While celebrating their 100th year anniversary, Saint Anthony Catholic School in northeast Washington, D.C. was vandalized twice in less than a week.

Last Friday, a window was damaged, benches were ripped from the ground, and a statue of Saint Anthony was left headless after being toppled over.

Principal Michael Thomasian said he and community were shaken up afterwards.

“I went down to see him. The head was cut off. The first thing I did was search for the head, and it was nowhere to be found. Just shocked and heartbroken. That statue was a gift. It’s a hallmark of the school. Kids take pictures there, maintain the garden there. When you graduate, you stand there with your diploma. It’s more than a backdrop. To see it demolished like that, an act of hate, I was just speechless.” 

They reported the vandalism on Friday and filed a police report on Sunday. They didn’t know they’d be filing another report again, after they were vandalized for a second time that same Sunday night.

The school was broken into, the principal’s office ransacked, two more statues smashed, and $1,400 stolen.

“This time they got into the building, I don’t know how, but they did. They vandalized my office. They destroyed a Blessed Mother statue, a statue of St. Joseph, and Advent candles. They cleared out my desk drawers and took a camera and flash drives.”

Thomasian called the vandalism a “hate-crime.”

“I don’t know what was in the perpetrator’s mind, what was in his or her heart, but I see the vandalism, the desecration of something very special to us, and it just hurts to see it. Never has something explicitly religious been damaged and vandalized in this way. It’s really a desecration. I don’t know what the person was thinking or what led them to this.” 

Raquel Terry, a teacher there, said “the statue makes it feel more like it was hateful and it was intentional.”

Father Fred Close, pastor of Saint Anthony Parish, said “it doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“I don’t understand the criminal mind, but in my opinion, this appears to be an irrational hatred of the good. I am just praying about it. Our first response has to be praise of God, and then prayers for the person or persons doing this.”

Now today, a suspect was arrested and in connection with the vandalism and charged with theft and destruction of property.  DC Police say they are investigating it as a hate crime.

Thomasian said the saga will test their motto as they begin the new school year.

“We have a theme for the new year. The theme is, ‘Looking back with gratitude, looking forward with joy.’ That’s what we’re going to do.” 

Photo credit: Courtesy St. Anthony Catholic School via Catholic Standard, Christian Flores News via Facebook and Twitter
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