In the darkness of an early Saturday morning last March 19, Father Steve Davoren of St. Mel’s Church in Woodland Hills discovered damage done to the church’s iconic statue cluster of Jesus and three children.
Grainy security footage only captured the arm of a person repeatedly swinging an unidentified weapon at the statues. Pieces fell from what has been a longtime centerpiece of the parish, in a highly visible spot off of busy Ventura Boulevard.It fell to Father Davoren to explain the attack to parishioners the next day at Sunday Masses, preaching understanding and forgiveness in the place of anger and frustration.
“To me, the irony of this was the person who did this had to be a broken person himself,” said Father Davoren, pastor at St. Mel’s since 2018. “Through Scripture we know we need to pray for people who feel they have to destroy.”
Michael Stucchi heard Father Davoren’s message loud and clear that weekend. A systems software engineer by trade, Stucchi has found satisfaction working for the parish to restore four in-church statues in the past as well as Nativity scene statues.
He has been their humble go-to, fix-it man. But this was something bigger.
“When I spoke to Father Steve about it a few days after it happened, I admit, I was angry, mad, indignant because the statues were special to me and my family,” said Stucchi, whose son works in the parish office. “But then I heard his sadness and concern for the mental state of the person who damaged the statues. That’s so much like him. This really altered my paradigm from reactive to proactive — to ask if I could look into ways of repairing them.
“Father Steve’s compassion is what Jesus would want us to have. All the people who work here are in the same mindset of love and forgiveness. We have no idea what terrible things are in that person’s life.”
Stucchi and Feliciano started the reconstruction by collecting and studying photographs of the statues to examine all their features. The depiction of Jesus is about 6 feet tall and weighs about 1,000 pounds; each child on its own concrete base weighs about 300 pounds.
The collection dates to the 1950s, when the parish was first built. It had once been part of a fountain display in front of the school office and later relocated near the church’s west doors in the 1990s when the new parish center was built.
Feliciano had contacted the archdiocese about filing an insurance claim, and was told it might cost as much as $30,000 to repair.
Stucchi said he could take care of it, with no charge to the parish.
That didn’t surprise Feliciano, who calls Stucchi “a true angel.”
“Look at the difference between someone filled with hate and destruction … and then someone like Michael who spends his time showing pure love and joy putting it back together,” said Feliciano. “Both are our neighbors, they live among us. How can there be such a vast difference in someone’s heart and soul?”
Full story at Angelus News.