Vandals knocked down a statue of the Virgin Mary outside St. Charles Borromeo Church in Brooklyn Heights on June 12. The church’s security camera footage showed that two young men attacked the statue at 1:45 a.m., knocking the image of Mary carrying the Baby Jesus off its base.
“I came in the morning to find the statue of the Blessed Mother lying on the dirt,” said Father Edward Doran, pastor.
The video shows two white men in their late teens circling the area around the statue of the Virgin Mary before one of them toppled it with the other one watching.
Fortunately, the vandals did not damage the statue itself. Father Doran said that people would need to dig out the broken base, put in a new cement base and work on the four bolts that kept the image of the Blessed Mother on the ground.
He added that the repairs needed go beyond physical fixes because this act of vandalism has affected the community’s spirit. He said that when parishioners first learned of what had happen to the statue, they were aghast.
“They were literary shocked; very downtrodden and disappointed,” he recalled. “This has caused damage to the spirit of the parishioners and the community.”
The statue provided neighbors and people passing by a chance to stop for a moment of prayer and reflection.
“The statue is a magnificent work of art, even for members of other faiths,” Father Doran said. “It has been part of the community since 1964 and since then almost everyone pauses and looks at it. Many offer prayers and others just admire its beauty.”
The statue had been commissioned and built in France decades ago. It was shipped to Msgr. Charles Diviney, who was pastor at the time, and was installed in front of the rectory in 1964. It was recently relocated to 31 Sidney Place.
The statue had been in its new location for about a year and parishioners had worked on the small garden surrounding it to create a beautiful environment for the Blessed Mother.
Father Doran said that community leaders expressed their condolences and offered their prayers for this incident to be solved soon. They were also fearful that property in their front yards also could be vandalized.
“They expressed concern that if something as sacred as the image of the Blessed Mother can be so treated, their property can be disrespected as well,” he said.
Hoping to catch the vandals soon, Father Doran will put up the footage from the security camera on the parish website. He said there was a “99 percent chance that the vandals were local kids.” The police officers he has been in contact with also spoke of putting up flyers to help identify the teenagers.
“My first reaction was anger, quite frankly, and then I asked ‘why?’” said John O’Malley, parishioner and member of the pastoral council. Like other members, he first found out about the vandalism through an email from the church.
Once the initial anger left, he realized the perpetrators who caused the material damage probably were “stupid kids who did an stupid thing,” he said. Now that the initial shocked has passed, he is sure the statue will be repaired and brought back because “it belongs there and it has been part of the parish for so many years.”
“I think the lesson here is that we need to keep things in perspective,” O’Malley said. “Young people do stupid things, but they need to be aware that they are infringing on something that is very sacred and special to people.”
“Moving forward, I hope I can sit and speak to them,” said Father Doran, “for them to realize the implication and the significance of what they did.”