The wave of vandalism against Catholic churches that has resurfaced this spring struck the Diocese on May 6 when Sacred Heart Parish in Jurupa Valley (nine miles west of Riverside) saw three of its stained-glass windows broken and a statue beheaded.
Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies later arrested a transient man on charges of committing the vandalism at the parish. He was identified through parish security cameras and later apprehended at an abandoned house on May 12.
The attack on the Mission Boulevard parish also included the breaking of windows at the parish office, religious education classrooms and restrooms. The vandal is alleged to have used a fire extinguisher to knock the head off a parish statue of San Juan Diego, the indigenous man who was first to witness the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Three, 100-year-old, stained glass windows donated by a San Francisco convent were broken with rocks.
The vandalism has created anxiety in the parish, says Business Secretary Alma Galaviz. Adding to that, on May 11 someone attempted to steal the painting of the Last Supper from the church, and the storage area for the parish food bank was broken into on May 17, Galaviz said.
“I feel worried because there have been several incidents,” she said. “There’s a lot of tension.”
But as with other parishes that have been the target of vandalism in recent months and years, the community is responding with prayer. Sacred Heart held a Rosary Rally on May 29. “We must make a public, peaceful act of reparation for this sacrilege, asking our Lord for mercy on our country,” read the promotional flyer for the event.
The parish is currently receiving bids to repair the windows and statue and did not have an estimated cost of the damages.
According to a report issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, there have been at least 74 incidents of vandalism against Catholic churches across 25 states since May of 2020. Sacred Heart made reference to this troubling trend in their promotion of the May 29 Rosary Rally.
“This is just one of the many attacks on our Catholic faith happening with alarming frequency and viciousness today.”