For years, one could pass the shrine across the street from St. Joseph’s Church in Oneida and often see someone praying at the statue of the church’s patron saint. Even in winter, said parishioner Marie Magliocca, one could see footprints in the snow leading up to and away from it.
That all changed in 2010. Vandals toppled the seven-foot granite statue. Quite a bit of force was required to sever it from the metal pins holding it in place. This resulted in the sculpture falling off a four-foot altar and damaging the altar as it fell.
“We were all mortified to think that anyone could do such a thing,” Magliocca said. “It was in pieces.” Law enforcement never found those responsible for the crime.
The vandals ruined the statue and dealt a devastating blow to parishioners as well. “Our people at St. Joseph’s have such devotion,” Magliocca said, describing how the pastor during World War II inspired the parish to build the shrine “in thanksgiving to St. Joseph,” the patron saint of workers.
This devotion held steady over the years, even after the vandalism. The parish not only “picked up the pieces,” but came together to replace the statue. On Sept. 13, three years to the day after the vandalism, a Benediction, led by Father Richard Kapral, was held to celebrate the statue’s return.
Father Kapral asked those assembled to pray in “remembrance to all those who dedicated themselves to building this shrine and in remembrance of their gifts of talent, sacrifice and treasure.”
A piece of the original broken statue was buried in the ground at the foot of shrine under the watchful eyes of Father Kapral and the parishioners.
Before the procession from the church to the shrine, Pauline Rice and others handed red carnations to those in attendance. The nearly 100 participants placed the flowers in vases on either side of the altar next to the statue. Most made the sign of the cross and some softly touched the statue with their fingertips as if to welcome St. Joseph’s likeness back to the little shrine.
Replacing the statue and the repairs to the shrine cost more than $20,000, said Magliocca. “The donations that came in were wonderful and people responded right away.” The fund drive was entitled “Bring St. Joseph Back Home.”
The new statue was hand carved in Carrara, Italy, from the same type of stone as the original. The parish worked with Vallar’s Tile & Marble in Syracuse to ensure the end result was identical to the original. “It’s the same face,” said Magliocca, “You would swear it’s the original.” The statue was transported by ship from Europe and arrived last November to await placement in the shrine.
The shrine is located on a patch of land across the street from the west side of St. Joseph’s Church and is the site of the original St. Joseph’s German Catholic Church, which was blessed in 1894. When the parish outgrew that space, construction on the current church began in 1928. The stone shrine was constructed to replace the original church structure. The shrine features stained glass windows and a slate roof to match the church.
For more information about St. Joseph’s Church, its history and the statue, visit the parish website at www.stjosephsoneida.com/home.
Dyann Nashton is the development director at Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School in Utica, a freelance writer and a contributing writer to the Sun. She lives in Oneida.