The latest in a string of acts of vandalism has the parishioners of Cloverdale’s Precious Blood Parish worried.
Last Monday night (Nov. 20), vandals poured fake blood over the statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary outside of the parish, splashed fake blood on an exterior wall of the parish hall, and drew a pentagram in fake blood on the concrete in front of the church.
“It’s very disturbing,” said Rosana Ruiz, an administrative assistant at Precious Blood Parish. “And it’s scary for the kids.”
It isn’t the first time that Precious Blood Parish has been the victim of vandalism, but they’ve “never had anything like fake blood before,” according to Ruiz.
Two days later, traces of the fake blood were still visible. It didn’t quite wash off of the parish wall, and drops of blood could still be seen on the statues.
“Why would they do that?” asked Ruiz. “It’s not like we worship those statues, but they are remembrances. It’s like having pictures of your family defaced.”
It was more upsetting that it happened at night, said Ruiz, as the first people that arrive on the parish grounds in the morning are the children who attend the morning day care program.
“The kids saw this. There was a kid that picked up the container of the fake blood that was just left there.”
In a statement emailed to the Cloverdale Reporter, the Archbishop of Vancouver J. Michael Miller said, “I’m very saddened by the vandalism that took place at Precious Blood Parish this week. The parish and school have an exceptional relationship with the neighbourhood, including our friends of other faiths and churches. An incident like this harms the entire community.
“I ask for prayers for the individuals reponsible,” the statement read, “that they may realize God’s love for them and his desire for harmony among all people.”
Ruiz called the Surrey RCMP, as they have a “growing file” on the vandalism at the parish, she said.
“When I reported yesterday’s incident, [Surrey RCMP] said they wouldn’t even come out, because it was mischief.”
The container of fake blood was not retrieved as evidence, as it was in the elements and anyone could have picked it up. she said.
“They can’t do anything with it,” said Ruiz. “That’s what they told me.”
In an emailed statement to the Cloverdale Reporter, Surrey RCMP Cpl. Scotty Schuman said, “There has only been one previous incident reported to us by the church regarding vandalism.”
“Our Community Response Unit is waiting to hear back from church representatives and has planned to meet them to see what steps if any can be taken to prevent this mischief in the future,” he wrote.
The vandalism incident follows a break in that occurred in late August. The Cloverdale Catholic School, which is located on the parish grounds, was broken into, and the exterior walls of the parish vandalized with black paint.
Ruiz said that the church has had problems with local youth lately, with increased “acts of mischief.”
Mostly, she said she was concerned about the effect it was having on the children in the church community. Not only for the children attending Cloverdale Catholic School, which has students from kindergarten to grade 7, but the several community groups for youth that meet at the church, and the morning and after-school day care program.
Karla Erickson, catechism coordinator for Precious Blood Parish, said that teenagers have recently been coming by at night and banging on the windows where the catechism school is in session, scaring the children inside of the building.
“Nobody wants to scare children, that’s crazy,” said Erickson. “But if you do [bang on the windows] at night to a Grade One-r, they’re all screaming.”
Erickson is concerned about possible escalation. “My concern is, what if one of them gets brave and throws a rock?”
Erickson said she wants to share the story of what’s happening at Precious Blood Parish to let other people in the Cloverdale community become aware of the problem, as she’s concerned that others are being vandalized and haven’t come forward.
“We’re one community, and we’re one church in that community. Why they’re choosing the church, I don’t know if that’s significant.”
Precious Blood Parish has been Cloverdale’s only Catholic church since it was established in 1947. It’s located on 59th Avenue in Cloverdale, close by to neighbouring Cloverdale United Church on Highway 15.
Regardless of faith, Erickson said, “Can you imagine the little kids seeing a statue of Jesus with blood all over it? It’s going to freak them out,” she said.
It is the first time in Ruiz’s memory that the church has had incidents so close together.
“It’s been happening a little too often,” she said. “We have had incidences in the past, but always isolated. Not rampant, one after the other.”
Surrey RCMP had not responded to a request for comment by the Cloverdale Reporter’s press deadline.