The Grinch visited the Nativity scene in front of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Edwardsville last week, and parishioners walked past an empty manger to attend services Sunday.
Someone stole the baby Jesus out of the creche scene at St. Boniface, likely during the Christmas weekend. Parish office manager Benna Denue said they first noticed it missing on Dec. 28. A report has since been filed with the Edwardsville Police Department.
The baby Jesus was made of handpainted Italian ceramic and donated to the church years ago by a family. Denue said its value is estimated at $250 or more, “not to mention the emotional and spiritual attachment that we have to the baby Jesus.”
There are security cameras at St. Boniface, but they are focused on the entrances of the church, Denue said. The theft was not captured on video. Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keeven said they “don’t have much to go on.”
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“We all feel bad about it,” Denue said.
It’s generated a lot of interest and conversation, she said, and they have heard that many baby Jesus figurines have been stolen in St. Louis.
Several years ago, it happened to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edwardsville, which is next door to St. Boniface. The Jesus figurine was stolen with a note that read, “Think for yourself.”
No note was left this time, Denue said. But she said the theft was the center of Father Jeffrey Goeckner’s homily on Sunday, specifically the children’s movie, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” based on the book by Theodore Geisel, who wrote as Dr. Seuss. In the book, the Grinch steals all the decorations and trappings of Christmas from the Who village, but the villagers celebrate anyway with singing and joy, because “Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
“Even though a thief stole our baby Jesus, it could not change or deaden our spirit,” Denue said.
In fact, St. Boniface left a note for the thief, placed next to the empty manger. It read: “Attn. Thief: You can steal our baby Jesus, but you can’t steal our spirit.”