Another act of vandalism: Nebraska Catholic church’s altar flipped over, statue destroyed

nebraska vandalism St. Paulinus Catholic Church was vandalized sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning prior to Palm Sunday liturgy 2023. | Father Ryan Salisbury

The pastor of a Catholic church in Syracuse, Nebraska, was shocked when he discovered Saturday morning that the altar had been tipped over, a statue desecrated, and several other objects damaged. 

“Somehow, in the Lord’s providence, this was allowed,” Father Ryan Salisbury, pastor of St. Paulinus Catholic Church, told CNA April 3. 

“It happened in Our Lord’s own Holy Week. His own journey was marked by injustice, by brokenness, and by damage done to his own body, and that was allowed to happen here in Syracuse in some ways,” he added.

A Sacred Heart of Jesus statue was broken beyond repair and candlesticks were damaged as well as the altar stone. The damage amounted to $5,000, he said. The tabernacle and the Eucharist remained untouched. 

Police are currently investigating the crime, which was not captured on video, Salisbury said. 

The church was able to be cleaned up in time before a Mass and baptism on Saturday. Salisbury offered a message of forgiveness to the perpetrators of the crime. 

“In Our Lord’s own Holy Week, when these things took place to him, his prayer was, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’”

“That’s our prayer as a parish,” he said.

“While this does not excuse what took place, we want to meet them with forgiveness in any ways that they’re hurting or broken because Our Lord wants to bring them healing as well,” he said.

Julie Slama, a Nebraska state senator and a parishioner at St. Paulinus, said on Twitter that she was heartbroken by the vandalism. 

Slama, a convert to Catholicism, asked for prayers for the parish. 

“May all those who choose to worship be able to do so freely and without fear,” she added.

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