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The City Journals

St. Therese of the Child Catholic Church dedicates new statue following vandalism

Sep 13, 2021 10:18AM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

Bishop Oscar Solís blesses the new statue at St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church on Aug. 14. (Sarah Morton Taggart/City Journals)

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

On Sept. 14, 2020, the parish community of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church discovered that the beloved statue of their patron saint had been destroyed in an act of vandalism.

Eleven months later to the day, a crowd gathered to celebrate the dedication of a new statue.

“Our hearts were shattered,” said Ana Alamo of Murray, a member of the parish council who has attended services at St. Therese for more than a decade. “Our faith was shaken. When it happened we were under quarantine. There was so much divisiveness going on. It was a scary time.”

The statue had been pushed off its podium in a deliberate act, though parishioners don’t feel that it was a hate crime.

“When it happened, we weren’t allowed here for services,” said Terri Mueller, another member of the parish council. “Our parishioners aren’t used to donating online and we couldn’t meet in person to do a fund raiser. We were struggling just to pay the bills, and then this happened.”

Galey Colosimo, the principal of Juan Diego Catholic High School, heard about the destroyed statue and sent a team to see how they could help. 

“Juan Diego involved the students,” said Alamo. “They held pep rallies and had a spirit week with a contest to see which class could bring in the most money.”

Thanks to the efforts of Juan Diego and donations from other parishes and individuals, St. Therese dedicated a new statue in front of the church Aug. 14. Around 100 people gathered to witness the blessing of the new statue.

Rev. José Barrera, the parish administrator, gave a welcome and led those assembled in prayer and song.

April van der Sluys, the advancement coordinator for Juan Diego, oversaw the efforts to find, fund and place the new statue.

"I was so moved by Father José quoting of St. Therese when she said, ‘After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses,’ van der Sluys said. “It's my belief that St. Therese so lovingly placed Juan Diego Catholic High School and the schools at the Skaggs Catholic Center to be the ‘roses’ for Father José, André and the parish community of St. Therese. With roses also having great significance to St. Juan Diego and our school community, we feel equally blessed to be able to help this wonderful parish community."

Dave Brunetti, director of campus life at Juan Diego, selected the statue from among several choices. “We wanted one that was beautiful and would weather well,” Brunetti said.

The statue was made in Italy by Demetz Art Studios. The original was carved in wood, then cast in bronze. The version that now stands in front of St. Therese is made from a composite of marble and fiberglass that was hand-painted.

“It’s almost indestructible. It will outlive us all many times over,” said Jim Markosian, facilities director at Juan Diego.

Markosian brought in a landscape company to build a base for the statue surrounded by a decorative fence, rocks and flowers.

Juan Diego also paid to have new fencing, lights and security cameras installed around the campus at 7832 S. Allen St. that also includes a social hall and historic chapel.

“It was a corner area that’s easy for people to cross through,” said André Sicard, a Sandy resident and parishioner who is studying to become a priest at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. “There hasn’t been trouble since the fence was put up.”

Sicard joined van der Sluys in unveiling the statue during the dedication ceremony.

“It’s so amazing to walk out of the church and see St. Therese again,” Mueller said. “What they did for us…it just touched my heart that they cared so much. It showed us that we’re a bigger community. As tragic as it was, it brought a lot of blessings. It showed that we all care about each other.”

The broken pieces of the original statue were displayed in the church lobby during the dedication ceremony. The figure will be restored and placed elsewhere in the church as a reminder of what happened.

“As part of the St. Therese parish community, we deeply thank all of those who gave of their time, talent and treasure for the statue and the success of today’s celebration,” Alamo said in her word of thanks to conclude the dedication. “As St. Therese said, ‘remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.’”