St. Mary of the Angels Church vandalized

ANDERSON—Parishioners of St. Mary of the Angels received a nasty surprise when they arrived at church the morning of April 1.

Instead of a celebration of Mass, police were surrounding the building, dusting for fingerprints and collecting evidence after one or more persons broke into the church and vandalized it.

Marianne Chapin, secretary, said the church was a mess. A window was broken and glass strewn about the floor. Envelopes were balled up and thrown on the floor, and blood was found on the door handle of Franciscan Father Aubrey McNeil’s office, which was also torn apart.

All of that was bad enough, Chapin said, but what really shocked and upset everyone was the desecration of the tabernacle.

Norene Smith, who opened the church that morning for Father McNeil, was the first to see that the tabernacle had been opened by the intruder and the Blessed Sacrament removed.

“This is the most sacred thing in the church,” Father McNeil said. “There’s no value to it except spiritual value. With this, they’ve desecrated the church.”

The bowl containing the host, which had been spilled onto the floor, was sitting outside the tabernacle.

Chapin said it broke her heart to see the precious body of Christ scattered on the floor.

The morning Mass was canceled as parishioners set about cleaning, repairing the damage, and changing the locks.

The vandals, who rifled through the entire building, did not take anything except a set of keys and a bottle of wine. Unlike the Eucharist inside the tabernacle, the wine was not consecrated, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone told The Miscellany.

He said he didn’t understand the thought process of breaking into a church and vandalizing it.

“We’re disappointed that it happened, especially in a parish that’s doing so much good in terms of outreach,” the bishop said.

Father McNeil said they will continue to hold Mass in the church, but nothing will be stored in the tabernacle until a blessing is held to restore the sacredness of the space.

The prayer of reparation is scheduled for April 3 at the 9:30 a.m. Mass, the pastor said.