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Prayers answered: Stolen St. Rita statue recovered by police, returned to shrine in South Philly

The statue was found abandoned on Webster Street. Who took it remains a mystery.

Statue of St. Rita of Cascia located on Webster Street earlier Saturday afternoon. It was returned by police to its shrine.
Statue of St. Rita of Cascia located on Webster Street earlier Saturday afternoon. It was returned by police to its shrine.Read moreJenna Byers

A statue of St. Rita of Cascia that had been reported stolen was recovered by police early Saturday afternoon and returned to its shrine in South Philadelphia.

Who took it and why remain a mystery.

But to Catholics who believe in the power of praying to St. Anthony of Padua, known as the patron saint of lost things, it was more affirmation.

The statue was reported missing Friday from a locked outdoor display at the National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia at 1166 S. Broad St., between Ellsworth and Federal Streets.

“St. Rita’s back safe and sound,” said Jonathan Jerome, the shrine’s director.

“We positively ID’d it and it’s our statue. It looks to be in pretty good shape, all things considered,” Jerome said.

Rita of Cascia, who lived in Italy during the late Middle Ages, was canonized in 1900 by Pope Leo XIII and was given the title of Patroness of Impossible Causes.

The statue was found on the 1600 block of Webster Street, not far from the shrine.

Jenna Byers, 29, who called 911 about 12:35 p.m. to report the statue’s location, said her husband, Steve Baskin, 31, was taking a walk and called her saying he believed he just saw the statue, which he knew to be missing from a news report.

Byers went out to take a look and took some photos. It had been placed next to a stoop of a rowhouse. Byers said some other residents had seen it earlier but had not seen or read the news reports about it being missing. They just assumed it was a decoration.

The police arrived quickly and an officer declared, “If this is really the statue of St. Rita, it’s the best day of [my] career,” Byers recalled.

Police then returned the statue. Residents on the block were questioned and police told Jerome that they did not believe the residents had any involvement in the theft.

The statue, valued at $100,000, had been initially described as weighing 100 pounds, but police said it was much lighter. It was possible someone tried to carry it somewhere and then just abandoned it on Webster Street.

Its disappearance had prompted prayers on Facebook and presumably elsewhere to St. Anthony.

Jerome said the statue was being kept in an office but hoped to have it back in the outdoor grotto display in time for Mass on Sunday.

Was he planning on changing the lock on the display case?

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” he said.