The 6-foot-tall statue of the Virgin Mary that belongs to the Church of the Immaculate Conception is still missing from the church's hillside after the statue was vandalized in March.
But she'll be back.
It took one letter, and less than three weeks, for parishioners and others to contribute the $32,000 needed to restore the statue and to display it in a safer place.
"I was surprised and very impressed," said the Rev. Joe Barr, pastor of the Roman Catholic church. "Obviously, it was something that was dear to (contributors') hearts."
Money came not only from many of Immaculate Conception's 3,000 member families, he said, "but there were stacks of letters with gifts from people who were not on the mailing list, from former members and people who had just heard about it."
The white cement figure of Mary had become a familiar sight overlooking traffic on Bosley Avenue in Towson since it was donated to the church in the 1980s.
But since March, when vandals toppled the statue off its pedestal and left Mary lying on the ground — minus her left hand — the church has kept her in storage to protect her from further damage.
Better days are ahead. The church is using the "unfortunate event" that took place sometime in the early morning hours of March 20 to create a more secure installation for Immaculate Conception's patroness, Barr said in the letter distributed to parishioners about three weeks ago.
The Blessed Mother will be restored, he said and, to discourage future vandalism, moved to a more prominent spot on the church campus: the hillside between the bell tower and the corner of Bosley Avenue and Joppa Road.
A rendering from Landover-based Kerley Signs shows the statue standing atop an arched stone configuration 19 feet wide and 7 feet high at its highest point. The base will incorporate the name of the church in large letters.
The stone matches the stone of the church, which was built in the 1880s, and the brown trim matches the brown trim on the church, Barr said.
The new sign "will better identify our parish," he said. He explained last Thursday that the existing church signs are close to the church, and not visible from heavily traveled streets.
"The new sign near the corner of Bosley and Joppa will make a public statement," he said. "It will serve people new to the Towson community by telling them where and who Immaculate Conception is."
The $32,000 estimated cost of the new safe haven for Mary includes lighting and landscaping.
"Obviously, this is a non-budgeted expense," he wrote parishioners. To make it a reality, he had to rely on their generosity.
His trust was well placed — and indeed he said the donations follow on a tradition of giving at the church. Parishioners have not only filled the gap for the statue, Barr said, they have continued outreach endeavors involving everything from Our Daily Bread and St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Hampden, to supporting the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Contributions made to the poor box enabled Immaculate Conception to recently give $22,600 to different charities and $15,000 to the Assistance Center of Towson Churches, Barr said.
Barr hesitated to provide a time line for the statue project.
"But we're now waiting on permits from the county," he said. "When we are ready, we will announce a groundbreaking ceremony, and a dedication ceremony after that."
At the same time, the church plans to landscape the hillside where Mary once stood.
"We lost several trees during heavy storms," Barr said. "It will take some heavy-duty chain saw work to get rid of the stumps.
"It's a blight in the community. We want it to look good."