Vandals strike chapel after Easter

Father Bunda said they appeared to be sending a message

Torn bits of paper and flower petals litter the floor of the chapel at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Wailuku. On Monday morning, Father Roland Bunda walked in to find that vandals had trashed the chapel, defacing relics, breaking pictures and leaving graffiti on the walls written in lipstick. Photos courtesy of Father Roland Bunda

After a weekend of Easter celebrations, Father Roland Bunda walked into the chapel of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church on Monday morning to find graffiti on the walls and relics on the ground.

“Somebody came in and thrashed the whole place,” Bunda said. “Just tore the whole thing apart. Broke the glass, the picture of Mother Marianne. Defaced the relics of Father Damien.”

Sometime during the night, an unknown number of vandals came into the chapel and left a wake of destruction. They broke a lamp, thrashed a small statue of the infant Jesus, dumped out a basin of holy water and replaced it with crystals. On the wall, they drew a heart with names written in lipstick. On the altar, they lit a single candle and left a small booklet of prayers open to a section on prayers for the addicted.

“It was like vandalism, but with like a purpose, to send a message,” Bunda said.

The chapel, Bunda said, was left unlocked by accident. On Sunday morning, hundreds of people showed up at the main church center to celebrate Easter Mass. Usually there’s another Mass at 5 p.m., but on Sunday they didn’t have one because of the holiday.

A smiley face made out of painter’s tape and torn paper were among the many strange messages left by the vandals. Father Roland Bunda said the vandalism seemed to have been done “with a purpose.”

“So, inadvertently, we forgot to close the chapel,” Bunda explained.

Bunda discovered the damage when he returned at about 6 a.m. on Monday, half an hour before the daily Mass. He immediately called police, who spent about two hours investigating the damage and cataloging fingerprints.

Maui police spokesman Lt. Gregg Okamoto said Monday that the incident “was classified as a burglary and being investigated as such.” He said he did not have additional details.

Strangely enough, the church property was also vandalized about three and a half weeks ago when someone broke into the rectory where the priests and brothers live. Whoever it was “smashed windows, thrashed the kitchen and office . . . broke the hands of the Blessed Mother and cut off the neck of Bernadette,” Bunda said.

Fortunately, the church found someone to piece the statues back together and fix them up with a little paint. But Bunda said the two acts of vandalism “kind of disturbs me.” He’s not sure whether they were related and whether the same person may be upset with the church.

“We don’t know whether it’s one person or several persons, or whether they were on drugs or just having a good time,” he said.

Bunda said the chapel holds about 40 people and hosts a different prayer group every night of the week. In Bunda’s 12 years as pastor at St. Anthony, the chapel has always stayed open for students, faculty and community members to come and pray, “so I hate to close it,” he said. However, he may have to look into outfitting the chapel with security cameras. The school, rectory and cafeteria already have an alarm system.

The chapel and the rectory are not the first to suffer strange damage on St. Anthony’s grounds. In March 2016, the head of a statue of the Blessed Father William Joseph Chaminade was found shattered on the school’s campus. It was unclear whether vandals or a small earthquake near Waikapu caused the damage. The statue was replaced the following year.

Bunda said that church members will try to fix what they can from the chapel, but they may have to just order new statues. The biggest damages weren’t necessarily in finances; it was more the inconvenience and the shock of the vandalism.

“Our stance is we forgive you for what you do, but please, for the greater good of the community, take out your wrath or anger someplace else,” Bunda said.

Donations to help fund the chapel’s security system can be sent to St. Anthony’s at 1627 B Mill Street, Wailuku, HI 96793, or by calling the church at 244-4148.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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