By Vince Dragone

At St. Mark Parish in Emporium, a stunning restoration has taken place. An Infant of Prague statue, estimated to be nearly a century old, has been meticulously returned to its original splendor. The statue had tragically been damaged years prior when an unfortunate accident resulted in one of its hands being shattered. Until recently, the broken hand was concealed beneath the traditional cape or veil typically associated with such statues.

The tale of this Pennsylvania statue reverberates with echoes of a broader history. Originating in Spain during the late 15th century, Infant of Prague statues became popular in Europe during the 17th century. One such statue given to the Discalced Carmelites in Prague was damaged by invading Swedish troops during the Thirty Years War. The statue fell, and its hands were broken off, mirroring the fate of the St. Mark Parish’s statue centuries later.

Following the incident, the damaged Infant of Prague statue in Europe remained in the church – which was also damaged – until Father Cyril, a Carmelite monk, discovered it. Legend has it that, after finding the statue, Father Cyril heard a voice saying, "Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace." From then on, the Infant of Prague statue became associated with blessings and protection, making its restoration all the more significant.

These parallels between the Infant of Prague's history and the local statue in Pennsylvania infuse the restoration with a profound resonance.

"It's an intriguing story," says Father Paul Siebert, the enthusiastic and dedicated priest overseeing the restoration. "We couldn't find a local artisan with the requisite skills to fix the intricate hand. Our search was fruitless for years until Ron Stojek, whose daughter Kelly had first noticed the statue’s predicament, inquired about it."

It was Patricia Martin, a fellow parishioner interested in both history and art, and with experience in repairing and restoring, who committed herself to the task. As Patricia began to research the statue's origins, she discovered that the company that had initially crafted the statue, Daprato Rigali Studios, was still in existence and based in Chicago.
Father Paul explains, "She contacted the company, and we were thrilled when they agreed to restore the statue. But a new obstacle presented itself — how would we pay for it?”
That's when Leo Blumle, a local resident who had recently moved to town, stepped in, offering to cover the restoration cost. Sadly, Leo passed away before the statue’s restoration was completed, but his generous act will not be forgotten.
With the assistance of George Salter, plant manager of Keystone Automatic Technology, the statue was securely packed and loaded on a company truck bound for Chicago. The restoration process was treated with the utmost care, and the statue returned safe and whole. Upon its arrival, George and the Keystone employees unpacked it, then carefully repacked it to take it to the church.

With the Infant of Prague statue returned to its rightful place of honor in the church, a sense of completion filled the hearts of Father Paul and his parishioners.

"This particular statue stands out," Father Paul says, "Most Infant of Prague statues are not inspiring to me, but this one catches your eye. It's a statue of Jesus, our Savior. Its restoration is a testament to the power of community and shared faith."

Father Paul emphasizes the importance of religious art in the church.

"The statues and stained-glass windows in a Catholic church capture a dimension of the sacred that words cannot express,” he says.

As it stands, it is not only a testament to a rich, interconnected history but also a beacon of shared faith and communal resilience.