Divine Mercy shrine at Catholic parish in Wisconsin defaced with graffiti

Photo illustration. / Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 22, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A Catholic parish in southern Wisconsin suffered a graffiti attack overnight on Sunday which saw a large tiled display of the Divine Mercy image defaced with green spray-painted letters.

Run by the Stockbridge, Massachusetts-based Marian Fathers, St. Peter Parish is located in Kenosha, on Lake Michigan north of Chicago near the Illinois border. A photo shared on social media by Father Donald Calloway shows green spray-painted graffiti on one of the exterior granite shrines near the entrance to the church.

Deacon Terrance Maack, the parish’s administrative assistant, told CNA that the incident occurred between 7 and 8 p.m. on the evening of Sunday, Nov. 20, possibly during the 7 p.m. Mass. The church, which is located on a well-lit street, does not have security cameras.

The shrine will need to be professionally cleaned with help from insurance money, he said. The spray paint won’t seep into the marble itself, he said, but the Divine Mercy image is made up of tiles, so the grout between the tiles will need to be professionally cleaned, Maack said.

Maack requested prayers for the perpetrator, noting that Jesus’ Divine Mercy — expressed in the image they defaced — remains available for them.

The motive for the attack is not clear. The letters spray-painted on the image, “ANKHEEMMAAT,” may refer to the similarly-spelled “Ankhemmaat,” an obscure 4th-century B.C. Egyptian priest.

The vandalism was promptly reported to the police, Maack said.

When reached by CNA, Sergeant Jeffery Galley of the Kenosha Police Department said the department did receive the criminal complaint, but they do not yet have any leads in the case.

Vandalism attacks against Catholic buildings, monuments, and places of worship have continued apace since at least May 2020, when the U.S. bishops began tracking such incidents. Since then, the bishops’ national office says they have tracked at least 172 incidents across 38 states and the District of Columbia. The vandalism incidents include multiple incidents of statues and gravestones defaced, including with swastikas and anti-Catholic language.

In particular, vandalism attacks with a clear pro-choice or pro-abortion motive have exploded in the months since the leak of a draft decision from the U.S. Supreme Court showing that it would overturn Roe v. Wade. CNA has since recorded attacks on 33 churches, 55 pregnancy centers, three political organizations, and one maternity home since early May where the public evidence points to a pro-abortion motive. The crimes include vulgar graffiti, property damage, threats, theft, and arson.

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