WAILUKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A chapel at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church was vandalized overnight, a day after parishioners joined other Christians in celebrating Easter.
The damage was discovered Monday by women arriving to prepare the Saint Damien chapel for morning mass.
“This morning, four of the ladies came and called me,” said the pastor, Father Robert Bunda. “They said ‘Father, the whole front door is trashed.’"
Bunda called police and went to the chapel, and found a mess.
“When I entered the chapel, it was devastated,” he said. “We have a big picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe torn down. The relic of St. Anthony was covered, and the candles ― everything was trashed.”
Flowers had been taken from their vases, ripped apart and thrown on the floor. The crucifix behind the altar had been desecrated.
“They trashed the holders for the candles and the flower sand they put them outside. And the little infant Jesus, they cut off the fingers and the hand."
Bunda said the chapel is usually locked at night. But somehow, that got overlooked on Easter Sunday, the most important celebration for Christians.
“We had mass in the morning, but we didn’t have a 5 p.m. mass, and we usually close it after. So somehow we forgot to close the chapel,” said Bunda.
But looking at the amount of damage, Bunda believes it was more than a crime of opportunity.
“When we went in there, everything is all trashed. It was almost like they were trying to send a message,” he said. “I don’t know if its a hate message.”
Maui Police said they had opened a burglary investigation, but did not say yet whether they would look into the case as a hate crime.
Bunda said three weeks ago, someone broke into the rectory at the church and vandalized the kitchen and other areas.
He also said there are burglary alarms at the rectory, but not at the chapel. He said he was considering installing security cameras as a precaution.
Despite what happened, Father Bunda said it was still important to keep the chapel open to everyone.
“Nothing happens during the day, but at night ...” he said. “So I guess we have to be more vigilant about locking the thing.”