Jesus statue stolen 90 years ago returned to Hoboken church
HOBOKEN — A suspicious package for a North Jersey church brought home a baby Jesus statue stolen more than 90 years ago.
Father Alexander Santora of the Our Lady of Grace Church in Hoboken said the crudely wrapped package only had Crystal Springs, Florida, as the return address, raising his suspicions after recent incidents of exploding packages in Austin, Texas.
"I called the Hoboken police and they sent the emergency ESU unit over. One of the officers had a device that could detect if it was incendiary and it wasn't," Santora said.
One of the officers "gingerly" opened the small box and discovered a letter dated Jan. 2 explaining that the statue had been stolen from the church in the 1930s.
"It had been in this family all these years and then when the last of a certain generation died, the son or daughter decided to return it to Our Lady of Grace," Santora said.
The statue, made of plaster of paris, only had a chip in the bottom and is in otherwise good shape. Santora believes it was likely made in Hoboken.
"Northern Hudson County was a center of statuary companies. There were about a half dozen companies and a lot of Italian immigrants. As a boy I used to go to Jersey Statuary which was in Jersey City Heights on Congress Street and I bought statues there. They only closed 10 years ago. The statue looked like the same style of material they would use. It's very possible it would come from one of those stores," Santora said.
Santora said he was unaware of any missing statues at the church and said that this statue was not ideal for outdoors.
The church will hold onto the statue and use it during their first Christmas Eve Mass, which is geared toward children and families.
"Typically a child carries the infant Jesus in the procession. We go to the manger before Mass, put Jesus in the nativity and then we start the Mass. This year we will use this one," Santora said.
Santora said the message from the statue's return is that no matter what one has done and no matter how much time has passed, "there's always an opportunity to make amends. I think when we do that our conscious is clear. In the season of Lent, which is a season of reflection and penance, this is good time for them to have done. Maybe that's what inspired them."