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Community helps restore vandalized statues

The statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Therese the Little Flower have been a cherished part of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Forest Hills since it opened its doors in 1937.
On the morning on July 17, it took only minutes for a woman to drag them into the street and smash them. She is believed to be the same woman who toppled the statues on July 14.
Through the darkness came light, however, as community residents and organizations who joined forces to replicate the statues.
As of Monday, 129 people donated over $19,500 to a fundraiser posted on Go Fund Me started by Brian Allen on behalf of Knights of Columbus–Our Lady of Mercy Council and Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Academy.
The goal is $25,000. In addition, donations can be mailed to Our Lady of Mercy Statue Repair at 79-01 Kessel Street.
As an lector and 14-year parishioner at the church, Michael Conigliaro (also a District 29 City Council candidate), is playing a significant role in fundraising, protecting his parish, and speaking up about hate and vandalism. Upon learning about the crime, he contacted Deacon Dean Dobbins. He said,
“I reached out to a 112th Precinct colleague with a request that a patrol car be parked outside the church and it was granted,” said Michael Conigliaro, a lector and 14-year parishioner at the church.
Replacing the statues shows that hate or disrespect aimed towards any house of faith will not be tolerated.
“For people who pass the parish, they will always see the beauty of the statues and understand what they represent,” added Conigliaro. “Before someone considers performing an act of hate, they should try to empathize and consider what the effect of the damage will have on the community.”
“The statues were such an important element for a young child who needed that gentle but strong maternal figure in their lives” said Lori Jarema, who was a student at Our Lady of Mercy in the 60’s. “I love the pictures we took in front of Mary from my First Communion and graduation.”
Nancy J. O’Connor and her family were parishioners from 1951 to 2006.
“Replacing these statues for the current members and people who recall Our Lady of Mercy fondly sends a message that we will not be intimidated by this type of behavior,” she said. “Each day we see more reports of vandalism and violence, and these actions must have consequences.”
Although Andreea Sudresianu is not a parishioner, she contributed to the fund to replace the statues.
“I used to stop for a few moments and say a little prayer every time I passed by, and I rediscovered this beautiful place on my daily walks during the pandemic,” she said. “I always felt safe on these streets, but I wonder where that woman is and how she dared to do such a terrible thing.”

Community helps restore vandalized statues

The statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Therese the Little Flower have been a cherished part of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Forest Hills since it opened its doors in 1937.
On the morning on July 17, it took only minutes for a woman to drag them into the street and smash them. She is believed to be the same woman who toppled the statues on July 14.
Through the darkness came light, however, as community residents and organizations who joined forces to replicate the statues.
As of Monday, 129 people donated over $19,500 to a fundraiser posted on Go Fund Me started by Brian Allen on behalf of Knights of Columbus–Our Lady of Mercy Council and Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Academy.
The goal is $25,000. In addition, donations can be mailed to Our Lady of Mercy Statue Repair at 79-01 Kessel Street.
As an lector and 14-year parishioner at the church, Michael Conigliaro (also a District 29 City Council candidate), is playing a significant role in fundraising, protecting his parish, and speaking up about hate and vandalism. Upon learning about the crime, he contacted Deacon Dean Dobbins. He said,
“I reached out to a 112th Precinct colleague with a request that a patrol car be parked outside the church and it was granted,” said Michael Conigliaro, a lector and 14-year parishioner at the church.
Replacing the statues shows that hate or disrespect aimed towards any house of faith will not be tolerated.
“For people who pass the parish, they will always see the beauty of the statues and understand what they represent,” added Conigliaro. “Before someone considers performing an act of hate, they should try to empathize and consider what the effect of the damage will have on the community.”
“The statues were such an important element for a young child who needed that gentle but strong maternal figure in their lives” said Lori Jarema, who was a student at Our Lady of Mercy in the 60’s. “I love the pictures we took in front of Mary from my First Communion and graduation.”
Nancy J. O’Connor and her family were parishioners from 1951 to 2006.
“Replacing these statues for the current members and people who recall Our Lady of Mercy fondly sends a message that we will not be intimidated by this type of behavior,” she said. “Each day we see more reports of vandalism and violence, and these actions must have consequences.”
Although Andreea Sudresianu is not a parishioner, she contributed to the fund to replace the statues.
“I used to stop for a few moments and say a little prayer every time I passed by, and I rediscovered this beautiful place on my daily walks during the pandemic,” she said. “I always felt safe on these streets, but I wonder where that woman is and how she dared to do such a terrible thing.”

Statues vandalized outside Forest Hills church

Early on Saturday morning, a vandal damaged two statues outside of Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church at 70-01 Kissel Street in Forest Hills.
The two statues targeted by the vandal had been in place since the church’s opening in 1937, and depict the Blessed Mother and St. Therese, the patron saint of florists. The vandal dragged the statues close to 200 feet across 70th Avenue before destroying them completely with a hammer.
Earlier in the week, both of the statues had been toppled, but were not damaged. Church officials believe that the same person is responsible for both incidents.
“Both of these statues have stood in front of the church since it was built,” said Father Frank Schwarz, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church. “It is heartbreaking, but sadly it is becoming more and more common these days. I pray that religious tolerance may become more a part of our society.”
In the early morning hours of May 14, a crucifix was toppled and damaged and an American Flag burned at St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church in Bensonhurst. The damaged crucifix was discovered by Monsignor David Cassato around 8 a.m. on his walk from the rectory to the academy to greet the students.
Then on May 17, a statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus was found vandalized near the diocese’s administrative office in Windsor Terrace. Diocese officials are working towards repairing the statue to its original form.
The Roman Catholic Church is not the only religious community currently reeling from a surge in crimes. On May 13, worshippers at the Tayba Islamic Center in Sheepshead Bay were shocked to find anti-Palestine phrases scraswled on the side of the building.
On May 22, a group of Jewish worshippers were verbally assaulted outside of a Borough Park Temple. Both episodes occurred while tensions between Israel and Palestine remained extremely high.
The Diocese of Brooklyn asks that anyone with information about this weekend’s attack in Forest Hills reach out to the NYPD Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).

Statue destruction

Dear Editor,
I am appalled by the act of vandalism over the weekend that destroyed two 84-year-old statues at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Forest Hills.
This type of hatred must end. I hope the person who committed this act is captured soon.
Sincerely,
Frederick R. Bedell, Jr.
Bellerose

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