Baby Jesus statues were stolen from Christmas Nativity displays set up at two churches in Kearny, and from church grounds in nearby Lyndhurst, North Arlington and Clifton, police reported.
Kearny Police Chief John Dowie confirmed the thefts from Our Lady of Sorrows, 136 Davis Ave., and St. Cecilia’s, 120 Kearny Ave., during the Christmas holiday.
“It’s a shame to see it happen,” said Dowie. “You hate to see churches victimized this way but at least no one incurred any damage and nobody got hurt. It was probably someone on the prowl for items like Christmas trees, wreaths, inflatable Santas and the like.”
Other locations hit were Sacred Heart Church, 620 Valley Brook Ave., Lyndhurst; Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, 10 Franklin Place; and St. Clare’s Church, 69 Allwood Road, Clifton.
The Rev. John Wassell, who serves as pastor at St. Cecilia’s and Our Lady of Sorrows, said that John Sarnas, deacon at OLS, discovered that the OLS figure was missing on Saturday, the morning after Christmas and “he texted me right away.”
“After he told me about it, I figured I’d better check on [the crèche at St. Cecilia’s] and, sure enough, our Baby Jesus was gone, too,” Wassell said. (The priest’s residence is at St. Cecilia’s).
Asked if he had any theory about the statue’s disappearance, Wassell said: “Hopefully, it’s just a prank. The fact that it’s happened at a number of parishes, it sounds like it’s not a random act. Worst case scenario, it’s either a Satanic group … or it could be some kind of website telling people to do this.”
Wassell said the parish plans to “leave the stable scene up. And we’ll be putting out the Three Kings [display] this weekend [in honor of the Feast of the Epiphany].”
In North Arlington, Police Capt. Scott Hedenberg said that the Baby Jesus figure was reported taken from Queen of Peace Church grounds at 9 a.m. Saturday. “They figure it happened sometime between 7:30 p.m,. Christmas night and the next morning,” he added.
Unfortunately, Hedenberg said, “there are no surveillance cameras in the area” so police will apparently have no footage to review for possible clues.
A member of the Clifton PD Detective Bureau said that St. Clare’s Church reported the Baby Jesus statue was stolen from the creche “sometime between Saturday night and Sunday.”
In Lyndhurst, the Rev. James Starasinich, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, said the parish’s Baby Jesus figure was “probably taken Christmas night. It was discovered to be missing the next day.”
The priest said he found the episode “rather silly and ridiculous” but added this: “My prayer is this: They took Jesus and my hope is Jesus will touch their hearts and that they will understand He is for mercy and love. And we want to have the same spirit toward them, for this season and for every day of their life.”