Statues depicting the three children of the Our Lady of Fatima apparition were damaged in the grotto outside Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Manhattan’s Lower East Side last month.
Father Thomas McNamara, O.F.M. Cap., the pastor, told CNY June 6 that although there are no suspects to date, the incident at the Our Lady of Fatima Grotto was reported to the police and remains under investigation.
He said that sometime between Monday night, May 16, and Tuesday morning, May 17, “someone scaled the fence of the grotto and then they proceeded to smash the statues.”
The parish is located at 213 Stanton St. The damage was discovered early in the morning May 17 by Father Arlen Harris, O.F.M. Cap., the parochial vicar, and Brother Robert Gerdin, O.F.M. Cap., the pastoral associate who is the caretaker of the shrine, Father McNamara said.
He said the statues are heavy. One was broken into three major pieces. “They’re from the shoulders up that were broken,” he said, with the heads of the two girl statues removed. The head of the boy statue is intact but damaged in the arm and face. A bird bath was also smashed.
“They took the heads and placed them on the area by the Virgin Mary” statue, Father McNamara said. “They left the Virgin Mary intact.”
The pastor consoled his parishioners by reminding them of “perseverance,” he said.
“It was a form of a violation,” Father McNamara said. “It was very disturbing to people. It really was sad. People were in tears with this when this happened.”
“It’s a significant shrine,” the pastor said, “because in the neighborhood here, it’s a place where people stop and pause. They’ll say an ‘Ave,’ they’ll say a ‘Hail Mary,’” make the sign of the cross and move on.
“People who are not of Catholic faith will often just stop” as well. “It’s a peaceful spot on the Lower East Side for people to come and just pray. You’ll often find people there, day and night. It’s a popular spot for people to stop and have a talk with the Lord.”
The shrine, with the adjacent garden, is a place of comfort, he said.
Cardinal Dolan visited the parish and offered the Rosary in reparation for the offense at the grotto May 31. “The fact that the cardinal came was a great show of support of solidarity,” the pastor said. “The people really responded. They were so grateful that he had come. That meant a lot to the people.”
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