Priest Pens Children's Tale About "First Easter Bunny"

March 6, 1996
Anna L. Bisol
Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Hippity, hoppity, the Easter bunny is on his way, bringing with him more than a basketful of jelly beans, colored eggs and cookies.

This Easter bunny brings with him joy. "Children associate Easter with the Easter bunny. I thought why couldn't I link the Easter bunny with the Easter story in some way to get the real Easter story out to them," the Rev. Richard Lewandowski said.

Lewandowski, a Roman Catholic priest, is pastor of St. Camillus Church in Fitchburg. He recently published a children's book titled, "The First Easter Bunny."

"This story is actually three years old," Lewandowski said. "I told the story to parishioners during the Easter season three years ago."

"The First Easter Bunny" is the story of a young rabbit who witnesses the triumphant entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem and Christ's subsequent trial, crucifixion and death. The rabbit is also the first living creature to see the resurrected Jesus Christ.

"The rabbit is so excited, he wanted to tell everyone the good news, but he can't because rabbits can't talk," Lewandowski said. "The little rabbit is sad because of this, but God has something special planned for him."

"The rabbit becomes God's special messenger, bringing with him the joy of Easter by bringing special treats to young children," he added.

Lewandowski said he told the story for the first time during a liturgy for young children. After the service, parents of the children started asking him about the story.

"They wanted to know where I got that story from," Lewandowski said. "I told it, but it came from God."

Last year during the Easter season, people asked him to relate the story again. "Then after the services, people wanted a copy of the story. I thought it might be a good idea to write it down and see if I could get it published."

Lewandowski was fortunate in that he happened to have a publisher in the family. "My nephew Brent (Anderson) is a student at St. John's, Shrewsbury. He wants to get into marketing and publishing. Brent heard I wanted to publish this book so he said, `Let's do it.' "

"This is my first effort at writing a book and his first effort at publishing," he said. "It's worked out well for both of us."

The book has made its way into area stores including C.E. Buckley Inc., 34 Tremaine St., and two Fitchburg stores, Liz and Pam's, 511 John Fitch Highway, and DeBonis & Davin Florist Inc., 900 Main St. The book also is being sold in the Worcester area and out of state, including locations in Virginia, Michigan and Florida.

Lewandowski recently read the book to a group of sixty pupils from St. Leo's School, Leominster. That reading was held at C.E. Buckley, Inc., a store which sells religious articles.

"Last month someone came into the store and told us about the book and asked us if we would like to sell it," Beth Buckley, owner of the store, said.

"I told them I wanted to read it first," she added. "Once I did, I was sold on it and we had them get us a couple dozen copies of it."

She said the store's supply has sold out several times since then. "Word is getting out about it. People are coming in here every day and asking us about the book. I think it's a wonderful story."

"I asked Father Rich if he would be willing to read the story to some of the children from St. Leo's and he agreed to it," Buckley said. "I think the children appreciated hearing his story from him."

"I guess I shouldn't say this, but I'm constantly surprised at how attentive the children are to this story," Lewandowski said. "There is something about it that just clicks with them."

The priest said that he was happy to be able to be able to convey to the children the true meaning of Easter.

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