Vandals set fire to Ewa Beach church lawn, destroy religious sta - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Vandals set fire to Ewa Beach church lawn, destroy religious statues

Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception
Church officials say they're not sure what's motivating the vandalism. Church officials say they're not sure what's motivating the vandalism.
Vandals destroyed religious statues and other items at the church on Renton Road. Vandals destroyed religious statues and other items at the church on Renton Road.
EWA BEACH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception on Renton Road opens every day before the sun comes up and closes its doors hours after the sun goes down.

"It needs to be open during the day for people to stop in and pray and meditate and have some peace," Father Mike Dalton said.

That peace was shattered twice in two days, though.

On Sunday afternoon, someone poured gasoline on the church's front lawn and set the grass on fire.

"Probably a 10-foot wide and 10-foot long section right under our church signage was on fire," Dalton said. "I ran back into my residence, grabbed my cell phone and a fire extinguisher and came out and put the fire out and then called the police."

Dalton found an empty gas can, spent fireworks, and a gasoline soaked blanket draped over the church sign.

Then, on Monday, during morning mass, vandals struck again.

"Someone called me over to the shrine and we saw that it had been smashed up, and everything thrown all over the place," Dalton said.

In the grotto, someone broke off the head of the St. Jude statue, crushed a smaller plaster figurine of the Infant of Prague, and defaced the statue of Mary with burning wax.

The vandalism has stunned church regulars.

"Shock. Disbelief," parishioner Ruby Lobetos said.

She said for church members, the religious artifacts hold spiritual and sentimental value. The St. Jude statue was more than 50 years old.

"And to see it every time I go, and now it's gone. Someone just took it away like that," Lobetos said.

Ironically, Immaculate Conception is teaching churchgoers about extending mercy.

"This is a concrete way to pray for the individual or individuals that did harm to our church," Dalton said.

Lobetos said that's easier said than done.

"It's very hard. But we always try because they always say our Lord is a forgiving Lord," Lobetos said.

Police are looking for leads in the case. The church doesn't know what's behind the property crimes.

"That's the question everyone asks, 'Have you done anything to anybody?' Certainly we've not done anything intentional," Dalton said.

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