Vandals damage Holy Family window; five other churches hit
January 4, 2018

Photo by Christopher Valentino
Rev. Michael Gabriel, Holy Family pastor, shows the damage to the stain glass window that might take up to $25,000 to repair. Five other area churches were targeted by thieves during the month of December.

By Susan S. Stevens

Christmas joy was tempered by sadness at six houses of worship hit in December by vandals and would-be thieves: Holy Family, Old St. Patrick’s, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Pius, St. Procopius, and St. Adalbert churches.

“It reminds us to always be forgiving and understand people are coming from other places,” said Linda Lavery as she helped distribute food to the homeless at Holy Family Church, 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd. “At Christmas time, people do have a lot of emotional issues. We are called to be forgiving.”

The worst loss among the six was at Holy Family. Someone climbed atop the church’s Parish Center and smashed a century-and-a-half old stained glass window to drop down into the sanctuary the night of Dec. 12, said the Rev. Michael Gabriel, Holy Family pastor. The church was ransacked, but nothing was taken. “I had everything pretty well locked up,” he said.

“The big thing was that it was the Prodigal Son window,” with the father looking for the son to forgive him, Fr. Gabriel said.

“People do not respect each other, the sacred,” he said. “But it is a window,” Fr. Gabriel added, noting that the damage could have been worse.

Although the 1860s window is insured, donations are being sought to better protect it when it is restored. Repairs are estimated to cost $20,000 to $25,000, he said.

“We will have a different type of protective glass on it,” Fr. Gabriel said, noting that the new protective glass will be more like a windshield that would shatter but not break.

Jim Bruton, Holy Family’s religious education coordinator, discovered the damage. Since the section of window disintegrated into small pieces, he doubted the glass could be pieced back together.

“Maybe a person who was not treated as well as they thought they should be” broke into the church, said Ray Walsh, a parishioner. Since the destruction, the church has received many offers of help and contributions, he said, adding, “Out of something this terrible, goodness comes.”

Lavery said, “When something like this happens, people take it personally. It is like this is their home.”

At St. Procopius Church, 1641 S. Allport St., a thief broke through a glass panel in a side door to steal money from the candle box, Sylvia Pels, church operations director, said. “A surveillance camera photographed the thief, but could not capture his face.”

Pels said the St. Procopius burglary was at 2 a.m. Dec. 4. At 9:30 a.m. the same day, a thief broke into St. Pius Parish, 1919 S. Ashland Ave. No one at St. Pius could be reached for comment.

On Dec. 7, someone tried to break into St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 813 W. Roosevelt Rd., smashing a glass panel in a front door. “The alarm was on, so they left,” the pastor, Rev. Walter Mallo, said.

At Old St. Pat’s, 700 W. Adams St., sometime between 10 p.m. Dec. 20 and 10 a.m. the following morning, someone smashed a glass block window but did not enter the church, police said.

Fr. Gabriel said he was told vandals also broke two windows at the former St. Adalbert Church, 1650 W. 17th St., which has been purchased by an arts group. Many windows in the church and its adjacent buildings were already boarded up.

If you would like to make a donation towards the Holy Family window, call (312) 492-8442.

Police said they were not aware of any other similar December incidents, and no arrests had been made.