Cardinal Dolan visited Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Benedicta-St. Mary of the Assumption parish on Staten Island May 22 and offered a prayer of invocation and reparation after two statues outside the church were damaged by vandalism.
In the early hours of May 15, a vandal destroyed statues of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The incident was reported to the police and the parish is cooperating in the investigation.
Abelardo Aleman, a trustee of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, told Catholic New York May 27 that the parish was informed by police the previous day that a man suspected in the vandalism was in custody at Rikers Island in connection with an unrelated case.
“We have surveillance cameras at the church and the police were able to (identify and) locate the guy. They know who it is. The detective said the man will be charged for the vandalism that occured here. He said the man was arrested that same morning but for another incident.”
Aleman said there have been two other incidents involving the man in the past: about 18 months ago, the man attempted to steal a dollar from a collection basket during Mass, but he fled after being warned by the celebrant, Father Hernan Paredes, the parish pastor, that the police would be called. On May 2 during and after the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass, the same man engaged in disorderly conduct.
Aleman was present during both those two previous incidents. He said that during the May 2 incident he was able to escort the man out of the church “on good terms.” But the man then engaged in erratic behavior outside the church; the police arrived and held him until he was taken away via ambulance. No charges were filed. Aleman said the man returned at about 2 a.m. May 15 and vandalized the statues evidently as revenge for having been reported to the police for disorderly conduct.
“He gave us words of comfort and said he felt sorry for what happened,” Aleman said of the May 22 prayer of invocation and reparation led by Cardinal Dolan, with Father Paredes and others present.
Father Paredes later told CNY, “It was a prayer of invocation and reparation (by the cardinal) for the granting of peace for the parishioners, and forgiveness for the suspect. But we are also asking for justice; the police are investigating.”
Father Paredes said the parish is “very grateful” to the cardinal for his hour-long visit and for leading the prayer.