It wasn’t a planned beach vacation and parishioners could have done without the anxiety, but people at Holy Savior Church were relieved this morning when members of the Ocean City Police Department returned the statue of Mary that was stolen from the parish prayer garden on the Eastern Shore of Maryland last week.
“Our Mary is back,” said Donna Santoni, administrative assistant at the parish.
Mary was reported missing Tuesday, June 13, and was likely stolen sometime the previous evening from church property near 17th Street. The statue is described as 3-feet tall and heavy, usually requiring more than one person to lift it.
Ocean City police reported that the statue was found not far from the Jolly Roger Amusement Park.
“With the help of a concerned citizen the statue of Mary has been returned to the church,” police said in a statement. “On June 20, 2023, officers were approached by a property manager in the 200 block of Sunset Drive. The property manager located the statue in a lot between Robin Drive and Sunset Drive. The property manager knew that the statue did not belong in that area and he had seen OCPD’S Facebook post (describing the theft).
“We are still looking for anyone with information regarding how the statue found its way to the Sunset Drive area.”
Santoni said Mary’s concrete base was broken off and after the wear-and-tear of 10 years hosting the prayerful in the outdoor garden, she can use some tender loving care, but she is otherwise unharmed. Santoni said they have an artisan parishioner who has offered to take her and spruce her up before returning her to the garden.
“The wonderful Ocean City Police Department found her,” Santoni said.
“We kept hoping. We had people offering to buy one. I said Father would take care of that, but now he doesn’t have to.”
Mary’s statue has been part of the Rosary Prayer Garden more than 10 years, Santoni said. The garden has been part of the parish landscape more than 20, she said.
Police last week did not say the theft was part of a “Senior Week” prank. Mid-June is a popular time for graduating high school seniors to populate the bustling Maryland beach town.
Father John Solomon, parish pastor, was on vacation last week, but he learned of the theft from a friend who saw online news coverage.
“If it turns out she was taken by the ‘June Bugs’ — that’s what they call them around here — things happen,” Father Solomon said.
“If it’s one thing about COVID, we didn’t forget about religious freedom,” he said. “There are plenty of places in the world where we can’t worship in public, so this kind of thing shakes people. There’s a difference between kids doing something they’ll regret and someone chopping the head off of a statue, so hopefully it was the former.”
He said news of the prayer garden vandalism may help bring people back to pray.
Father Solomon said the parish will have a reparation service after Saturday’s 5:15 vigil Mass and will later have a re-dedication of the Mary statue “after we get her in tip-top shape.” He said parishioners will pray for those that caused the disturbance.
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