Austin’s Fraternite de Notre Dame Church’s recently opened upstate monastery was vandalized this past weekend.
On New Year’s Eve, unknown vandals spray-painted racial slurs on a statue depicting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus located outside of the McHenry County monastery. A similar statue is located outside the order’s motherhouse in Austin at 502 N. Central Ave.
The religious order sought to open the McHenry monastery this past summer. The order faced opposition from McHenry residents before the county granted approval. In a phone interview with the Austin Weekly News, a spokesperson at the Austin house said the monastery had recently opened to the public. The spokesperson had to take another call and did not call back late Tuesday.
A half dozen priests and nuns from the Austin house moved into the McHenry monastery, which is located on a 65-acre cite near Marengo last August.
Vandals earlier hit the monastery on Dec. 2, uprooting its mailbox. This latest incident was reported to McHenry police. Along with the monastery, the order built a convent, cemetery, print shop and bakery on the site.
Early Tuesday, members of the Cook County Sheriff’s office’s anti-graffiti crew showed up at the McHenry house to clean up the statue. But the four-member crew faced angry priests and nuns who accused them of further defacing the statues.
Equipped with cleaning chemicals and sprayers, the “Graffiti Posse” as they’re know, began washing away the spray-painted graffiti, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune. Members of the French-based order demanded that they stop, mostly in their thick French accents.
The Nuns and priests, according to the Trib story, said the cleanup crew had entered the grounds without permission and spraying chemicals on a statue of Mary without asking was a sacrilege.
The order was also waiting for insurance adjusters to see the original damage. The crew stopped, apologized and offered to come back following the insurance and police investigation.
The statue is similar to the one at the Fraternite de Notre Dame’s Austin house. The statute shows the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus in her arms. Mary is wearing a blue-colored rode while Jesus is wearing a white gown. Both their skin color and hair are light and dark brown respectively. The statues are made of fiberglass.
The crew’s cleaning chemicals apparently removed the original paint, a spokesperson for the order’s founder, Bishop Jean Marie Roger Kozik, said. Portions of the statue are now just white.
Members discovered the vandalism Sunday morning. The Virgin Mary’s face had been blackened, and the letters “KKK” were scrawled on the base of the statue, according to the Tribune report. “Leave” and “go away” also were spray-painted on the statues.
A member of the Graffiti Posse, which mainly removes gang-related and other unwanted graffiti in suburban areas, said they were only trying to help.
McHenry officials are investigating the original incident.