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Religious artwork stolen from Immaculate Conception Church

Religious artwork stolen from Immaculate Conception Church

The value of seven paintings stolen from Immaculate Conception Church in Omaha May 6 can't be measured in dollars and cents.

It's about a history.

The stolen artwork includes paintings from six Stations of the Cross that Joyce Urban, parish business manager, said date from the late 1800s. 'They were in the first church built here on Bancroft," she said.

Urban said there's no record about who created the station paintings "“ each measuring 40 inches high by about 30 inches wide. They were removed from the church for a time in the 1970s and then refurbished and placed back in the church in the mid-1980s, she said.

The other painting stolen sometime between a Mass for a family gathering and the regular 6 p.m. Saturday Mass was a 6-foot Divine Mercy painting created by a Polish artist. That painting is valued at $15,000 in Poland.

The Divine Mercy painting was cut from the frame, while the thief or thieves, pulled nails from the backing of the wood frames to remove the mounted station paintings.

Father Anthony Espinosa believes the time required for that process probably was a factor in why artwork from just six of the 14 stations was taken. 'If there would have been more time, all 14 stations probably would be gone," he said.

Paintings from the second through the seventh station were taken.

The paintings were the targets of the thief or thieves, Father Espinosa said. 'They didn't touch any of our  chalices or statues; just the paintings," he said.

The theft of religious items was surprising for Father Espinosa. Most priests at some time deal with the theft of church property, he said, but this is the first time he's faced the theft of religious items.

He planned to talk to the Immaculate Conception pastoral council to discuss options for replacing the stations. Those options include creating facsimiles from photos or buying a replacement set.

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