Police Department are investigating a hate crime committed over the weekend at St. Matthews Catholic Church
in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Blessed Virgin Mary was vandalized sometime before Saturdays morning mass when it was first noticed that the she was missing her head and hands which had been held in a position of prayer.
Antoinette Usher, Director of Facilities Operations at St. Matthew
, said that she believes the desecration of the statue happened late Friday night or early Saturday morning. The first time they parishioners had noticed the vandalism was just before the 9 a.m. mass on Saturday.
Usher said the police are investigating this as a hate crime. The church has surveillance cameras that cover the entire property owned by St. Matthew's Church
and have turned those tapes over to the detectives with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Department
, who are using these images to find out who is responsible for this crime.
The garden where the statue was displayed was built by the Eagle Scouts in 2001. Usher spoke of some of the symbolism of this garden of peace and prayer. There are seven flag-stone pieces that form the walkway around the statue, these symbolise the seven gifts
of the Holy Spirit, which include wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and awe-wonder.
There are 36 rose bushes planted around the statue that symbolize the multi-cultural ethnicity of the congregation. The blue green Verdi's finish was chosen to be representative of all people and not be specific to any one color or race.
The garden with its solar lighting was to remind them to be "good stewards of the environment." The Virgin Mary's hands were held in a position of prayer so the community would remember to pray for each other daily and for others in the world. Prayer for peace, and prayer for forgiveness of those who commit such acts of hate against a church and one another.
Ms. Usher said this is not the first time they have been a victim of a hate crime. The have been other incidences that she could not discuss. She says the church members and staff are extremely confident in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Departments Detectives ability to find and arrest those responsible. She said they will work diligently in solving this crime of hate that affects the entire community.
At this time they do not have an estimate to repair or replace the statue, Usher said.
Monsignor John McSweeney
has for now decided to leave the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary standing in the way and form these individuals left her, so that they as a church and community would learn a lesson from this disturbing act of violence and vandalism.
Police Crime Stoppers are requesting if anyone has any information to assist in solving this crime to please call the Crime Stoppers Anonymous hotline at 704-334-1600. You can submit a tip online
to crime solvers.