More than three years after Jackman area residents shed tears when they found out the gold statue of Jesus Christ that stood on the ground of St. Anthony’s church had been damaged by vandalism, the repaired statue was back in place Tuesday at its new home at the St. Faustina church.
“The arrival of the statue has brought extensive gratitude and joy,” said the Rev. Kevin J. Martin, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church. “The support we received was tremendous.”
The gold-leaf, zinc-based 700-pound statue was significantly damaged in June 2010 after it was chained to a vehicle and dragged across U.S. Route 201. Police never found out who did it.
The statue, valued by the church at $55,000, was returned to Jackman on Tuesday and put in front of St. Faustina Church, which was built after the St. Anthony of Padua Church was torn down because of high heating costs and costly repairs. Parishioners worshipped at the American Legion hall for four years while money was raised for the new church. A dedication of the church is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 15.
“The return of the statue does lend itself to the fact that this is real, we are here to stay,” Martin said.
About two years ago, Ron Harvey, who works for Tuckerbrook Conservation LLC in Lincolville, was contacted about repairing the statue. The idea of building a new statue out of fiberglass was suggested, but between the estimated price of at least $10,000 and the church’s emotional connection to the original statue, Harvey decided to repair it instead.
“I was doing work in the area, and I thought I could do the conservation for the piece and get it back together,” Harvey said.
Harvey worked for many weeks on restoring the statue, re-gilding parts of the piece where the gold leaf had been damaged. The most complex part was reattaching the arms — Harvey had to install mounts to balance the weight.
Harvey said some cosmetic work will be done in the spring.
“It was important to get it up for the dedication,” Harvey said. “I worked on it the best I could so we could reinstall it.”
When the statue was initially vandalized, the Catholic community was going through tough times in Jackman. Just months before the statue was damaged, St. Anthony church was torn down.
“The news of someone coming in and vandalizing the statue, it really shocked the whole community,” Martin said. “It was a huge blow. The statue was liked and respected.”
The Rev. Richard Malo, who was the priest at the time of the vandalism, called Harvey to talk about eventually repairing the statue.
“They essentially had no home and this statue was an emotional piece,” said Harvey, who has worked on conserving historical monuments in Maine for more than 20 years. “I told them I’m happy to hold onto the piece and work on it. I just asked for a heads up when they were ready to display it.”
Harvey, who was on site Tuesday to help put up the statue, said he was humbled by the response of the community, as people viewed the raising of the statue with tears in their eyes, he said.
“I’m just so pleased with how happy the community was and their compliments,” Harvey said. “As humans, we’re flawed. But what’s important is seeing how we get up when we’ve been toppled.”