Verona Church Says Vandal Is Forgiven
The congregation of Our Lady of the Lake says it will pray for the man who hammered statues of Mary and Jesus before running away yelling religious slurs on the church grounds.
Statues of the Virgin Mary and her son Jesus were chipped away with a hammer, with the remnants littering the lawn of the church.
But representatives from Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Verona, said they have already forgiven the person who desecrated their outdoor shrine of the crucifixion.
“The congregation is very upset, very saddened,” said Church Administrator Colleen Dougherty. “We’re going to pray for [the person who vandalized the statues of Jesus, Mary and St. John].”
A man using a hammer damaged the outdoor statues Sunday around 8:35 p.m. on the church grounds on Lakeside Avenue, near Bloomfield Avenue, then ran away screaming religous slurs when confronted by a woman passing by, confirmed Verona Police Capt. Mitchell Stern.
“Becoming victims of religious bigotry and hatred is not a pleasant experience for any of us,” said Rev. Michael A. Hanley in a letter to the congregation. “However, it helps us to reflect and appreciate those persons of whatever faith-tradition who over the ages have been persecuted for their faith and tradition.”
“We pray that this person will be apprehended and brought to justice,” he added. “Hopefully the person will receive some long-term assistance – along with justice.”
This is the second vandalism incident in the last three months at the church. According to Dougherty, in May, someone broke off the toes of the statue of Jesus. The statue needed to be taken down and sent to Brooklyn for repairs. She said they plan to have the same person fix the damaged statues this time.
Dougherty said the church intentionally did not seek to publicize the May incident. Police believed that incident was a case of criminal mischief.
Dougherty would not say if she believed the two incidents to be related, or performed by the same person, but she did say, “It’s quite a coincidence. There is definitely some sort of pattern.”
She said the church is discussing adding more security to the shrine.
Tuesday afternoon, Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, described the incident as “extremely disheartening.”
“It’s unfortunate someone would do vandalism to any religious institution,” Goodness said.
“Any kind of vandalism isn’t right and isn’t appropriate,” he added.
Goodness said he is aware police are following up on the incident and hopes the situation will be quickly resolved.
Our Lady of the Lake is a Roman Catholic Church that also has an elementary school on its grounds, across the street from Verona Park.