By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BUFFALO — Workers were cleaning up more than $20,000 worth of damage inside St. Peter Church caused by vandalism last weekend. The extent of the destruction required moving a funeral service to another location and the celebration of Mass on Oct. 20 to another parish.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula celebrated Mass with the parishioners at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Davenport. He wanted to support the parishioners and to be in solidarity with them, he said.
“It is sad and hurtful that the vandal(s) did violent things to your sacred space. But it is even worse that in their destructive acts they did violence to their sacred bodies, which were created in the image and likeness of God and are temples of the Holy Spirit. They obviously aren’t in a good place in their lives and we need to pray for them,” the bishop told the congregation.
“God can squeeze grace out of challenges and difficulties. God can use this vandalism to make St. Peter a stronger parish community and convert the heart(s) of the vandal(s).”
He said he was impressed and inspired that, although parishioners were surprised and shocked by the vandalism and had feelings of violation, they were not angry and seeking vengeance. Father Paul Appel, the pastor, “was good in setting a tone of forgiveness and resilience. This is a bump in the road; they are a strong faith community. They will fix or replace things that were damaged or broken, clean things that were soiled, and continue on,” the bishop said.
Deacon Larry Dankert said his wife, Diane, discovered the damage Oct. 19 while participating in a women’s group meeting at the former rectory. She looked out the window and noticed the church door was open. She walked into the church and saw damaged stained glass windows and the inside of the church “trashed,” the deacon said. She called him, the Buffalo Police Department and Father Appel.
The vandals apparently broke in through a lower stained glass window, likely by throwing something through it, Deacon Dankert said. Once inside the vandal(s) went to the loft and broke out the top section of that same window —leaving the middle section intact. The door to the sacristy was kicked in and items such as vestments were tossed around. The tabernacle had been knocked over but was not broken into. A few items throughout the church were broken. A bathroom mirror was broken and water had been left running in the bathroom sink. A fire extinguisher was set off, leaving a trail of white powder throughout the church.
“There was no graffiti,” Deacon Dankert said. “I don’t think this was anything against Jesus.”
Calvary Lutheran Church, next door to St. Peter, also was damaged. Deacon Dankert thinks the vandal(s) may have struck the Lutheran church after vandalizing St. Peter.
Cleanup workers hoped to finish their work soon so that the parish could celebrate Mass this coming weekend in the church.