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A maintenance man at St. Mary's Academy in Dover noticed the baby Jesus had been stolen from the school's traditional manger scene on Central Avenue on Saturday night. Staff remain hopeful that it will be returned by Christmas morning. (GRETYL MACALASTER/Union Leader Correspondent)

St. Mary's Academy hopes for return of Jesus to manger

DOVER - At a school where the baby Jesus as a symbol of God's love is very pertinent, a theft from St. Mary's Academy's manger scene is being taken particularly hard.

But students and staff are also trying to remain optimistic, and are hoping whoever stole the baby Jesus from outside the academy, located on Central Avenue, will return it on Christmas Eve.

A maintenance man for the school first noticed a problem on Saturday night when driving by the school. Half of the lights on the manger scene were unlit, and upon further investigation, he discovered that the baby Jesus was missing, the small cradle between Mary and Joseph empty.

St. Mary's Academy secretary Lise Study said whoever took the baby Jesus would have had to work to cut the zip ties holding him in, and stripped half the lights in the process, leaving wires exposed.

On Monday, staff was focused on helping students deal with the Newtown, Conn., shootings and Mary McKernan, a teacher and administrator at the school, said it was disheartening for someone to steal a symbol of the students' faith.

"Teachers are not sleeping at night and someone steals what represents our school," McKernan said.

The theft has been reported to police.

Study said she believes the goodness of people will prevail.

Already, the school received a call from an alumnus wishing to pay for the replacement of the baby Jesus in the manger scene.

The manger scene has been in front of the school for years. It goes up right before the annual holiday parade, which is sponsored by the school, and stays up until the new year. McKernan said no pieces have ever been stolen before.

"It is one thing, I guess, to steal even the shepherd or a king, but a baby Jesus? It is so sacrilegious," McKernan said.

Staff is hopeful that on Christmas morning, the day of Christ's birth, the baby Jesus will have been returned to the manger.

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Gretyl Macalaster may be reached at gmacalaster@newstote.com.

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