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December 16, 2012 - January 5, 2013

Jesus statue returns to scene after years with police

Men set up a life-size nativity scene at the home of Stanislaus and Halina Urbaniak in Inverness on Nov. 24. The design of the manger is based on a traditional Highlander cottage in Poland. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

By Alicja Pozywio

Staff writer

This year will be the first time since 2003 that the Urbaniak family will put out its complete original manger scene. Their statue of baby Jesus was returned to them this past January after spending eight years with the Hoffman Estates Police Department.

“It was like the return of a family member,” said Stanislaw Urbaniak of the statue’s return.

Their almost 3-foot-long statue of baby Jesus with blond curly hair and blue eyes wasn’t under arrest at the police department; rather, it was in the property room where the police keep lost, found and stolen items.

The statue is part of the Urbaniak’s nativity set with life-size figures that they have displayed in front of their Inverness house during the Christmas season since they moved there 13 years ago.

Baby Jesus vanished during the winter of 2003. It was not the first time the family found the manger empty.

“One time the neighbor found our baby Jesus in her backyard and returned it to us,” said Halina Urbaniak. This time the Urbaniaks called the nearby police departments reporting the stolen Jesus, but no one had heard about the missing statue.

Last year after Christmas, while browsing on the Internet, Aneta Wypasek, a niece of Halina Urbaniak, found that a statue looking just like the Urbaniak’s baby Jesus had been stored at the police department in Hoffman Estates.

The Urbaniaks pulled out their photo album where the only family picture of the baby Jesus survived; they had no doubt it was their Jesus.

“When I called the Hoffman Estates police they asked if we wouldn’t mind if they informed the media,” said Halina Urbaniak.

The next day, at a specified time, a number of vans from different stations and papers including NBC, WGN, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun- Times arrived in front of the Urbaniak’s home.

The police sent a delegation, which included the sheriff and Chris Moore, the manager of the police department’s property room, to the ceremony of returning baby Jesus.

The entire Urbaniak family showed up, including Halina’s and Stanislaw’s daughter, Patricia, 14, and their son, Lukas, 18.

The Urbaniaks believe that they would never have gotten their baby Jesus back if it had not been for the efforts of Chris Moore.

“She made finding the owners of baby Jesus her personal mission. She is the one who posted the information about baby Jesus on websites,” Halina Urbaniak said. “She also cried with us when our baby Jesus came home.”

From a distance, the nativity looks like a small cottage built in the Polish Highlander style, which the Urbaniaks are familiar with since they both originally are from Podhale, the part of Poland where the Highlanders live. This “highlanders cottage” is well known in the neighborhood.

“Our neighbors often stop, look and thank us,” said Halina Urbaniak.

Asked if they experienced any hassle or if anybody complained about the nativity, Stanislaw Urbaniak said, “Never.”

“One morning I looked through the window and saw the camel and three kings standing in the middle of the road, as if they were going somewhere. It was funny, not offensive,” said Stanislaw Urbaniak.

Some of the figures in the Urbaniak’s nativity set are identical to those displayed at Daley Plaza.

“When the delivery driver was bringing them to us, he called and said that there is no church at the given address. He couldn’t believe that they were for a private home,” said Halina Urbaniak.

The Daley Plaza and Urbaniak’s baby Jesus have something in common — they have both been stolen. The downtown baby has twice disappeared from the manger. In 1999 it was found at the Greyhound bus station and in 2004 an Art Institute student was caught while escaping with his treasure.

“Our son Lukas suggested we install a surveillance camera in the manger,” said Stanislaw Urbaniak.

But that idea failed. In order to be sure that from now on the baby Jesus is safe, they found a different solution.

“Patricia brings him inside every night, lays it in a crib and covers it with a blanket,” Stanislaw said.