Sudbury·Audio

Latest vandalism of baby Jesus statue 'just one small incident among others,' Sudbury church says

Baby Jesus is headless again. The well-known statue of Mary and Baby Jesus at Ste-Anne-des-Pins Catholic church in Sudbury, was vandalized — again. The head of the church administration says it's just one of many problems they've been having around their property.

Headless statue at St Anne des pins Catholic Church downtown made headlines in 2016, 2017

Vandals damaged this statue of Mary and baby Jesus in June 2021. For the second time in six years, the head of the baby Jesus statue was broken off. They also broke off Mary's right hand from the statue. (Marianne Dépelteau/CBC)

A church in Greater Sudbury, Ont., says vandalism to a well-known statue is just one of many problems it's been having.

The statue of Mary and baby Jesus was damaged last month at Ste-Anne-des-Pins Catholic Church on Beech Street. The same statue was damaged six years ago, and the temporary repair at the time made national headlines.

"The statue is just a small incident in all of the vandalism that we're getting on the church grounds in the past few years," said Michel Chretien, chair of the administration board at the church.

"It's an ongoing problem." 

Along with damage to statues, Chretien says people have also damaged lights, left garbage or other debris lying around the property; the church has even had its outside wiring cut.

"We're a little bit more concerned about keeping our wires for the internet or the air-conditioning in good shape," he said. 

Ste-Anne-des-Pins Catholic Church on Beech Street in downtown Sudbury. Church administration is deciding whether to fence in the property completely to reduce vandalism. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

The downtown church does have surveillance cameras outside, and Chretien says the police view that footage following major incidents.

Although the church does report most of its vandalism incidents to police, Chretien admits that the damage to the Mary and baby Jesus statue was not reported. It happened sometime during the weekend of June 19-20.

"We try to report all the time so that the [police] are aware of the problem and aware that it is a problem that's increasing throughout the years," he said.

During previous incidents, police recommended that the church post signage indicating that it is private property, but Chretien says that doesn't seem to deter people from using it.

Adding fence a possibility

The church board is now discussing whether to add fencing around the entire grounds. There is some wrought iron fencing around some of the exterior perimeter, however the church grounds are still accessible from several openings.

"It's unfortunate that we have to go to that extent, but given the situation that is deteriorating, we might have to go that way," Chretien said.

If the church decides to add the fencing then Chretien says they will go ahead with repairing the Mother Mary and Baby Jesus statue. However, there is also a possibility that the statue could be taken down altogether.

"The statue is just one small incident amongst a lot of others."

Although Chretien doesn't want to blame the homeless population for the vandalism, he says the debris left on the church grounds overnight comes from those who are roughing it outside.

He says he finds the whole situation very frustrating.

"The church itself is extremely generous toward the homeless and different organizations in the city that provide care and help for the homeless," Chretien said, adding that around $10,000 in donations through Ste-Anne-des-Pins goes to local charities like the soup kitchen, and the mission.

"On the one hand, we try to help and on the other hand, we get vandalized."

A well-known statue at St. Anne des Pins Church in downtown Sudbury has once again found itself headless. The church’s administrator, Michel Chretien, explains what the church is doing about the repeated incidents. 6:21

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 15 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca

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