The head of this statue of the baby Jesus was knocked off during a break-in at St. John the Baptist (Polska) Church in Beaver County, near Camrose, Alta. Photo supplied

Historic church vandalized

By  Kyle Greenham, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 4, 2019

EDMONTON -- Police are investigating after a historic Catholic church in central Alberta was vandalized and priceless items were destroyed.

The front doors of St. John the Baptist Church, 120 kilometres south of Edmonton, had been pried open. The head of a 100-year-old statue of the baby Jesus was severed. A statue of St. John the Baptist, the tabernacle, a couple of vases and roughly 20 candle holders were also damaged.

“I was in disbelief when I heard what happened,” said Liza McKenzie, administrative secretary for several rural Alberta parishes including St. John the Baptist Church. “It’s so far from anything. There’s no way someone could just happen to come upon it. And to know they broke our statues, it’s just so hard to believe.”

The break-in occurred some time between Sept. 18, when workers cleaned up the cemetery grounds, and Sept. 22 when RCMP were notified.

Laurie Everson reported the incident to police after noticing the church’s doors were wide open. She was visiting the neighbouring cemetery.

“It was so sad to see,” said Everson. “I just can’t believe that someone would come in just to damage stuff in a church. They didn’t take anything, they just wanted to bust everything up. Some of those statues were so old and so nice to have.”

St. John the Baptist Church was built in 1910 and closed in 1987. It had served the now-disappeared rural Polska district in Beaver County. A single Mass is still held at the church every year, around the Nativity of St. John the Baptist feast day on June 24.

Fr. Carlos Nunez, who celebrates the annual Mass, has asked for prayers that police will find those responsible for the vandalism or that they will turn themselves in.

Church vandalism is relatively rare in the Archdiocese of Edmonton, but crime in rural areas has been a growing concern.

In October, Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church, east of Nisku, was broken into and vandalized. In April, a thief was caught on camera at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Red Deer.

“It’s sad that people would do these kinds of things,” said archdiocesan spokesperson Lorraine Turchansky. “This highlights the need for us to be more vigilant.”

(Grandin Media)

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