A Tustin woman told police the nearly 5-foot statue taken from Our Lady Queen of Angels turned up in her yard, according to Newport Beach police Lt. Craig Fox.
The statue by Mexican artist Victor Salmones was valued at $30,000, police said.
The woman, who police did not name, told police she noticed it when she came home after being away for the weekend and had some suspicions about it, Fox said. She called police this morning after seeing a photograph of it in a newspaper, Fox said.
Fox said the woman has a teenage son, and that she told him that the boy and his friends might have had something to do with the removal of the icon.
"We're still working on identifying who was involved and what their intentions were," Fox said.
The sculpture was reported missing Saturday from its brick podium at Mar Vista and Domingo drives, Fox said.
Church officials are just happy the sculpture by Victor Salmones back, said Ryan Lilyengren of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.
"Pranks like these happen," Lilyengren said. "We hope these kids learn a lesson. The church is not going to press charges. We forgive indiscretions like this."
Bronze, which is mostly copper, has become a favorite for metal thieves.
Lilyengren said it was one thing to steal metal industrial items "but quite another thing to steal a piece of sculpture from a church."
"It's definitely a one-of-a-kind statue, and we're very happy about having it back," he said.
The statue was donated to the church for its Jubilee celebration eight years ago by the McGrath family, who no longer live in the area, Lilyengren said.
Fox said that if police determine the removal was a prank and the church does not press charges, prosecution may be unlikely.