MONTROSE – Father Mike Walker, a retired Catholic priest, served his church and community for 48 years, and now he has Baby Jesus in his front yard, part of an almost life-sized nativity scene that he keeps up year round.
The wooden figures stand at the edge of Miami Road at the intersection of 6700 Road, and were carved out of tree trunks several years ago by a chain-saw artist who was commissioned by St. Daniel’s Catholic Church in Ouray, Walker said. But the church ladies thought the depictions were “too rustic,” and after receiving several complaints, the priest in Ouray gave them to Walker.
Walker tried to donate the figures to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Montrose, but they were also “too sophisticated” and didn’t want the rough-hewn nativity scene either, he said.
Walker then tried lending them out to people during the Christmas holidays, but many feared people might try to steal them and damage their property.
Finally, when he moved into his house on Miami Road a couple of years ago, Walker put them on permanent display right by the roadside.
He’s had a few problems over the years, like one Halloween when pranksters put one of the statues in the middle of the road, scaring motorists who thought it was a real person. The worst problem, though, was when the Virgin Mary disappeared altogether last year.
Walker said his friends and neighbors urged him to call the police and newspapers to report the theft, but he wouldn’t do it, because he had strong faith the statue would be returned.
“She’ll come back,” he told his friends.
A short time later, Walker said, a man was riding his mountain bike on Sunset Mesa and said he was thrilled to see a woman kneeling in prayer, overlooking the city. As he got closer, he realized it was a statue and happened to remember seeing it in front of Walker’s house.
So the man drove to see Walker, asked him if he was missing a statue, and brought it back in his pickup truck.
Was it just coincidence or serendipity that brought Mary back? Not to a man of faith. Walker calls her return the “Miracle on Miami.”
The years have taken their toll on the nativity scene, and a friend of Walker’s recently repainted them to bring them to “life” again. They’re now ensconced with a small Christmas tree in front that will be lit up at night.
Anyone can drive by and see the nativity scene, and Walker even has a small bench nearby where people can sit for a spell. Walker will also hold a sundown vigil this Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, and the public is invited.