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Longtime Shrine of St. Therese director Thomas Fitterer requests that the two Stations of the Cross taken from inside the chapel this summer be returned.
"With the loss of these two stations, there is a real void," Fitterer said. "For it is unlikely that these stations from Italy can be reproduced. The loss is considerable."
Stations of the Cross are artistic depictions of scenes from Jesus' last hours of life, from the time he was condemned to death to his being placed in the tomb. There are 14 total.
A shrine volunteer discovered the missing stations - Nos. 7 and 13, "Jesus Falls the Second Time" and "Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross" - in mid-July.
"I don't know if there's any significance to why those particular ones were taken," Fitterer said.
The wood stations, which normally line the walls inside the chapel, measure 13 to 14 inches long and ¾-inch wide. Each station includes a base, shaped like a contemporary cross, with carved relief showing the various scenes. The stations have a "Made in Italy" stamp on the back and include some gold paint.
As shrine director for more than 23 years, Fitterer remembers the stations came from St. Peter's Catholic Church in Douglas, which closed in the late '70s or early '80s.
"Historically, the church was important to the people in Douglas," Fitterer said. "But, other than that, I don't know much more about the stations."
Fitterer speculated why someone would take them.
"Some people may do this like they would take a road sign, just to have in their bedroom as a souvenir," he said. "Others may have taken it to hopefully hock for money. It is really hard to understand why someone would take these out of the church. Definitely there is a lack of respect from such an action."
The Stations of the Cross are important to Christians to remember Jesus' sacrifice, to teach about healing and understanding, and to offer guidance during one's own life suffering.
"We all have woundedness, hurts and losses in life, areas we grieve in and areas we feel vulnerable in, and we know that Christ can identify with that," Fitterer said. "Christ, in his humanity, experienced what we experience everyday. He experienced rejection, he experienced maltreatment from others, lack of compassion and all that. But Christ can join us as we, too, experience suffering in our own lives, as we walk our own path."
Every summer, the chapel gets hundreds of visitors who enjoy the 70-year-old building and its stations, both outside and within.
A common attraction at the chapel are the surrounding Stations of the Cross rock structures, which were created by artist R.D. Robinson and installed in April 1989.
According to Fitterer, a man who had visited the rock structures about five years ago e-mailed him a picture he took during his visit. The photo showed a white blob-like patch of light exactly in front of the station.
In his research of the phenomenon, Fitterer took the image to a colleague who he believed had some spiritual knowledge. The woman, whose name was withheld, told Fitterer that the light-like entity in the image was the spirit of an aborted child. Fitterer confirmed with the man that he had, at one time, gotten a woman pregnant and they had an abortion, he said.
"It was significant because he, too, had experienced his own journey in life," Fitterer said. "Then he kind of wrestled with this and came to an awareness that it truly was a life. But at the time, it wasn't significant to him. ... He didn't know what it was until some discerning was done and the discovery that it was the image of the aborted child."
Regardless of whether one believes this particular man's story, Fitterer hopes all visitors to the chapel can find a hopeful message from the stations.
"The Lord gave his total life; he said yes to it all and didn't become embittered by it," Fitterer said. "He said, 'Father, forgive them for they do not know what they're doing,' and that's so often true of humanity. We do all kinds of things and don't realize the significance of what we've done. Then as we grow, hopefully, we become more aware and more sensitive, more compassionate and less wounding of others as we journey through life."
Anyone with information regarding these missing stations can contact the Shrine of St. Therese Office at 780-6112.
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.