A Carmelite nun believes the fact that two precious statues allegedly taken from a monastery in Auckland were found in a nearby cemetery on All Souls Day was very significant.

Speaking to NZ Catholic on November 4, Sr Johanna Keil-Penn, OCD, said “at a cemetery [Hillsborough] of all places — among the departed . . . They [the Holy Souls] must have played a big part . . . “ in the recovery.

Prayer no doubt helped, but Sr Johanna played a big part herself — posting on social media some security camera images of people allegedly taking the statues on November 1.

The statues — of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Little Infant of Prague — were precious to the Carmelites. The Sacred Heart statue had been with the monastery in Royal Oak since 1940.

A damaged hand on the statue of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“The sisters are very happy to have [them] back,” Sr Johanna said. “I am too — I never thought we would solve this.”

The security cameras were installed at the monastery in the middle of this year — after there were three previous incidents of items being taken — dating back to last year.

In the first incidents, in 2018, items of small value were taken from a cabinet, where items for sale are placed.

“We cleared out everything from the cabinet. So I left out St Michael the Archangel [item], just to see if it happens again, to test the waters. . . Sure enough, St Michael was taken,” Sr Johanna said.

“We had a very close friend — a third order member of the Carmelites — she offered, with her son, to pay for the security cameras. So we got that installed.”

On September 23 this year, more items were allegedly taken — reportedly worth about $250.00 —and the images of the people allegedly involved were captured by security cameras.

Police advised Sr Johanna to “do your part and post it on facebook and your friends and all that”.

“And I thought, OK, I will do it, and I didn’t make it too public, the first one — I just didn’t want the publicity.”

Then the November 1 incident happened, and Sr Johanna went public — this time on a facebook page on which items are bought, swapped and sold. She was not expecting the reaction that followed — the post spread rapidly and came to the attention of mainstream media.

Sr Johanna said she had been contacted by media from New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

“I didn’t expect that to come through,” she said, “but it has ended positively”.

Although there were a few negative comments online, Sr Johanna said the “majority — non-Christian, non-religious people, they were very supportive”.

“It was a lovely support. A few have emailed wanting to make a donation to fix the statues.”

There were also requests submitted for the Carmelites to pray for people’s family members.

Sr Johanna has spoken to police about the latest incident and is hopeful of a resolution to the matter. She feels no anger towards the alleged perpetrators.

“I just feel sorry for them, whatever situation they are in.”

Sr Johanna spoke of forgiveness and the hope that the Lord will move into their hearts.

She is looking forward to monastery life getting back to normal — “but I am on the lookout”, she added.

The main fear the sisters had, she added, was that a tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament inside might have been taken.

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