April 22, 2001
Craig S. Semon
Fans of "The First Easter Bunny'' hopped down the bunny
trail Saturday, April 14, at a sculpture unveiling and inaugural celebration in honor
of the "First
Easter Bunny Day in Massachusetts.''
You didn't need to wear an Easter bonnet to appreciate
this Easter Parade, which took place at the Hammond Building, Fitchburg State College.
The egg-studded, jelly beans-filled
event was a basketful of Easter joy that featured local dignitaries hippity hoppin'
to the soiree including Mayor Mary H. Whitney, FSC president Michael P. Riccards
and the man who made Fitchburg a bunny of a place to live in, the Rev. Richard
Rev. Lewandowski is pastor at St. Camillus Parish and chaplain at FSC's
Newman Center. Commonly known as "Father Rich,'' Rev. Lewandowski is the author
of "The First Easter
Rev. Lewandowski said he sees Easter as a time of new life, new beginnings
and new hopes. In Fitchburg, the official home of "The First Easter Bunny,'' he
all those things happening.
"I love Fitchburg so much. There are just so many wonderful
things that are taking place here,'' Rev. Lewandowski said. "I think and I hope
that "The First Easter Bunny''
will be kind of like the story of Fitchburg, too. There will be new hopes and new
An active participant in the Fitchburg community 19 years, jump Rev. Lewandowski
said he feels that this event shows how the people of Fitchburg support, encourage
goodness in their community.
The seeds of the self-published book grew from a brief
story Rev. Lewandowski told youngsters during Easter Mass in 1993 and blossomed into
a children's classic.
Illustrated by Anne Schaper Engot, "The First Easter Bunny''
features the title character telling the story of Jesus and being the first creature
to see Jesus rise from his
tomb. Seeing the small inquisitive creature, Jesus gives a command, a ministry of
vocation, to the little bunny. Hence, the first Easter bunny was born.
of the little bunny is to make people happy by sharing the joy of Easter by the way
of Easter eggs and candy,'' Rev. Lewandowski said. "So when adults enjoy
the true significance of Easter, the children will also be enjoying Easter.''
the bunny in the story remains nameless, it has captured the imagination of many.
January 1996, the first printing of 5,000 copies sold out and 10,000 addition copies
were printed in March. Last Easter, a hard-bound edition by Ambassador Books of Worcester
exceeded a circulation of 50,000 volumes.
Since its publication, Rev. Lewandowski
said he has seen his ministry expand and credits the book's success as a major factor.
He even hand-delivered a copy of "The First
Easter Bunny'' to the Pope during a recent visit.
While he estimates that he has read "The First Easter Bunny'' a "zillion times,''
Rev. Lewandowski said he never gets tired of it. He called the creative process "mysterious''
and "miraculous'' and compares the accomplishment to what he would imagine it would
be like for a parent having their first child.
Rev. Lewandowski said cherishes the
enthusiasm and cooperation of the community and what he called the various communities
within the community to make Fitchburg the official
residence of "The First Easter Bunny.''
It all started last year when Mayor Whitney
proclaimed Fitchburg as the official residence for "The First Easter Bunny'' during
an Easter egg hunt at Fitchburg State College.
In June, Mayor Whitney and Mr. Riccards
secured a proclamation by Gov. A. Paul Cellucci declaring "The First Easter Bunny
Day in Massachusetts'' will be observed each year
on the Monday following Easter Sunday.
Working with Norman J. Boudreau, president
of I-C Federal Credit Union, Mr. Riccards proposed a locally fashioned and produced
Instead of a hollow milk-chocolate bunny, Darrell A. Goodall, head of the
welding and metal fabrications shop at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical
with coworkers and students, designed and built a stainless steel and brass sculpture
depicted the beloved title character from Father Rich's book. The statue is housed
in the Rogers building at Main and Blossom streets.
Monty Tech instructors who participated
in the project are Richard Gould, welding and metal fabrications shop; George Tignor,
drafting technology; Thomas Kamila, home
carpentry; Raymond Mahon, cabinet making; and Michael Hurley, machine shop.