FLUSHING — In the latest of vandalism attacks at churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn, a statue of St. Bernadette was found damaged outside St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church on August 17.
Surveillance video shows a person jumping the church fence at approximately 3:30 a.m. before knocking down the newly installed statue of St. Bernadette, breaking it at her left forearm and wrist.
Earlier this summer, the statue of St. Bernadette — who is depicted kneeling in front of the church’s Blessed Mother statue — and a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes were dedicated in remembrance of parishioners who have lost their lives to the coronavirus.
“It’s sad that we have to think of more security,” said Father Do, the new pastor of St. Michael’s. “We never thought about these things when we built these churches; everything was out in the open, but now we have to protect ourselves.”
Parishioner Lucy Santiago was disheartened to find the statue damaged when she arrived at the church on August 18.
“They have no business trying to destroy these statues because they’re the ones who support us — these saints in heaven,” she said in reference to individuals who commit acts of vandalism on church property.
The parish said it doesn’t think this was a bias attack; rather, it believes it indicates a problem that goes much deeper within the Flushing community.
“I tend to think these people are suffering [from] some kind of mental issues,” Father Do said. “That’s why I ask my parishioners to pray for them and, hopefully, they get help.”
Police are still searching for a suspect. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477).
Father Do said he is already planning to have the St. Bernadette statue repaired.
This incident follows the recent vandalism that has taken place at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Forest Hills, Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria, St. Adalbert Church in Elmhurst, and St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst since May.
On July 17, an individual destroyed statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Therese, The Little Flower, that stood at Our Lady of Mercy for 84 years. Black spray-painted graffiti was found on the exterior of Immaculate Conception Church on June 8. A 130-year-old statue at St. Adalbert Church was toppled and broken into pieces sometime between the evening of May 27 and the morning of May 28. On May 13, an individual knocked the St. Athanasius Church’s crucifix to the ground and also tore down and burned an American flag that was hanging outside a building on the church’s property.
Ali Alaheri, 29, was arrested on May 21 and charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime in the St. Athanasius case.