By Jessica Easthope
JAMAICA — Vandals struck twice at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church on the night of Jan. 5, ransacking the creche.
The criminal mischief was discovered the night before the Feast of Epiphany after two people smashed through plexiglass and tore down the decorations on a nativity outside the church in Jamaica. They returned later and desecrated statues.
On Sunday, hundreds filled the pews for Mass at St. Nicholas Of Tolentine Church for an Epiphany celebration to present gifts to Jesus, closing out the Christmas season.
Parishioners walked out of Mass and past what they say was a shocking scene.
“I’m horrified, it’s blasphemy, it’s a shame that anyone would think to make damage,” one parishioner said. “I’m horrified. I really am, it’s sad.”
“It’s vicious people are so ready to destroy what is blessed and holy, as a Catholic to see this destroyed,” another said. “I had no idea people felt this against Catholics.”
Father Thomas Joseph, associate pastor of St Nicholas of Tolentine, was still in disbelief days after the incident. “We don’t know why these people are losing their faith and doing this kind of action against our church,” he said.
The church’s surveillance system captured the crime. Thursday night, just before 8 p.m., two men can be seen approaching the nativity on a scooter.
One person tears down the lights and kicks the plexiglass door. They ride off and return two hours late for more.
They tear down the rest of the lights and go into the nativity, breaking the wooden statues of Mary and Jesus off their bases.
In Mass, parishioners prayed for the suspects, saying forgiveness is not a question because it’s what Jesus would have done.
“They need to maybe have more faith, come to the church and learn more about Jesus and love and forgiveness,” said parishioner Rafael Rodriguez.
“We have to clear our hearts and our minds, and we have to forgive and move on. You know, God forgives everyone,” added fellow parishioner Lisette Wolf.
Father Joseph said the nativity scene is planned to come down this week. It will now have to be completely rebuilt before next Christmas.
The church informed the NYPD of the vandalism and is cooperating with the investigation. So far, no arrests have been made.