PITTSBURGH -- On Christmas Eve, when baby Jesus is placed in the creche in Pittsburgh's Trinity Cathedral, worshippers may wish to offer a prayer of thanks for police, a regular churchgoer, a local art conservator and an architect.
That's the ensemble cast that swung into action after the Christ child statue disappeared from the manger
Jan. 27. Canon Catherine Brall, provost of the Episcopal cathedral, reported the theft to police.
The next night, four police officers confronted a man causing a disturbance. Kuganda Goodfellow Mugala, 56, ran from the officers and threw a rock that struck an officer. He was charged with aggravated assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Officers gathered his belongings and stored them at the police station.
Twelve days later, on Feb. 9, two officers arrived at Brall's office.
"A woman officer ... said, 'We think we may have found your baby Jesus. Can you describe him for me?' " Brall recalled.
"Well, I said, 'He's like a creche figure, about yea big. I don't remember if his hair was brown or blond. I'd know him if I saw him,' " she said, laughing.
When officers told Brall they found a purple stole among Mugala's belongings, she had a jolt of recognition.
"He would come to the noonday services," she said.
Like any good woman of the cloth, she drew some lessons from the incident.
"This poor man ... probably found some solace in taking the baby Jesus to carry around with him as a point of comfort. I think it was tremendously poignant that when the police found him, he was wrapped in a blanket."