A new head on a baby Jesus statue is causing some to look twice in a Sudbury, Ont., churchyard.

The head — which went missing from the pearly white statue a year ago — has been replaced by a handmade terracotta sculpture created by a local artist.

"It really is shocking to the eyes because of the big contrast in colour," the church's priest Gérald Lajeunesse told CBC News.

Jesus head easy 'to break off'

The statue head, which Lajeunesse believes was stolen, went missing during the night last October. It wasn't the first time that part of the sculpture disappeared.

"The statue had been vandalized before, at least once, maybe twice," he said. "It's always Jesus' head that goes missing. Probably because it's smaller and easier to break off."

In the past, parishioners always found the head nearby and were able to reattach it.

"This time we looked high and low. No head. No Jesus."

Jesus

Church priest Gérald Lajeunesse says he understands the difficulty the artist faced trying to sculpt a new Jesus head from scratch. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Lajeunesse went to several businesses to see if a replacement head could be built.

"It has to be custom made. And nobody even wanted to consider it," he said.

Replacing the entire statue would cost between $6,000 and $10,000.

"You wonder, if we do replace it with a new one, will we be up against the same situation?" Lajeunesse said, noting the head's reputation for going missing.

That's when a local artist knocked on Lajeunesse's door, asking about the statue.

"She was quite upset about it and she offered to do something if she could," Lajeunesse said.

Current head 'temporary'

Lajeunesse said the artist spent several hours sculpting the new Jesus head onto the body out of clay.

jesus head

'I'm not an artist so I have to tip my hat off to her,' said Lajeunesse. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

"The difficulty is the artist had to lift the chin so that the head would stay on because it would keep falling off," he said. 

The clay head has begun to erode from the rain after less than a week.

"I don't expect it to last long. She plans on sculpting in stone sometime next year," he said.

Lajeunesse said many parishioners have expressed hurt, surprise, and disappointment with the new head.

"It's a first try. It's a first go. And hopefully what is done at the end will please everyone," he said.

"I wasn't trained for this in seminary."