, Salem, MA

Local News

May 14, 2013

Workers find statue of St. Joseph in Salem


They used sonar and ground-penetrating radar last year in the search for the statue, which was reported to be 12 feet tall and weigh 6 tons. They even cautioned construction workers to dig with care. But after several months of work, nothing was found and even faithful parishioners had all but given up hope.

And then it happened — on Friday, May 3.

“It was the very last footing for the foundation” of the new building, said Lisa Alberghini, president of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs.

The statue was completely uncovered by last Monday, and put back in the earth just as quickly, possibly to avoid reigniting the controversy that dogged this project through years of legal challenges and this winter’s church demolition, which drew a few protesters.

Last Tuesday, the statue was reburied in a private ceremony attended by a small group of invited guests that included the Rev. Lawrence Rondeau, the former pastor of St. Joseph; the Rev. Timothy Murphy of Immaculate Conception Church and Mayor Kim Driscoll.

Surrounded by heavy equipment and the noise of construction, Rondeau said prayers and others spoke.

“St. Joseph was a carpenter, and it’s wonderful and appropriate to honor him today at this active construction site where we are working to build new homes … up out of this ground, for people in need,” Alberghini said, according to notes of her remarks.

Rondeau was away yesterday and could not be reached.

The statue was interred in accordance with church law, which requires religious artifacts to be burned, buried or destroyed, according to Alberghini. The developer said the Archdiocese was contacted prior to reburial.

A handful of church members witnessed the brief ceremony.

“I was so happy I was able to see it,” said Betty Richard, a longtime St. Joseph parishioner who works as the secretary/cook in the St. James rectory. “It was just amazing it was in one piece.”

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