October 3, 2023

Historic church glass vandalized causing estimated $100K in damage

3 min read
Historic church glass vandalized causing estimated 0K in damage
Historic church glass vandalized causing estimated 0K in damage
Father Vincent Chávez, pastor at Saint Therese Parish, on Monday examines damage to a stained glass window at the church on 4th Street. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The Rev. Vincent Paul Chávez, pastor at Saint Therese Parish, was not feeling the love on Valentine’s Day after a man “rampaging” at 2 a.m. hurled chunks of concrete through several expensive and historic stained glass windows at the 4th Street church.

A grounds manager who was in the church at the time of the incident heard what he thought might be gunshots and reported it to police. According to a criminal complaint, police caught the suspect in the act of vandalizing the building and reported that he initially would not comply with their commands.

Chávez said the suspect, who may be homeless, took a concrete downspout splash block, broke it into large pieces and threw the chunks at the building, breaking the glass, as well as damaging red clay roof tiles.

The criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court states the man, who gave his name as Jet Doe, said he was 31 and provided no address. He was booked into jail, and charged with concealing identity, resisting or refusing to comply with an officer, and criminal damage over $1,000.

Way over $1,000, according to Chávez.

Restoration of the stained glass windows is estimated at $100,000 and Chávez said he expected that insurance would cover most of the cost. In addition, he said the parish now must raise funds to install special vented protective covers to preserve the artistic glass from future vandalism and storms. He estimated the bill at $143,000.

The stained glass windows are part of a collection of 34 artistic windows fabricated in Chartres, France, in 1954, in advance of the Dec. 1955 dedication of the church.

Father Vincent Chávez looks at a damaged stained glass window that was fabricated in France for the church’s 1955 dedication. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The church, whose formal name is Shrine of the Little Flower, Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus Parish, is located on Fourth between Menaul and Candelaria, “in a gritty and industrial part of the city” inhabited by many homeless people “who are known to suffer with mental health issues and addictions,” Chávez said.

Although not familiar with the individual arrested by police or his mental health status, “he’s rampaging at 2 in the morning, breaking windows and his encounter with police was erratic,” Chávez said.

According to the criminal complaint, the man said he attacked the church because his girlfriend told him “there was dead bodies and meth labs inside the church.”

The church is a shrine that houses bones of Saint Therese of Lisieux, a 19th-century French nun, Chávez said.

He and parish members are no strangers when it comes to taking on issues of peace and social justice. The parish kitchen is used to prepare meals for homeless people who congregate at nearby Coronado Park, “which has become a horrific human embarrassment and shame of our society,” Chávez said.

The Saint Therese Parish was vandalized overnight by an individual who threw cement fragments at the stained glass windows, damaging several of them. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)