Look at the Nativity scene at the Our Lady of Grace Church in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Father Alex Santora says there’s a story to be told about the baby Jesus inside.
But this time, Santora said, the tale isn’t recorded in the Bible. Instead, it started back in 1930, when it was stolen from the Catholic church, the priest told News12.
Ninety years after it was stolen from the church, a statue of the baby Jesus was returned in the mail with an apologetic note, Santora said, according to NBC Philadelphia. It was sent in a cardboard box, and the note explained that the statue “somehow came into their grandfather’s possession,” the outlet reported.
“Instead, he gave it to my mother after she was married, and she too kept it until her passing when it came to me,” the letter said, NBC reported. “Knowing the story, I felt it should be returned to the rightful owner, and you will find it enclosed.”
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For Santora, that letter sends a powerful Christmas message, ABC11 reported.
“It’s never too late to always own up,” Santora said. “Never too late to say I want to do what’s right, and that’s a universal message.”
But at first, Santora told WCBS News Radio, there was some concern about the package when it arrived at the church in March.
“The staff was nervous because it had no return address and it was really oddly written,” Santora told the radio station. “We called the Hoboken police to be safe, and the bomb squad came.”
Once it was proved to be safe, the church made the heartwarming discovery of what lay inside. And this Christmas season, the baby Jesus statue is proudly displayed “in the box where it was returned” instead of the traditional crib, according to NBC.
“Since it came in what looks like a manger, and paper is like hay, it looks authentic to keep it in that way,” Santora told ABC11. “Because that’s how it was returned to us.”
As word spreads of the statue’s unlikely journey back to its home, Santora emphasized that it’s always the right time to do good. In fact, the statue might have come just at the right time: The church “(opened) its doors after a five-year restoration” this Christmas, NBC reported.
“Even after 90 years,” he told News12, “it was worth getting back.”