DENVER (KDVR) – On Tuesday morning, members of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in southwest Denver are lost for answers.
Around 12:50 a.m., the church’s security footage captured what they believe was a woman smashing items at the altar. Flowers were tossed and broken, dirt from the flowerpots stained the carpet, a statue was broken and equipment was tossed.
“I was shocked, I was sad and surprised in the worst way,” said the Rev. Wojciech Gierasimczyk. “Who could do this, and why?”
Gierasimczyk told FOX31 he got the call around 6:15 a.m. when the damage was first discovered by a staff member preparing for morning mass.
“I don’t see any motives. I don’t have enemies,” said Gierasimczyk. “There was one statue that was broken, brought from the back of the church to the front where it was smashed.”
Staff immediately started cleaning up the mess, but the damage was still visible when members of the congregation entered the sanctuary Tuesday morning.
“It’s more emotional damage for the people, because they came here this morning and were crying when they saw it,” said Gierasimczyk.
Police were notified and are using the church’s security footage from inside the sanctuary to identify the suspect.
Gierasimczyk doesn’t believe the woman in the footage is a member of the church but couldn’t provide a detailed description of the suspect since it was dark when the incident happened.
Gierasimczyk said several members of the congregation did report seeing a suspicious looking woman trying out doors to the sanctuary earlier this week. The door the suspect entered was unintentionally unlocked.
“I think the person who did it had to have been wounded in her heart, because I don’t think it was an attack against the church. No sacred things were taken down, it was just flowers,” said Gierasimczyk. “If someone wanted to attack the church, they would spray something on the walls or knock down more statues, but all the sacred things are still here.”
Before the pandemic, the church’s total congregation consisted of more than 2,000 people, the majority of which were immigrants. As Gierasimczyk now takes on the new role of assuring this congregation they are safe and shouldn’t dwell on the vicious act, he hopes the power of prayer will help them move on.
“Forgiveness is a gift of God,” said Gierasimczyk. “We need to leave justice to God and the civil authorities.”