Diocesan News

Statues and Doors of a Bensonhurst Catholic Church Badly Damaged in a Vandal’s Attack

A statue of St. Pope John XXIII along the sidewalk outside St. Dominic Church in Bensonhurst was damaged in an act of vandalism on June 10. (Photo: John Quaglione)

BENSONHURST — Clergy and parishioners at St. Dominic Church were in shock after two statues were defaced and its glass front doors shattered in a vandal’s attack Monday afternoon, June 10, authorities and church officials said. 

The suspect, Randy Maldonado Avila, 30, was apprehended on site by the NYPD and charged with criminal mischief after taking a hammer to the church’s long-standing statues of St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Pope John XXIII at around 3:45 p.m., police said. Both statues had their faces smashed in, and the hand of the pope’s statue was also destroyed.

A statue of St. Teresa of Calcutta along the sidewalk outside St. Dominic Church in Bensonhurst was damaged in an act of vandalism on June 10. (Photo: John Quaglione)

“I will pray for that person,” said Mary Ellen Piorkowski Lane, a St. Dominic parishioner. “It’s not easy, but I will pray. We are a strong community, so we are going to get through this. We are going to be strong, and we are going to love each other.” 

The church’s damaged doors were boarded up, and the vandalized statues covered, by volunteers within hours of the attack. Father Michael Lynch, pastor at St. Athanasius-St. Dominic Parish, said he was awaiting an estimate from the insurers for the total cost of repairs. He predicted that the repairs would “be costly” but added that a volunteer had already reached out to the diocese offering to help rebuild the statues.

A statue of St. Pope John XXIII is covered after being damaged in a random act of vandalism. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

What matters, Father Lynch said, is that no one was injured in the attack. 

“No one was hurt physically. Hearts and minds are scarred a little bit and probably wounded, but we also know that we have to pray with one another for the peace and the strength of God,” the pastor said.

NYPD investigators informed Father Lynch that St. Dominic was not specifically targeted in the attack, saying that the suspected vandal had been waging a spree of damage across the neighborhood, including smashing in car windows. The pastor relayed that information to the parish at 8 a.m. Mass Tuesday, to the relief of such longtime parishioners as Catherine Randici and Theresa Kelly.

The doors of St. Dominic Church in Bensonhurst were boarded up a few hours after the church was vandalized. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

“He was doing it in the neighborhood, so the man has a problem. It’s really sad,” Randici said. “[Father Lynch] made it clear because he gave us more information. We thought it was directed just at us at St. Dominic’s, but it wasn’t, so that made it feel a little bit better.”