The priest and parishioners at an Auckland Catholic church are "heartbroken" after thieves stole their Blessed Virgin Mary statue.
St Joseph's Church in Helensville had a statue of Mary, more than 1 metre tall and painted white and baby blue, in a grotto in front of the church.
Father Alfonso Dujali said he noticed it was missing about 8am on Sunday while opening the parish for 9am mass.
He was "devastated". The parishioners were "heartbroken".
"It's the first thing [parishioners] would notice when they enter the church, some people would drop by and say a little prayer and it was no longer there.
"As word spread that the statue was gone, some people cried because they were so attached to it."
It would be a great present if the statue was returned before Christmas, he said.
Former parish priest Father Matthew brought the statue back from a trip to India and gifted it to the church.
Father Alfonso said it was originally hollow.
It was filled with concrete and cemented to the grotto in 2014.
The church's finance chairperson reported the theft to police on Sunday. Father Alfonso had no update today.
It was likely the church would need to buy a new statue from India or the Philippines. That could cost up to $700.
"All that I want is to have her back, especially before Christmas," Father Alfonso said.
"It would be a beautiful gift."