Buried St. Joseph… a big one

Buried St. Joseph… a big one

Years ago, after the Great Salem Fire of 1914, a 12-foot, 6-ton statue of St. Joseph was one of the only remaining pieces of the original St. Joseph Church in Salem (Massachusetts), sitting atop one of two towers that survived. However, by 1944 the church was being reconstructed and the twoers were to come down. Evidently the statue wasn’t going to be re-used so they did what you’re supposed to do with sacred objects you’re disposing of: they buried it on consecrated ground. And that ground is now the parking lot of the present-day St. Joseph’s church, built in 1949, and suppressed a couple of years ago. Now with plans to tear down the church and re-develop the property, the question has arisen: What do we do with the statue?

The statue itself was badly cracked in four places, which is why they were disposing of it in the first place.

The Planning Office for Urban Affairs, the developer of a proposed affordable and market-rate housing project at the site, is aware of the stories.

“We’ve heard it’s there, and the photograph certainly helps to confirm that, although no one seems to know for sure where it is,” said David Armitage, director of design and construction for the Planning Office, a Boston nonprofit affiliated with the Archdiocese of Boston.

“I think our position would be that we’d try to locate it before the start of any work. We’d obviously be sensitive to its presence and, if we do come upon it, we’d determine at the time, depending on its (condition), what the disposition of the statue would be.”

Maybe that’s why the property sold so quickly. (Okay, Yes, I think the whole practice is downright crass and superstitious. It has nothing to do with faith and everything to do with"magical” formulae. Don’t do it. Still, I though the juxtaposition was funny.)

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