School cemetery reopened after vandalism assault
Two days after vandalism blurred tombstones and a central cross with swastikas in the Dominican Cemetery at Providence College, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence inaugurated and inaugurated the sacred grounds that Dominicans have been in since the college was founded in Year 1917 were buried.
About 75 brothers and members of the Providence College community gathered for the solemn ceremony on June 24, when the bishop blessed the grounds with holy water and incense and offered prayers for ordination.
“Today we come to pray that God will purify us. That God will cleanse our world, our nation, our community, our church and this place of vandalism from any feeling of anger and division, violence and vandalism and leave a kind of peace that only the presence of God can give us in the end. Bishop Tobin said on the tree-shaded cemetery site between the college's center for art, culture, and social justice and its sports fields.
Dominican Father Brian Shanley, who stepped down as president on June 30 after 15 years in office, greeted Bishop Tobin at the cemetery entrance and noted that it was a moment of healing.
"We as a community all felt hurt by what happened last night, and this is an opportunity for us to heal ourselves as a community and this sacred ground," said Father Shanley, adding that they also pray for the man should now be responsible for damage. "I think his motivation was more psychological than I hope, malice, and he deserves our prayers and forgiveness."
At 9:30 p.m. on June 22, the night of vandalism, Providence College public security officers patrolled a call for a man suspicious of the campus Dominican cemetery.
When the officers arrived, they met a man who was defacing tombstones and burning tombstones. This resulted in a joint statement by Father Shanley and his successor, Dominican Father Kenneth Sicard.
Officials approached the person to question what she was doing and to confirm the vandalism when they noticed that the suspect had painted swastikas and anti-Catholic language on the central cross of the cemetery and on several gravestones, and was actively American Flags burned, which stood on some of the tombs, ”the statement said.
Photos taken from the damage that night show the Nazi swastikas on several monuments and the words "Now kill Jesuits!" painted on the base of the central cross.
While the officers tried to question the suspect, the man hit one of the officers in the head and fled the cemetery. The campus was closed and a shelter was established, where officers and K-9 units from the Providence Police Department, along with college public security officers, searched for the suspect.
Providence police localized and arrested the suspect identified as Keveon Gomera, 26, who was hiding in the bushes on campus. He was charged on June 23 with the desecration of 15 tombs that were crimes and a crime.
Campus police officer Kenneth Riccio was injured when he encountered the suspect in the cemetery. Riccio has been a member of the campus squad for more than 12 years since he left Providence's police department.
Father Shanley mentioned the injured officer at the inauguration and said, "A person and the graves were attacked here."
The college president reminded everyone that the brothers who came before him and those there had a sacred trust to advance the mission and service of the school.
"In a way, the sanctity of this place is not in what is on the ground, but in the life that lies beneath it. It really makes this ground holy," he said.
The cemetery was the resting place for "our beloved, late Dominicans who have served Providence College so well and faithfully for many years," the school officials said in their statement.
“When we rededicate the cemetery, we will go back to the work and mission of Providence College that these people gave their lives to. Today in this cemetery we are experiencing the rebirth that is part of our lives and that God can heal and get well if bad things happen. "
While asking for forgiveness, Father Shanley also condemned the "racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic action" that took place. The school statement said: “We condemn this action for support and solidarity with the Jewish members of our community, many of whom enjoyed the friendship of these late Dominicans. PC has a long and proud history of working with the Rhode Island Jewish community. "
In 2007, Father Shanley helped establish the college's Jewish-Catholic theological exchange in the theological department. The exchange was an integral part of campus life and promoted inter-religious learning, understanding and friendship between Christians and Jews.
“Our community includes love and mutual respect for all people. There's no place for hate on our campus, ”the statement said.
Rick Snizek is the editor-in-chief of the Catholic newspaper Rhode Island in the Diocese of Providence