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Camel completes 3 Kings Mass at St. Stephen Parish on Grand Island


St. Stephen Parish wanted to make its Three Kings Mass as authentic as possible. So, the parish brought in a camel. The Grand Island parish also had confirmation students in the guise of Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar to bring up the gifts at Mass. But these were the traditional gifts of bread and wine, not gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Father Raymond Corbin, pastor of St. Stephen Parish, along with Flat Timon, poses with Chewy the Camel. Chewy was on hand to participate in the Three Kings Mass on Epiphany Sunday, Jan. 8 at the Grand Island Parish. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

Epiphany, the 12th and final day of Christmas, celebrates the biblical adoration of baby Jesus by the Magi. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the men traveled for 12 days by following a star in the desert that led them to baby Jesus in a manger. The three kings represented Europe, Arabia and Africa, and their coming together was symbolic of unity.

At St. Stephen’s, the Mass is a way to bring unity to the parish of nearly 3,000 families.

“It’s just a way to bring families together to worship together,” explained Rebecca Cambria, faith formation coordinator for the parish. “Our faith formation program is family oriented, so we do things throughout the year to bring families in to worship together. And it’s just fun.”

Students from the confirmation class volunteered to play the role of the kings to the packed church because of the love they have for their parish.

“I like supporting the church and supporting God,” said Matteo Anello, who joined his older brother Gianni in donning the robe and crown. He hopes his involvement brings more people closer to God.

Lauren Olendorf has volunteered outside of the church, stocking shelves for the Teacher’s Desk,  

a store where teachers shop free for school supplies, books and resources for students in 250 Western New York schools in need. Now she decided to join the procession to give back to her church.

“It’s a really big community. A lot of people attend church here, and there are a lot of children. They’re truly very kind to everyone. They do a really good job of teaching their classes religion,” she said.

“They’re a close-knit community. Everyone is really nice to each other,” added Abby Szyprowski, the third king.

Lauren Olendorf (from left), Abby Szyprowski, representing the Holy Spirit and one of three kings, prepare for Mass at St. Stephen Parish on Grand Island for Epiphany Sunday, Jan. 8. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

The special Mass took place of the traditional Midnight Mass this year, which had to be conducted via livestream due to a holiday blizzard that pounded Western New York, knocking out power lines, closing businesses, and taking the lives of over 40 people.

“We do three kings because it’s little Christmas for a lot of people,” explained Father Raymond Corbin, pastor. “This is one day when the school comes together, the religious ed comes together, parishioners, we all come together. We’re 3,000 families, so it’s a pretty big deal. Since we didn’t have Christmas, this is our Christmas.”

The Mass included a children’s choir and gifts of chalk and prayers for individual house blessings.

After Mass, families could take selfies with Chewy the Camel, who came courtesy of Party Animals of Tonawanda.


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