St. Francis Xavier Parish is more than just a place to pray for Robin McCormick.
"The people of this parish are my friends, many are my family," McCormick said.
She's been a parishioner at the Winooski church for nearly 34 years.
"It's a community," she said. "A wonderful, spiritual community."
And a community now rocked by crime.
"They don't understand it," Monsignor Richard Lavalley said. "I don't either."
A statue of the Virgin Mary was taken from the grotto in between the church and the Catholic school, perfectly placed for decades to watch over kids in the playground. And the school used the statue for student photos.
"That was the hardest part for me, looking at the kids looking up and asking where is Mary? Where is she? It gives them a sense of lost security to some degree," Lavalley said.
It wasn't easy for the crooks to steal the statue. It's 5-feet tall, weighs 250 pounds, and police say there are no signs it was dragged. So, they suspect several people carried it away.
"We are thinking someone took it down to the parking lot and probably put it in a car," Winooski Police Cpl. Bill Sullivan said.
A sister statue remains locked safely in the church's lobby.
"This is such a senseless crime," Sullivan said. "What's the street value? A couple of hundred dollars? But to the parish and to the people of Winooski, it's much more valuable."
No evidence was collected at the scene. So, police say tips from the public are their best bet to catch the crooks and solve the Mary mystery.
"We're going to need that to break this," Sullivan said.
In the meantime, parishioners are praying for the statue's safe return. And for the people who took her.
"We forgive them. And we hope they return it," Lavalley said. "I wish them no ill will at all."
"It's a thing. Things can be replaced," McCormick said. "But it's painful to have people do this when there's no gain to them and causes pain to others."
The statue cost around $1,500. The church is insured for the theft, but again, they want this one back.
If you have any information, call the St. Francis Parish or Winooski Police at 802-655-0221.
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