- Plaster statue of baby Jesus was stolen from Our Lady of Grace in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1931
- In March 2018, the church received a package without a return address that contained the long-missing figurine
- The sender included a typed, anonymous letter, explaining that her grandfather somehow had come into the statue’s possession nearly 90 years ago
- Instead of returning sculpture to the church, grandfather gifted it to his daughter when she got married, and the woman kept it until her death
- On Christmas Eve Monday, the Hoboken church put the statue on display as part of the nativity scene in the box it came in
A statue of baby Jesus that was stolen from a New Jersey church nearly 90 years ago has been returned and put on display on Christmas Eve for the first time since 1931.
Parishioners filing into Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Hoboken to attend the annual Christmas Eve Mass on Monday night were greeted by the sight of the small plaster statue still resting in the box in which it had been shipped from Crystal Springs, Florida, earlier this year.
According to officials at the church, they received the package in March, along with a typed-up anonymous note that explained how its author had come to possess the figurine, and why he or she had decided to return it this year.
The brief letter, dated January 2, 2018, read: ‘My Mom told me that the Baby Jesus had been stolen from the church Nativity display at Our Lady of Grace when she was a young girl of about twelve years of age in the early 1930’s.
‘It came into her father’s possession somehow, and I don’t know why he didn’t return it. Instead, he gave it to my mother after she was married, and she too kept it until her passing when it came to me. Knowing the story, I felt it should be returned to the rightful owner, and you will find it enclosed.’
Father Alex Santora, the parish priest, said that when the parcel arrived in March, it had no return address label on it, which prompted him to call the police out of an abundance of caution, reported NBC New York.
The Hoboken Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit was called to the scene and determined that there was no incendiary device inside.
Santora said that since the plaster sculpture arrived in a cardboard box resembling a manger, it was decided to put the baby Jesus on display as part of the church’s nativity scene in the shipping container, instead of a traditional crib.
The person who returned the figurine has since mailed two additional letters expressing remorse and asking the church for forgiveness.
The priest at the Hoboken church said the lesson that should be drawn from this is that it is never too late to make amends and do the right thing.
‘There’s always a chance to change, and I think that’s what Christmas does for us: it gives us a sense of hope,’ he told CBS New York.