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Unknown vandals caused about $20,000 damage to a shrine and dozens of trees on the 89-acre property of the Sisters of St. Francis in Sylvania earlier this month, according to authorities and the order spokesman.
“Whoever did this, ... they literally lashed out at everything and anything they saw, and they just cut through it,” said Sister Jeremias Stinson, the superintendent of environmental stewardship for the property. “It looked like they just wanted to destroy it.”
“The baby Jesus, I am going to keep the statue in the nativity scene the way it is and just let people see it,” she said. “And when people see it, we hope they will pray for the person or persons who did this that they will receive help to manage their anger problems.”
Between May 31 and June 12, apparently in more than one incident, someone randomly lopped of tree limbs and spray-painted trunks and limbs of some 40 trees throughout the 55 acres of the campus woodlands, trails, and prayer garden, the order spokesman said. In the garden, they also damaged the baby Jesus statue in the nativity shrine, cutting of the feet and part of a hand.
About 10 to 15 of the damaged trees were “reduced to sticks” and will be cut down. The rest will be saved through corrective pruning, insect control, and fertilization, but will never be “true to form,” Sister Jeremias said. The damaged trees are mostly spruces, including 40-to-50-foot-tall ones. Others are oak, maple, forest chestnut, buckeye, elm, and pear trees.
Sylvania police said they have no suspects and no leads in the case.
On June 12 at 2:30 p.m., Sister Jeremias went to the prayer garden to check on it and noticed a 40- foot Norway spruce with its branches cut off “8 to 10 feet up.”
“I realized something was wrong and I started checking the area, and the first place that I came to was the nativity shrine, and I looked at the statue and saw that the feet and part of the left hand of baby Jesus were cut off,” she said. “When I saw that, it just went through me like lightning. I just thought, ‘Who could do something like this?’ ”
The vandalized trees were purchased through federal grants and private donations. The trees will be difficult to replace, Sister Jeremias said.
Nothing like this incident, the order spokesman said, has happened since the early 1970s when someone pushed down 14 pillars from the fence line along Silica Drive and Convent Boulevard, on the order’s property.
“The focus now is to keep an extra eye on the [property],” Sylvania police Chief Dispatcher Steve Lafferty said. “We are working with the [property] security.”