GARY — The Rev. Joseph Uko made a disheartening discovery when he returned to St. Ann Church on July 3 after celebrating a Mass in Crown Point.
Uko, the priest-in-residence at St. Ann, 6025 W. 25th Ave., found the church's outdoor statue of the Virgin Mary in pieces, its head and hands separated from the body. Deacon Phil Muvich from the church and Gary Police were also at the church, he said.
"It was something that could make me cry," Uko said. "How could somebody do that? With the fear of God and the sense of the sacred?"
Uko said a police report for vandalism was filed the same day with Gary Police. Cmdr. Jack Hamady said a call was received around 9:18 a.m. July 3 from the church in regard to the statue vandalized on its northwest side.
Church leaders believe one or more people wrecked the statue during the night of July 2 or in the early morning on July 3.
Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Nick Ferrell at 219-881-1209. To remain anonymous, call 1-866-CRIMEGP.
Parishioner Rosemary Muniz first alerted Paula Hammersley, the director of religious education at the church, about the vandalism that morning. She called and texted over photos. Hammersley then informed police.
The particular statue was a longtime cherished fixture at St. Ann Church, said Colleen Rabine, director of communications for the Diocese of Gary.
"The people of the Diocese of Gary are saddened by the destruction of this beautiful depiction of the mother of Jesus that has been a signature landmark at the parish for decades," she said. "It is unclear what happened, but we pray for St. Ann parishioners and for the conversion of heart for those responsible for the damage."
The statue measures about five or six feet tall, and is a site some parishioners like to come and pray at, Uko said.
Uko says he chose to have the statue's body, missing its head and hands, propped back up for parishioners and the community to see the damage until it is later taken away for repair.
"People do commit crimes, but I didn't expect it to happen in a place like this," he said. "This one (suspect) is just coming to destroy. What does a person gain by coming to destroy a statue that has been there for years? That is disturbing."
It is unclear when the statue will be repaired, but Hammersley, said parishioner Eustacio Dorado, of Gary, would make an attempt to fix it.
"Regardless of what happened, it tends to bring people together because everyone sees Mary as their mother," Hammersley said. "Even though we found Mary broken, we will pray for the person who did this because they’re broken or lost."
Uko also said the church is seeking donations to help purchase a security system. Anyone wishing to donate may reach out to the parish's office, located in Griffith, at 219-924-4163.
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