

In October of the year 2000, a delegation from FOTC attended the International Congress in Pamplona, Spain. Judy Davis, FOTC Vice President, officially represented our organization at various convention ceremonies and events.

In January 2001 the organization was incorporated as a religious/educational organization in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our first national convention, entitled “2001 - a Crèche Odyssey”, was held in November 2001 in Lancaster PA, and chaired by Rita Bocher. Meeting during the convention the Board of Directors approved the FOTC by-laws drafted by the By-Laws Committee.

In 2002 Friends of the Creche was accepted as a member of the Universalis Foederatio Praesepistica, the international association of crèche societies headquartered in Rome Also in 2002, the FOTC Annual Meeting was held in Frankenmuth, MI, and chaired by Mike Whalen.

In 2003 and the Internal Revenue Service approved FOTC as a federally tax-exempt 501(c) 3 organization retroactive to the date of incorporation. In November of 2003, our second biennial convention was held in Hyannis on Cape Cod, “Crèches by the Sea”, co-hosted by Diane Costa and Tim Goldrick.

We know of two national predecessors of our organization - The American Nativity Society and The American Christmas Crib Society. The American Nativity Society was founded in Spokane, Washington, just after World War I by a Jesuit priest named Paul Sauer. Unfortunately, the effort was short-lived. The American Christmas Crib Society, based in Fremont, Ohio, was more successful. By 1953 the Crib Society claimed 125 members. But in 1971 with the death of its founder, the Reverend Aloysius Horn, the group apparently disbanded.

With two strikes out on the national scene, we stepped up to the plate. Now, the bases are loaded and it looks like we’ve got ourselves a grand-slam home run! There are more than 400 members in the United States and Canada. We call ourselves Friends of the Creche!


Non Profit Status

Friends of the Creche is a non-profit, non-political, and non-sectarian organization. The purpose of the organization is to promote the tradition of the crèche. It was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. FOTC is a 501(C)-3 Federal Tax-exempt organization. Also, from 2 January 2001 and in April 2006, the Internal Revenue Service classified Friends of the Creche as a Section 509- (A) -2 Public Charity.  The official registration and financial information of FOTC may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State. Pennsylvania residents may call toll free: 800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement. Information may also be obtained on the internet from Guidestar at


Web Site & Creche Herald

Our society’s website is Our official newsletter appears in the quarterly Crèche Herald.


Our goals are these:

  • To learn more about the creche tradition: how it developed, and how it is expressed in our own and other cultures.

  • To make better known the tradition of the creche.

  • To serve as a source of information about creches.

  • To encourage artists to create creches.

  • To promote creche exhibits.

  • To establish relationships with creche associations in other countries.

Board of Directors;

Sydne Yanko-Jongbloed California (President)

Susan Schumacher  Illinois (Vice-President)

 Toni Conway California (Treasurer)

Helen HolderMinnesota (Secretary)

Marilyn Gillespie Utah (Membership)

Neil Allen Oregon (Webmaster)

Fr. Johann RotenOhio (Archives)

Mike Whalen Michigan (Editor Creche Herald)

Rita Bocher Pennsylvania (Emeritus)

Barbara Olson  Illinois

Sue Parker - Nevada (Election chair)

Frank Walkingshaw Ontario, Canada

Judy Davis California

Michele Devitt Ohio

Judy Klien (Liaison to Board)

Kathy Cousins  Maryland 

James Johnston  Texas

Carol Williams Florida

Shelly Crespo - Utah

Ellen Mintz California

Holly Zenger Utah (Emeritus)

Members are encouraged to serve on our board.  You may nominate yourself or others.

To apply send email to:

Friends of the Creche Award of Recognition Recipients

At its biennial national convention, Friends of the Creche bestows an Award of Recognition on those who have contributed significantly to the fostering of the creche tradition.

2019 Recipients at Land of Enchanting Nativities

Father Johann Roten - Award of Excellence

The Board of Friends of the Creche is presenting its prestigious Award of Excellence to The Reverend Father Johann G. Roten, S.M., S.T.D. of Dayton, Ohio.


Father Roten is being honored as a founder of Friends of the Creche, for recognition by the International Federation of Creche Societies (Un-Foe-Prae) for his scholarship and promotion of the creche tradition, for his efforts as Archivist for Friends of the Creche from its founding to the present, for his efforts in creating and continuing the creche exhibits at the University of Dayton now circulating beyond Dayton, for his commissioning and with artist Kevin Hanna conceptualizing the extraordinary sculpture,  Mirror of Hope, for his efforts in creating a creche course at the University of Dayton open to the public,for authoring books and writings on the creche, for directing and developing a creche workshop at the University, and for his personal qualities which encourage love of the creche.  His efforts truly help fulfill the mission of Friends of the Creche to promote the creche tradition.


Originally from Switzerland, Father Roten is at the University of Dayton where he served for fifteen years as the Director of the Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.   He also  served as the Institute's  director of research, art and special projects. He is the internationally recognized expert on everything Marian.  He is the creator and main author of "The Mary Page--the largest on-line repository of information about Mary.  He has served as the President of the Mariological Society of America and as vice president of the French Mariological Society.  He ministers in Polish, Hungarian and Lithuanian to the ethnic churches of North Dayton, and in 2015 was honored by the Knights of Lithuania with its prestigious Friend of Lithuania award.  


Gail Losch

Whereas Gail Losch has been a member of Friends of the Creche since  2013 and  has served as treasurer in an ex-officio capacity until December 2019

Whereas during that period she worked tirelessly to see that the financial status of Friends of the Creche was in good order and that it complied with the IRS Code for 501 (c)(3) charitable organizations.

Therefore, the Board of Directors has moved, seconded and passed on the 10th day of November, 2019, this Minute of Acknowledgement and Appreciation for her service to be entered in its entirety into the minutes of the 2019 annual members meeting.

Bonnie Pfanenstiel 

Whereas Bonnie Pfanenstiel was a member of Friends of the Creche since 2003 and has served on the  Board of Directors from 2010 to 2019, whereas she served as chairperson of the website committee and worked tirelessly to maintain and update the site. Therefore, the Board of Directors has moved, seconded and passed on the 10th day of November, 2019, this Minute of Acknowledgement and Appreciation for her service to be entered in its entirety into the minutes of the 2019 annual members meeting.


2013 Recipients at "Symphony of Nativities" in Beachwood/Cleveland, OH

Linn Howard

For her and her family's ongoing inspiration and dedication of the magnificent Angel Tree each year at the metropolitan Museum of Art with its Neopolitan crèche figures.

The Historic Kirtland Visitors' Center

In recognition of its decade-long crèche exhibits for all the people of northeast Ohio.


2011 Recipients at "A Northern Nativity" in Toronto, Canada

James Govan

Founding and first President of Friends of the Creche, author of "The Art of the Creche", docent of the James and Emilia creche collection to the Loyola Univeristy of Chicago

Edith Vuchnich

Force behind creche display for many years in Toronto and inspiration for many more across Canada. Instrumental in aiding many self help groups through sale of nativities at a shop at the YWCA in Toronto.


2009 Recipients at "Follow HIs Star" in Salt Lake CIty, Utah

Judy Davis

Judy Davis of El Cerrito, CA for her past work on the board of directors, co host of Santa Fe convention and ongoing work on exhibit guide and bibliographies.

Mary Herzel

Mary Herzel of Harrisburg, PA for her onging contributions to the Creche Herald, co host of our first convention, and serving as secretary for eight years for the association


2007 Recipients at “Heartland Cradlesong” Dublin/Columbus OH


Betsy Christensen

Betsy Christensen of Ann Arbor, Michigan for her work of twenty five years of creche exhibits in her church and for the inspiration and guidance she provided to many other exhibits around the country.


Crèches International

Crèches International for their support through fund raising, publicity and maintenance of the nativity collection at the Marian Library at the University of Dayton for the past ten years.


2005 Recipients at “Land of Enchanting Nativities”, Santa Fe, NM


Eileen Canty of Pennsylvania

For her year-round tours of her private collection; her displays in schools, churches museums, and galleries; her donations of crèches to charitable institutions; her speaking engagements; her support of crèche artists world-wide; and her writings

Guy and Doris Monthan of New Mexico

For their ground-breaking authorship of the first comprehensive book on the Southwest Nativity tradition, “Nacimientos”


2003 Recipients at “Creches by the Sea”, Hyannis, MA

Michel Forrest of Canada

For his imaginative crèche settings at St. Joseph Oratory and the Marian Library of the University of Dayton

Judith Fosher of New Hampshire

For her work as founding director of the Museum of the Diocese of Manchester, fostering the tradition of the crèche though exhibits, educational programs, seminars and public events


2001 Recipients at “2001 – A Creche Odyssey”, Lancaster, PA

Kevin Hanna of Connecticut

For his unique interpretation of the Nativity in his artwork entitled “Mirror of Hope”.

The piece is now on permanent public display at the Marian Library at the University of Dayton

Robert F. McGovern of Pennsylvania

For his emotionally moving interpretation of the Nativity


Matthew Powell, O.P. of Rhode Island

For his best-selling book “The Christmas Crèche; Treasure of Faith, Art and Theater”

Fr. Matthew Powell, Robert F. McGovern and Kevin Hanna received the Award of Excellence


Johann G. Roten S.M., S.T.D. and Rita Bocher received the Award of Recognition.

2019 Board
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