Someone took Statue of Maryville leader Smyth, and the archdiocese wants it back

  • This statue of the Rev. John P. Smyth and a child, called "Standing Tall," was unveiled at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines in 1996 and honored Smyth's work with children. Archdiocese of Chicago officials say the statue was removed without permission in September.

    This statue of the Rev. John P. Smyth and a child, called "Standing Tall," was unveiled at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines in 1996 and honored Smyth's work with children. Archdiocese of Chicago officials say the statue was removed without permission in September. Daily Herald File Photo, 1996

  • A Christmas tree now stands where a statue honoring Rev. John P. Smyth's work with children stood for about 23 years on what now is the Shrine Our Lady of Guadalupe's side of the sprawling Maryville Academy property in Des Plaines.

    A Christmas tree now stands where a statue honoring Rev. John P. Smyth's work with children stood for about 23 years on what now is the Shrine Our Lady of Guadalupe's side of the sprawling Maryville Academy property in Des Plaines. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • A Christmas tree now stands in the spot where a statue called "Standing Tall" had honored the Rev. John P. Smyth's work with children while he headed Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.

    A Christmas tree now stands in the spot where a statue called "Standing Tall" had honored the Rev. John P. Smyth's work with children while he headed Maryville Academy in Des Plaines. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • A Christmas tree now stands where a statue honoring Rev. John P. Smyth's work with children stood for about 23 years on what now is the Shrine Our Lady of Guadalupe's side of the sprawling Maryville Academy property in Des Plaines.

    A Christmas tree now stands where a statue honoring Rev. John P. Smyth's work with children stood for about 23 years on what now is the Shrine Our Lady of Guadalupe's side of the sprawling Maryville Academy property in Des Plaines. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/19/2019 9:51 PM

A statue honoring the late Rev. John P. Smyth vanished from the Maryville Academy campus in Des Plaines three months ago, and now Archdiocese of Chicago officials are calling on the nonprofit organization they believe took it to bring it back.

Smyth, Maryville's longtime leader, died in April at age 84 just as claims surfaced that he molested two teenage boys while they lived on the campus in 2002-03. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in June deemed the accusations unfounded, and Smyth's attorney strongly denies the allegations.

 

Called "Standing Tall," the bronze statue was dedicated June 29, 1996, to honor Smyth's work at Maryville. The statue, featuring Smyth with his arms outstretched to a child soaring above him, was installed in the middle of a circular entrance off Central Road to what now is the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe's side of the sprawling archdiocese property.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Anne Maselli said the statue was removed without permission three months ago. While a Christmas tree now stands in its place, the dedication plaque remains atop a nearby concrete stand.

"The statue was commissioned by the Maryville board and permanently installed on church property," Maselli said. "The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe now occupies the church property on which it stood. While (the Very Rev. Esequiel) Sanchez, the rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, was on vacation in September, the statue was removed.

"Neither Maryville nor the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe gave permission for the statue to be removed. The Archdiocese of Chicago did not remove it. We have since learned (an organization) removed the statue. We expect the statue to be returned."

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The Daily Herald is not naming the organization because no one has been charged with a crime or sued over the statue's removal. Officials from the organization did not return messages over two days seeking comment.

Des Plaines police Cmdr. Christopher Mierzwa said authorities "are aware of the incident."

"However, the church did not wish to file a police report," Mierzwa said. "We have no information as to if a theft actually occurred."

Maselli said archdiocese officials are evaluating their options on where the statue will be placed when it's returned.

Smyth captained University of Notre Dame's basketball team and was selected by the St. Louis Hawks in the first round of the 1957 NBA draft, but he chose the priesthood instead. He came to Maryville in Des Plaines after he was ordained in April 1962 and became its executive director in 1970.

He began hosting fundraisers and received credit for reforming the care of children at the City of Youth, bringing in the family teaching model. But Smyth left Maryville amid controversy in December 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Though a hugely popular figure within Chicago-area Catholic circles, Smyth became a lightning rod after a series of fights, rapes and child runaways under his watch at Maryville. After repeated calls for his ouster, Smyth eventually agreed to leave Maryville, ending a four-decade-long tenure at its helm.

He then led Notre Dame College Prep in Niles from 2006 to 2014.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich asked Smyth to step aside from the ministry after the molestation accusations became public in January. Maselli said the archdiocese still is investigating the allegations.

Smyth continued living on the Des Plaines site after his Maryville career ended and presided over 11 a.m. Sunday Masses in Our Lady of Guadalupe's Marian chapel. He moved from the campus in January when the archdiocese began investigating the abuse claims.

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