Knights of Columbus Donated $10,000 to Replace Statue Damaged by Vandal
CONEY ISLAND — With a helping hand from the Knights of Columbus, parishioners at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace took part in the dedication of a new statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a ceremony on Dec. 12 that marked the start of a new chapter in the parish.
The previous statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was seriously damaged by a vandal who toppled it from its perch and threw it to the ground on Sept. 11, according to police. A suspect was arrested a month after the incident charged with criminal mischief.
Within days of the crime taking place, the Knights of Columbus announced that it would donate $10,000 to the church to have a new statue built.
The dedication took place on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
More than 100 parishioners were on hand at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace at 2866 West 17th St. in Coney Island to see Auxiliary Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P., and Father Javier Flores, the pastor, officially dedicate the new statue.
The statue had been placed in the same spot where the old one stood — in the church’s grotto.
Four parishioners, Enrique and Juana Castillo and Valentín and Alberta Moreno, helped install the statue. A second statue depicts St. Juan Diego, the Mexian peasant who saw the Blessed Mother in a series of apparitions in 1531. St. Juan Diego is depicted praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The grotto was decorated with red and while roses, courtesy of two parishioners, Armentio and María Elena Hernández, who donated the flowers for the occasion.
The ceremony also featured a mariachi band.
The attack on the original statue in September shocked the Knights of Columbus, who quickly stepped forward to offer the donation.
“The desecration of our Catholic statues and churches is a grievous crime against all people who value religious freedom. Together with Pope Francis, our bishops and faithful everywhere, we stand against violence, hatred and bigotry,” Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said in a statement at the time.
In a letter to Father Flores, Anderson said the knights felt the desecration at the Our Lady of Guadalupe statue personally.
When he was installed as the national leader of the Knights of Columbus 20 years ago, Anderson announced that the organization would be dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe
“News that this depiction of the Blessed Mother was targeted was therefore a cause of pain also for us,” Anderson wrote in his letter to Father Flores.
Father Flores called the $10,000 donation “overwhelming” and said he was deeply grateful to the knights for their generosity. Several of the church’s parishioners also stepped forward and made donations to the statue fund, he said.