WINDSOR, Ont. — Windsor’s mysterious “weeping” Madonna has a new home.
The statue of the Virgin Mary, which is alleged to weep tears of healing oil at night, has been moved to St. Charbel Maronite Catholic Church at 1010 Highway 3 at Outer Drive in Oldcastle, on Windsor’s southern edge.
Statue owner Fadia Ibrahim, who had housed the Madonna in an enclosure on her Garvey Crescent lawn before carting her away Friday night, said Mary herself asked to be moved.
“She told me she wanted people to go back to the church,” said Ibrahim, a Christian. “My house is not a church. It seems like they come by here to pray. It’s not like it’s a church.”
She said she sought out the church’s priest and asked him to take the statue. Ibrahim said the move wasn’t related to her previous statements that the flocks of believers and media visiting the Madonna had put strain on her family.
“It’s like a message,” she said. “To pray you have to pray in church.”
The disappearance of the Madonna from Ibrahim’s lawn brought some quiet Saturday to the Garvey Crescent neighbourhood. The crowds of worshippers that once packed the home’s lawn were gone, and the heavy traffic on the street was reduced to a thin trickle of vehicles occasionally slowing to check out the empty enclosure.
Despite the statue being taken away, Windsor Police said Friday night they had to briefly close Garvey Crescent around 9 p.m. to deal with heavy traffic. Flocks of faithful coming to see Windsor’s “weeping” Madonna were disappointed Friday night when they arrived after 6 p.m. to find an empty pedestal where the ‘miracle’ had stood.
Some neighbours say they saw the Ibrahim’s family taking the statue away, but weren’t told where it was heading. “They loaded it into their white van,” said Chris Hole, who lives across the street. She said she saw Ibrahim’s son put the statue in the van, which then drove away.
She wasn’t sure where it was going, and said the family hadn’t told her anything about its destination. “Rumour has it that it’s going to a church.”
A small crowd of murmuring faithful came and went from the vacant enclosure, where the statue once stood, though few lingered for more than a few minutes in the frigid night. They arrived and left in a steady stream, many voicing sadness that the statue was gone. Some were heard saying they’d visited the statue earlier in the day.
A note stuck to the enclosure’s glass, with a timestamp of 5:58 p.m., urged people to leave the property and not bother the family. Another copy had been attached to the home’s front door.
“The statue has been relocated and this structure will be taken down shortly,” the note read. “Please stay off this private property. Visit your church, please.”
When questioned by a Star reporter Friday night, a young man who answered the door at Ibrahim’s home would not speak about the statue or say where it went.
Lynn Guerrero said she’d visited the statue around 3 p.m. and it was still there. She was emotional after discovering the Madonna was gone.
“They didn’t even say that it was going to be taken out today,” she said. “I am so disappointed.”
Despite controversy over the statue’s legitimacy, Guerrero said she believed it was miraculous. She said Mary’s tears had helped ease the pain of a friend, whose suffers from paralysis of the left hand.
Amleset Tekie said she’d hoped to see the statue for the first time, but found it gone when she arrived. She suggested the neighbours’ complaints about crowds and traffic problems may have resulted in the statue being moved.
But even without seeing the “weeping” Madonna, she believed.
“According to what I’ve heard, I would say yes, it’s a miracle,” she said. “What else would it be?”
The statue made headlines in Windsor and beyond after neighbours complained to the city about it. The city building department ordered Ibrahim to remove the statue by Nov. 19, citing a lack of a building permit and violations of the building code.
Since then the statue has been disavowed by the Orthodox Christian church Ibrahim belongs to, St. Ignatius of Antioch Church. The church’s pastor, Rev. John Ayoub, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Ibrahim had called Thursday for the throngs of faithful and media to stay away, citing the strain on her family.
Hole said the crowds flocking to the statue had picked up over the past week after media coverage brought the situation to light. She said the statue had been there since July.
A friend of Hole’s, whose name wasn’t given, said even before the statue made headlines, tour buses had come from Woodstock and Mississauga carrying worshippers.
Hole said she’d decided to bide her time until the wave of Madonna mania passed. “I knew it’d blow over,” she said. “All this stuff does.”
Nevertheless, she said, “it’s kind of sad for people that are showing up” to find the statue gone.
“You see there’s people on crutches and people on canes and they’re hobbling here, and now there’s an empty thing.”
One neighbour across the street, who didn’t want to give his name, said he was relieved the statue was gone. He said the heavy traffic on the street had been an inconvenience as he tried to sell his home.
Neighbour Monika Iwanicka said she hadn’t been bothered too much by the statue, but its absence had brought a bit of calm even 90 minutes after its removal.
“Now it’s a little bit more peaceful,” she said. “A lot of people are still coming.” Carol Forbes, speaking at Hole’s home, said the statue had a positive effect despite the traffic.
“It kind of made Windsor popular,” she said. “It put us on the map.”