Father Bautista said he noticed the fire when he came to open the church on Sunday morning. At that point, the local fire department was already battling the fire at the nearby Baptist church, which appears to have been set around 2 am, and was discovered around 5 am.
The fire damaged a chair and some carpet near the sanctuary at Sacred Heart. Father Bautista said the fire department and the police were surprised that the fire did not do more damage.
The fire at the Baptist church did not entirely destroy the building, but the damage to the interior was significant enough that the building may be beyond salvage, local media reported.
Father Bautista said he left his card with the fire chief— who attends the Baptist church that burned— asking him to tell the church's pastor that they are welcome to use Sacred Heart's parish hall as a gathering space until their church is repaired.
"Honestly, that was my first thought. I wanted to talk to them and offer them [our] building. I didn't realize [someone] had burned our church too," he laughed.
The priest said he does not know who could have set the fires, and chose not to speculate. The investigation is still in its early stages, he noted, and he said he does not want to feed rumors in the community.
He said he considers his parish to be blessed that their insurance will likely cover the incident, and that he was still able to celebrate 2pm Sunday Mass the day of the fire.
"People were comforted that we were still able to have the Eucharist, that is a big statement for the community," he said.
The Brewster Police Department said in a Nov. 16 statement that the two fires remain under investigation. The police have not announced any suspects.
Brewster PD Chief Marcos Ruiz declined to comment further to CNA, adding that the department does not have plans to release additional information on the active investigation.
The Diocese of Spokane requested prayers for the Sacred Heart community in a tweet on Sunday. The diocese did not comment further by press time.
Numerous attacks on Catholic churches and art in the U.S. have been documented throughout 2020— including three separate desecrations of Marian statues in the same weekend in July.
At least three vandalism attacks have happened against images of Mary this year in New York City alone.
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The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver was defaced with graffiti during a protest June 1, with rioters spray-painting slogans such as “GOD IS DEAD” and “PEDOFILES” [sic] on the church’s exterior.
A statue of the Virgin Mary was beheaded in Gary the evening of July 2 or morning of July 3.
On July 11, a man was arrested after he reportedly admitted to crashing a minivan into Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, Florida, and then setting it on fire while parishioners were inside. No one was injured.
Also on July 11, a 249-year-old California mission founded by St. Junipero Serra burned in a fire being investigated as arson.
The same day, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was attacked and beheaded at a parish in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Three days later, vandals beheaded a statue of Christ outside Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Southwest Miami-Dade County, the same day that a statue of the Blessed Virgin at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs was tagged with red paint in an act of vandalism.
At Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Bloomingburg, New York, a monument to unborn children killed by abortion was knocked over the weekend of July 18.