A statue of a young Jesus in the arms of St Joseph was smashed by vandals in New Plymouth at the weekend.
Father Craig Butler found the remains of the head and a hand of Jesus scattered over the grounds of St Joseph's Church at 6.30am on Saturday.
The statue stands at the side of the Catholic church beside a private walkway that is often used by the public, he said.
Father Butler was philosophical about the damaged property.
"If I heard one of my parishioners had lost his head, it would be a lot worse," he said.
"But you have to wonder what is going on in people's heads [to do this]. Are they hurting?"
But vandalism was not acceptable and police had been informed, he said.
A plaque on the statue said it was presented to the church by the Burkett family in memory of their parents, John (1933) and Barbara Burkett (1949).
Yesterday, John Paul Burkett said his grandparents had donated the statue and would have been heartbroken at what had happened to it.
"The money they saved up for that, it must've cost them a fortune to get that done," he said.
"Old Granny used to show us that statue and say ‘we did that, we put that up'.
"It would've broken their hearts, it would've.
"I think it would have got her old Polish temper up a bit too."
He would meet Father Butler to find out if the statue was insured and how, or if, it could be fixed.
Father Butler said the church had suffered vandalism around Christmas time when doors were kicked in and toilets damaged.
Parishioners had been upset at their church being targeted.
"People are upset, they are rattled. But it could be much worse, it could be a person."
The congregation would be saying a prayer for the person who did it.
"Ordinary people don't do this sort of thing.
"I would like them to front up and say sorry. It would be good if they did."
Fortunately, vandalism at churches was rare and they were afforded the right respect, he said.
- Taranaki Daily News