Campbell: Thieves steal much-loved statue from public church display

By Eric Kurhi
An empty pedestal once held a… (Credit: Courtesy of St. Mary Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church)
CAMPBELL — For 15 years, the handmade statue of St. Bernadette knelt before St. Mary in a stone grotto in front of St. Mary Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Church, a sanctum for prayer not only for parishioners but for passers-by, anytime day or night.

“I’ve seen people there of all faiths pray in front of the statue,” said Gilbert Sangari, parish council president. “Anyone who wanted to talk to someone up there could stand in front of it, light a candle and talk.”

But last Friday, church members found the 3-foot-tall, 70-pound St. Bernadette statue had been unbolted from its pedestal and taken from the downtown Campbell church, across the street from the police station. The larger statue of St. Mary had been loosened, and Sangari believes the thieves wanted to take that as well but found it too heavy.

Campbell police said it was stolen between 9 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday.

“We hope that someone did it as a prank, or had too much to drink and thought it would be funny,” said Campbell police Capt. Charlie Adams. “We hope that after seeing stories about it, they’ll return it to its owner.”

The statue was commissioned by the former pastor of the church during his annual trip to Italy, Sangari said.

“He purchased it from a place that makes statues for the Vatican and had it shipped to Campbell,” Sangari said.

The price of the statue and shipping at the time was about $12,000, and donated by a family who lost a
loved one right before the church’s grand opening. It was placed in front of the church in 1997.

Sangari said anyone who would steal their statue is “obviously twisted and sick, or desperate for money.”

“And even if they were desperate, I can’t imagine what they could sell it for,” he said. “Maybe take it to a flea market?”

He said the congregation is “shocked, disappointed and hurt” by the theft.

“It’s like coming to your house and not seeing your house there anymore,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of psychological effects. Hopefully we’ll have fundraisers and can replace the statue, but the history, the emotional part attached to it can never be replaced.”

Adams said police do not have any leads in the case and are asking anyone with information about the theft or location of the statue to contact investigations supervisor Sgt. Gary Berg at 408-866-2184. Callers who want to remain anonymous can contact Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at 408-947-7867.