St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is tightening security after an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was stolen from the sanctuary.
Mike McDaneld, pastoral assistant for St. Joseph, said the painting was still in its place, to the left of the sanctuary, after Mass ended around 9:30 a.m. last Saturday. However, when he returned that afternoon to set up for the 4 p.m. Mass, the icon was missing.
“The significance to us is far more than the monetary value would be,” McDaneld said.
The icon has been an important focal point for the church community since it arrived from Rome in the 1920s, he said. The image was brought over by the Redemptorists, an order of priests whose mission it was to spread devotion for Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
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Since then, the church community has continued its veneration of the icon. Up until its disappearance, parishioners prayed every Tuesday night in honor of Mary.
McDaneld does not know whether the 24-by-30-inch painting has any real value to a thief. Aside from its ornate gold frame, McDaneld said he can’t imagine why someone would take the icon.
“The only other explanation is someone knew what kind of significance it had to this community and took it out of spite,” he said.
Before the theft, it was customary for St. Joseph – 132 S. Millwood near Delano – to leave its doors unlocked during the day to allow people to come and go as they please, McDaneld said. Now, with the icon missing, the church will lock its doors between services.
“It’s just a sad state of affairs that churches cannot remain unlocked because we have people that come in and pray and that’s what churches are for,” McDaneld said.
Amy Pavlacka, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, said there is no knowledge on why a person would take a religious artifact from a church, but says the absence of an important devotional item will leave people saddened.
“These are symbols of our faith so it’s understandable why people would be upset,” Pavlacka said.
Officer Charley Davidson with Wichita police said the theft has been reported and police have classified it as a larceny from a building. Davidson said they currently have no suspects, but encouraged anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111 or investigations at 316-268-4407.
McDaneld said the parish is finding ways to replace the icon. He said a donated statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Help will likely be used to continue the Tuesday evening novenas.
For now, McDaneld said he’s trying to look at the bright side.
“Maybe this was the Blessed Mother's way of protecting us from something worse happening,” McDaneld said. “Because now we will be locking our doors.”