INDIAN RIVER — The Cross In The Woods, a local landmark since 1954. The 55-foot high crucifix was made of a single redwood tree. The 7-ton bronze sculpture of Christ was created by Marshall M. Fredericks and added to the cross in 1959. The sculpture measures an impressive 22 feet wide and 31 feet high. But what most don’t know is it is also home to the world’s largest collection of nun dolls.
The nun doll museum has more than five-hundred dolls and mannequins, each dressed in the traditional garb of men and woman from religious communities in North and South America. Every order has to have a distinct one designed by the foundress, and they are not supposed to copy anyone else. The difference between two orders can be as simple as a few extra pleats in the skirt or as noticeable as Mother Teresa’s blue-striped, sari-inspired head covering.
Wearing religious habits is a tradition that dates back to the monastic and missionary practices of the early church.
In early Christian orders, habits were the street dress of the day of Europe, where many orders began. They became the uniform for men and women religious.
For example, St. Francis adopted the dress of the poor tied with a cord. The Daughters of Charity wore the peasant outfitters of the women of the day, complete with the “white wings.” The Sisters of Charity of Elizabeth Seton wore the dress of the widows of their era. Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity adapted the sari, the dress of Indian women, and made it their uniform.
Donors to the museum have received official blessings from the Pope: “His holiness Pope John Paul II, Vicar of Jesus Christ, imparts his Apostolic Benediction upon Sally and Wallace Rogalski for their undertaking in promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life through the world famous Catholic Shrine Doll Museum, 1988.”
A walk through the museum and one can’t help grinning while looking at th 500-plus dolls dressed up as nuns.†