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By Daniel E. Beckham
Parishioners of Holy Family Catholic Church in Artesia were distraught on Saturday morning when they found a Holy Shrine covered in graffiti displaying the tags from a local street gang.
Hews Media Group-Community News witnessed the words ‘Mr. [redacted] You’ spray painted in black on the brilliant white statue at around 10:30 a.m.
A long time community member of Artesia told HMG-CN that the tagging is consistent with a known area adolescent graffiti gang.
Holy Family Catholic Church in Artesia has more than 15,000 active parish members.
“I think that although people have their rights, they should know not to damage something as beautiful as the shrine. I think it is wrong and they should really step up to what they did and either pay for the damages or clean it up themselves,” commented active parishioner Isabella Rae Musngi.
The Shrine of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is located at the site of the old marquee in front of the Church. The shrine holds a 7 foot high marble statue of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and was completed in the late summer of last year.
Fr. Raymond Decipeda told HMG-CN, “The shrine was blessed last September 8, 2013. It was Artisan Granite that built the statue for us, a company based out of Rhode Island. When the earlier shrines were built, ethnic groups built them. Our Lady of Fatima by the Portuguese, San Lorenzo by the Filipinos, Our Lady of Guadalupe by the Hispanics. I wanted a shrine that will unite. So I initiated the building of the shrine of Holy Family. I discussed this with the leaders of the organizations and the whole parish. Everyone was excited. In less than two months, I had the enough money to build, more than $60,000.00.”’
“I chose the statue design the way it would look and a volunteer architect put the design on paper. A volunteer structural civil engineer did the structural calculations and design. The city approved it and I finished building it in a month.”
“When it was time to bless, I wanted the laborers who worked on it do the blessing, then the parishioners, then last, the priests. We didn’t get a Bishop to bless unlike the other shrines which were all blessed by bishops. This is the people’s shrine so I wanted the people to bless this one. That is why the hurt was so deep for everyone when it was vandalized. That is also why that family sprang into action at once to clean the statue.”
A concerned member of the church, Marilou Dimaculangan, told HMG-CN, “If this was done by teenagers, were they under the influence of illicit drugs? Were they doing it to spite the Catholicism as a sentiment or as a result of disappointment with the situation they’re in?”
“This is not just a typical form of vandalism. This is the highest form of disrespect, not just of property but of religion and beliefs,” said a distraught parishioner Arlene Bangayan-Rodriguez.
Parishioners gathered this morning to clean up the graffiti that had desecrated the Holy Shrine at Holy Family Artesia. Among them were Alyssa Galhano and Travis Avila, accompanied by family members.
Fr. Raymond commented, “When I first saw the vandalism, I felt deeply saddened, like someone close to me died. I wasn’t angry, but I just felt so sad. All I thought was, how could one be so brazen? The messages and comments people have left here simply showed how hurt we all are. We pray for those who did this. Hope they don’t discover the Pieta inside.”
“While the vandalism on the Statue of the Holy Family gave us so much sadness, these concerned parishioners just sprang into action to clean up the statue. They truly love our Parish, Holy Family Church. Without any command or instruction, they just did what needs to be done. Thank you to these concerned and devoted parishioners, God Bless You All.”
When the taggers are brought to justice Fr. Raymond commented, “I would like them to do community service hours here with us. We always get kids mandated by court to do hours. I will work with them, I will let them eat with us at our table. I will let them see there are good people. Most kids leave after feeling grateful that they were treated well.”
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