Early Sunday morning, it was discovered that a vandal spread human feces throughout Saint Clement Catholic Church in Bowling Green, MO, including on the Bible and other sacred objects, according to local reports.
The intruder also allegedly poured wine on altar linens and other vestments of the church. The church had not been locked after the Saturday evening Mass and was left open all night, as is the custom of the parish, leaving people access to pray in the church at any hour of the night.
The vandalism was discovered when a visiting priest began to prepare the church for the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass.
Later on Sunday, church members began changing the locks to the building and working to clean the interior of the church.
The pastor Saint Clement’s parish, Father Bill Peckman, posted a message on Facebook for the Bowling Green Catholic community, calling on parishioners to respond to hate and persecution with prayer and forgiveness.
Fr. Peckman urged the parish community to “give strong Christian witness” by praying for whoever had perpetrated the attack.
“We cannot give into the anger or fear, such as an attack can muster. We cannot respond to sin with sin. We will rise above this and show not only the larger community but the attacker themselves that the fullness of God’s mercy can be found at St. Clement,” Peckman said.
“I have no doubt that we will walk away from this stronger. We can never let evil done to us to define us. We continue to pray for this person(s) responsible as our time is better spent praying for them than being angry at them.”
Local law enforcement officials arrested a local woman, Linda Howard, 54, Monday afternoon after receiving reports that her pickup truck had been seen in the church parking lot over the weekend. Howard allegedly confessed to the crime.
According to the local NBC affiliate, “She said she was ‘mad at God for how her life had turned out.’ She also said she’d gone back to ‘seek forgiveness.'”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome.