Stolen Baby Jesus Returned

Priest offended by replacement of figurine with stuffed animal

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    A $165 figurine stolen from a Palos Heights nativity scene has been returned anonymously by the apparent pranksters who stole it before Christmas.

    As winter's first big snow melted, the Rev. Ronald Mass walked outside and made an unsettling discovery at the parish Nativity scene late last month: Baby Jesus had been replaced by a stuffed animal.

    "That I found offensive," said Mass, a priest at Incarnation Parish in Palos Heights, a suburb of Chicago.

    Upset but not surprised at the antics, Mass sent a message through the church bulletin, asking for the return of the figurine.

    No luck.

    Then he laid a guilt trip so widespread it couldn't be ignored.

    Posted for the untold thousands of passing motorists on 127th Street to consider was a simple message on the church marquee: "Whoever stole our baby Jesus, please bring Him back."

    "I guess they did," Mass said.

    On Thursday, after several weeks missing in action, the statue was returned, unharmed, on a sidewalk outside the rectory.

    "Whoever does this thinks it's a fashionable prank," Mass said, adding a word of caution to future pranksters: The church is trying to secure a GPS tracking system for future nativity scenes.

    "I'm delighted to have him back," Mass said of the estimated $165 figurine.  "But I'm not going to be grateful to the guys who stole him for bringing it back."