The Divine Mercy Chapel at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Court Street in Canton was unlocked when vandals entered the sanctum, stole three antique plaster statues of religious figures and made off with them in a pickup truck.
St. Mary’s Church is locked from dusk to dawn, but the chapel is left unlocked because people need a place to pray, the Rev. Bryan D. Stitt, pastor of St. Mary’s, told the Plaindealer.
“It is a noisy world and people need a quiet place,” he said.
The statues were recovered on the campus of St. Lawrence University. All of them were damaged. One may be damaged beyond repair.
The statues depicted St. Joseph, St. Therese of Lisieux and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel holding the Christ Child.
When the statues were purchased in the 1930s, they were inexpensive.
The Rev. Stitt said that St. Mary’s was a poor church founded by Irish immigrants. Plaster, not marble, was what the church could afford.
Over the years, the value of the statues grew, not monetarily, but in the hearts of congregants.
Imagine, for a young parishioner today, those statues had been there when great-grandparents were attending Mass.
The vandalism is so egregious that it could not have been spontaneous.
The perpetrators had plenty of opportunities to consider their actions.
It took time to load the statues, one by one, into the pickup truck.
The theft wasn’t a rock thrown impetuously through a window or a gravestone impulsively kicked over during a night-time walk through a cemetery.
This was a plot, a plan, a scheme.
The chapel was supposed to be a peaceful place where anyone, at any time, could sit quietly with their thoughts, say a prayer, find some solace, escape a hectic world.
Now, the church has to consider some security. The Rev. Stitt said they could install a keypad lock with parishioners knowing the entry code.
After hearing the story, we are sure people around Canton are locking doors at night that were never locked before.
We are not naive enough to believe that because we live in a small village, we don’t need to worry about crime.
Still, we were disappointed to have this intrusion of a peaceful place remind us that we always need to take precautions to remain safe.
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This is the real story behind why protestantism went with a much plainer aesthetic.
Call the incident in Canton traumatizing but don't call it "shocking," implying among things that it was surprising, unexpected, unforeseen, and unpredictable.
Google "Catholic Church vandalism." See the myriad of links to it? Now that's shocking! Catholic church vandalism is a national crisis! What happened in Canton is not inconsistent or incongruent with what's happening across the country today. Since May 2020, across 42 states, 249+ incidents of vandalism have occurred in Catholic churches. Forty percent have occurred since Roe vs Wade was overturned in June 2022. Roe vs Wade, religious intolerance, political ideologies, partisan politics, and societal problems (poverty, mental health, drugs, homelessness, etc.) are among the factors recognized as contributing to the vandalism. Since the institutional Church recognizes these contributing factors, surely it recognizes how its sex abuse crisis and cover up, misogyny, LGBTQ stance, engagement in the culture wars, withholding of communion from politicians, etc., has or can provoke outrage, resulting in vandalism. The Catholic Church and its churches are extremely vulnerable today!
The Conference of Catholic Bishops are aware of the vandalism crisis. Presumably, Bishop LaValley and Fr. Stitt are aware too. Why aren't they talking about it? Why aren't we reading about it in this editorial? Why are we only reading about the trauma? In view of the crisis, why aren't all Catholic churches in the diocese secured in a manner that strikes a balance between security and accessibility? Why aren't church-valuables protected or removed? Do parishioners know about the national vandalism crisis? The Church has a duty to inform and protect them, regardless of whether it taints the image of the Church or affects church attendance and giving.
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