By Emily Drooby
When Raul Mejia went to church to pray on a recent afternoon, he saw something was missing – a beloved statue of Our Lady of the Cisne, patroness of the Loja province in his native Ecuador.
“As an Ecuadorian a lot of people are very upset, especially the Ecuadorian community,” he said. “It’s not nice at all.”
The statue was stolen from St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Park Slope on Wednesday, Feb. 20. Surveillance video showed an unidentified man wearing a hoodie sweatshirt walk into the church, pick up the statue and simply walk out. Not realizing at first that it had been stolen, church employees and Father Willy Kingsley Ndi, parish administrator, began to search for it. Eventually, it was found in the trash can across the street.
The statue sustained substantial damage to the left side – but Father Kingsley says it’s not just about the physical damage, it’s about what the actions say.
“Having her placed in a garbage can is an insult. It’s not really something we can be proud of as a people, as a community. And so, it was quite distressing,” he said.
This is the second time this statue was stolen and thrown in the same trash can. The first time it was found quickly and not reported. This is the second act of disrespect against the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Cisne.
“Our Lady of Cisne represents a lot for Ecuadorians,” Father Kingsley said. “It’s just really part of who they are. It’s part of their faith. In this particular parish we have a group that has a weekly devotion to Our Lady.”
The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident. No one has been arrested and the statue is being kept in the rectory for now.
Father Kingsley said he’s very grateful to the NYPD for being helpful, and continuing to check up on the church.
As for the community, parishioners like Mejia would like to see neighbors treat each other with more respect.
“I feel very upset,” Mejia said. “People should have respect for the faith of other people.”