First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Fatima Statues Vandalized Outside Manhattan Church
By CHRISTIE L. CHICOINE
Mary DiBiase Blaich
Father Mario Julian, O.F.M., pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish in Manhattan, gazes at the parish’s outdoor statues that depict the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.

Four outdoor statues that tell the story of the three shepherd children who were seers of the Blessed Mother under her title Our Lady of Fatima were vandalized outside the Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan after midnight June 26.

According to the pastor, Father Mario Julian, O.F.M., surveillance video shows the vandal, an adult male, in action, around 12:40 a.m.

“It was the violent nature that was so tough to absorb,” Father Julian said.

“He was walking by, he literally jumped over the fence, went over, picked up the statues and tossed them violently against the Blessed Mother of Fatima statue...He flung them so hard that it hit the statue and they landed on their face—face down on the cement.”

Damage to the statues includes broken hands and a nose, in addition to chips the structures sustained. “The cement base that they were in was cracked,” the pastor said, as the statues of the shepherd children were removed from their bases.

“This is a big guy,” the pastor added. “I said to the cops, ‘You’re gonna need six cops to catch this guy.’”

Later that Monday morning, a parishioner who was walking her dog discovered the destruction and alerted the pastor and other parish personnel around 7 a.m., before the regularly scheduled 8 a.m. Mass, Father Julian said.

The surveillance video shows that the man in question “jumped back over the fence and just walked nonchalantly away” after the incident, Father Julian said.

The pastor estimates the statues are valued between $8,000 and $10,000.

A determination will be made as to whether the statues can be repaired or if they will need to be replaced, the pastor said.

“I’ve been bombarded with phone calls from people who want to donate already, to help,” Father Julian said.

“God bless this neighborhood. These people respond. They love this parish. It’s really, truly...a tight-knit group here.”

The statues have been put back in their proper place. It was important to do so, the pastor said. “We put them back up, broken and all.

“The people need to see that—that we’re taking care of it, that we care and that we’re going to work with fixing it.”

The statues, he learned, arrived at the parish about 40 years ago from the Franciscan Immaculate Conception Seminary in Troy in the Albany Diocese.

“When I saw the video, I realized how violent this was,” Father Julian said. “This was a violent action. This guy was very angry—for what, at what, at whom, I don’t know.

“A lot of the parishioners that came by, the old-timers, it really hit them hard,” he added. “They were shaken” by the damage.

“I tell them this is part of life now,” he said. “We’ve got so many people in this country that want to do damage to property and damage to other people. I don’t know where that’s come from all of a sudden, now, this violence and this anger.”

“We just have to keep going on,” he tells his parishioners.

As for the vandal, “something has to be done with and for him,” the pastor added.

“We just have to keep praying for him, and we have to hope that he gets caught and we have to hope that he gets help.”

In December 2003, a statue of the Infant Jesus was stolen from the parish’s outdoor Nativity crèche, CNY reported at that time.

Father Julian, 62, celebrated his first anniversary at the parish on June 28; his previous assignment was as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish in Troy.

Ordained for the Franciscans’ Immaculate Conception Province in 1981, Father Julian is keeping the incident of the vandalized statuaries in perspective as he contemplates the charisms of his order’s namesake.

“Francis’ charism of love of nature and love of people” is integral, Father Julian said.

“That’s the key to my life here, and the love of what I do…And the people know that.”

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