ST JOHN | For nearly 60 years, travelers have visited a statue of the Virgin Mary along U.S. 41 to honor the mother of Jesus and pray.
The 15-foot marble statue, known as the Great Lady, will be moved to the east side of St. John the Evangelist Parish, 10701 Olcott Ave., the Rev. Sammie Maletta, pastor of the church, announced Saturday.
Relocating the Great Lady "right outside our door is a dream come true to me," he said.
Maletta said nearly 4,000 people visit the church every week and many of those people haven't walked up to the statue.
The move will provide parishioners with better access to the statue, he said.
Another Virgin Mary statue, Our Lady of the New Millennium, has been outside the church for the last two years.
That 33-foot-tall metal statue will be moved near the visitors center at the nearby Shrine of Christ's Passion, 10630 Wicker Ave., Maletta said.
Applause filled the church after Maletta asked parishioners if they would support the decision to move the statues.
The time frame for the relocation wasn't announced.
Maletta said he understands there will be people who oppose moving the statues. Brad Wachter is one of those people. He has started a campaign to keep the Great Lady statue in its current location along U.S. 41. Wachter is the grandson of Frank Wachter, who had that statue erected in the 1950s. The statue was later donated to the Catholic Church.
In a written statement, Brad Wachter indicated the Our Lady of the New Millennium statue is beautiful and honors the Virgin Mary, but it "cannot take the place of the original (statue) that holds such a special place in the history of Saint John and the hearts of those that have prayed at her feet for decades."