By Jay Cook |
MONMOUTH BEACH – Bouts of vandalism at Monmouth Beach’s only church have motivated the police to ask for the public’s help to find the perpetrators, and has left the parish reflecting on the attacks.
Church of the Precious Blood, a historic Catholic parish located at 72 Riverdale Ave., has been the victim of at least three incidents of vandalism on church grounds since August, Monmouth Beach Police Chief Thomas Walsh said.
At the end of the summer, Walsh said a person or persons broke a glass window and left feces outside the church’s parish center, located in the parking lot behind the church.
The vandalism resurfaced on Oct. 28 when someone wrote “God is FAKE” in permanent marker on exterior steps at the church’s front entry, occurring sometime between noon and 5 p.m. Walsh said the graffiti was positioned in a way so those leaving service would see it when walking out.
“I know how important faith is to a lot of people and people go there to reflect,” Walsh told The Two River Times earlier this week. “And to come out and see something like that, I’m just thinking about how terrible that would be for them.”
During an investigation the police also found that a statue of St. Francis, located on the northern side of the church, had multiple fingers missing on the left hand, leaving only the middle finger raised.
Walsh said there isn’t enough evidence to connect the statue damage to the other attacks. Photos provided by parishioners from events outside dating back about a year ago show fingers missing from the statue, Walsh added.
The Monmouth Beach Police Department published a Facebook post on Nov. 3 asking borough residents for help in finding or identifying any leads. The post came after video surveillance from a nearby business did not yield any results, Walsh said.
Walsh said his department is the lead agency on the investigation, but has “conferred” with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office to make them aware.
“Is it a hate crime or a juvenile acting stupid? Are these things all actually connected?” Walsh questioned. “You don’t really
know until you actually catch the person.”
Requests for an interview with Church of the Precious Blood’s pastor Father Robert Kaeding were denied, but Kaeding did publish a column about the attacks in the Nov. 12 bulletin provided to parishioners.
In the letter, Kaeding questioned the motive for the attacks on his parish, ranging from “a mood/attitude in our country at this time that we have right to say and do whatever we want,” to “a basic disrespect for religion based on all sorts of reasons.”
He continued, saying, “Or perhaps it is caused by an obnoxious adolescent desire to simply aggravate, annoy, attack the status quo. Who knows? Will we ever know?”
Kaeding’s letter highlighted the positives of his church community – an increase of children at Sunday Mass services, activities which provide assistance to the less than fortunate, growing numbers and success among the choir and progresses made at its sister parish in Haiti.
“We need above all to pray for the mind and heart and soul of whoever did this,” the letter continued.
“That’s where the real damage is. That is where the real healing and repair must happen.”
The area surrounding Church of the Precious Blood “is one of the busiest roadways except for Ocean Avenue,” Chief Walsh said. Offices for O’Brien Realty, Monmouth Beach Supermarket and Wells Fargo Bank branch are all within a few hundred feet of the church on Beach Road.
About two dozen residential properties surround the place of worship on Griffin Street, Wesley Street and Hastings Place. The Monmouth Beach Elementary School, located at 23 Griffin St., abuts the rear of the parish center.
Walsh said there is a constant police presence around the church on Saturdays and Sundays when residents depart from services in efforts to ease traffic.
But through his 20-plus years in Monmouth Beach, Walsh remarked he’d “never seen something aimed at the church or any types of vandalism like that.
“It’s very out of character for our town,” he said.
Police ask anyone with information regarding these incidents to contact MBPD Detective Peter Rechtman at 732-229-1313, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published in the Nov. 16-23, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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