MODESTO -- A statue of Mary and Jesus that was broken by vandals has been restored and returned to St. Stanislaus Catholic Church just in time for Saturday's Feast of the Immaculate Conception. You might say it looks as good as new, were it not that the artwork is more than 200 years old.
The plaster image was one of four large statues of Mary damaged in an August 2010 break-in at the west Modesto church. The intruders also broke a computer, a few chairs and a mirror, and threw onto the church lawn a wooden crucifix and priests' vestments.
The Belgian-made image is hollow, said Jose Ramirez, business manager for St. Stanislaus. "When struck from her shrine, she literally broke into several pieces, like a 3-D puzzle," he said Thursday.
The other statues were repaired locally, but the antique image was sent to fine-arts restorer Patty West in Santa Barbara, who began work on it in March and had it back to St. Stanislaus on Tuesday. West initially told the church it might be almost impossible to repair the image, Ramirez said Thursday, but the job she did is "absolutely amazing."
"She was sending us pictures all along while she was working on it," he said. Sometimes, he said, pictures can make a piece look better than it really is, but in this case, "the image looks better than it did in the pictures. She did an amazing job of not just fixing the image, but preserving the antique look. I can't tell where the original image ends and her work begins."
There are visible cracks in the image, Ramirez said, but they're the natural results that come with the plaster piece's age, not from the vandals' damage.
The return of the image of Mary and Jesus in time for Saturday's Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church, was "a nice coincidence," Ramirez said. St. Stanislaus wasn't pushing West to meet a specific date.
"We were letting Patty do her work at her pace," he said, because the priority was that she be able to do the best job possible.
The church doesn't have a final statement from West yet, Ramirez said, but her quote on the restoration was about $25,000, which will be covered by St. Stanislaus' insurer.
As for the value of the image, Ramirez couldn't say, but he called the piece "irreplaceable they don't make them like that anymore."
St. Stanislaus bought the Belgian image when it was acquiring furnishings for the $20 million church on Maze Boulevard, which opened in February 2009.
Bee City Editor Deke Farrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2327.
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: Trilingual Mass
WHY: Feast of the Immaculate Conception and restoration of antique image of Virgin Mary
WHEN: Noon, Saturday
WHERE: St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, 1416 Maze Blvd., Modesto
CONTACT: (209) 524-4381