Mt. Carmel Church Pastor Calms Congregation After Vandalism

By Meredith Hoffman | February 2, 2012 9:10pm 

WILLIAMSBURG—The pastor of the historic Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church is trying to calm his shaken congregation after statues were recently found vandalized outside the 125-year-old house of worship.

A statue of the Virgin Mary at the church on North 8th and Havemeyer streets was marked with the letter "V" and a sculpture of St. Jude was toppled and broken late Tuesday night, according to police officials.

But the church's pastor, Msgr. Joseph Calise, said all the damage can be fixed.

"We're trying not to cause panic or to point fingers," said Calise, adding that he has received a flood of calls since the incident. "We're trying to keep people calm until we know the facts."

Calise, who has presided over the 800-family congregation for four years, said the neighborhood is very supportive of Mt. Carmel, and that "nothing like this has happened" since he has been at the church.

"We don't know if this was someone who came out of a bar late at night, if it was intentional, if it was someone who was angry or grief stricken," he said. "If it was someone who came to do a hate crime, I think the damage would have been much worse."

The church hosted an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting until about 11 p.m. Tuesday and the maintenance worker discovered the damage at 8 a.m., so Calise said the vandalism must have occurred in late-night hours.

"I'm concerned because I want to find out why this happened," said Calise. "I'm also concerned about the person who did it."

Police said no arrests had been made as of Thursday evening.