MASTIC BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police are searching for the person who broke into and vandalized a beloved shrine on Long Island.
Suffolk County hate crimes detectives are investigating after the break-in at St. Jude Catholic Church in Mastic Beach. It happened around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday at the church’s candle shrine, cops said.
Police released photos showing broken glass and destruction to the displays and statues. The crime comes just days before Christmas.
“Especially at this time of year, it’s even more heinous,” said Bruce Summa, deputy mayor of Mastic Beach. “It’s a beautiful shrine, and a lot of people come here to find solace and peace and pray at the shrine.”
Someone threw an object into the shrine, damaging the glass door, authorities said. Candles and statues were moved, but nothing was taken.
The incident happened just hours after a judge ruled a lawsuit against the church’s Father Gregory Yacyshyn was allowed to proceed, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported. A 21-year-old woman filed the civil suit earlier this year alleging the priest molested her when she was 8.
Suffolk County Deputy County Executive Tim Sini declined to comment on the investigation Thursday.
As CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported, parishoners said they’re stunned their shrine has become part of a police investigation.
“Awful. Terrible,” said Lorraine Caruana. “How could you even think of doing something like that?”
“To do things like that for no reason — no one’s got a reason to bust up a shrine and things like that,” another parishoner said.
The small shrine building sits separate from the main church. St. Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes, is especially popular with Catholics.
Caruana, who has worshiped at the church for nearly 40 years, said the shrine is an important part of the parish.
“Everyone comes looking for that shrine,” she said. “So it’s just sad. It really is.”
The church happens to be in the middle of a campaign to raise money to build a new shrine.
Suffolk County Police said hate crime detectives are investigating the break-in.
Suffolk County Crime Stoppers are offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest in the case.
Anyone with information is asked to call Hate Crimes Unit detectives at 631-852-6323 or call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.