The community at St. Elisabeth of Hungary Church in Van Nuys is asking for prayers after a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe was vandalized on church grounds.
The parish’s security system recorded video footage of an unknown man dressed in black approaching the mural with a sledgehammer at 1:40 a.m. Wednesday morning. He can be seen smashing the tiles that make up Our Lady’s face several times before fleeing. The police are currently investigating.
The hand-painted tile mural stands between the church and the rectory. It was installed over 35 years ago as a “symbol of community unity,” said business manager Irma Ochoa. Each square tile was sponsored by a parish family. Overlooking a small altar, the mural has become a popular place for parishioners to pray and light candles, asking Our Lady for special blessings.
“I feel an unspeakable sadness,” said Fr. Antonio Fiorenza, who is in residence at the parish. “But I feel pity for the one who made this sacrilegious gesture. I pray for his conversion and for all those who show contempt to the Virgin Mary.”
Students and staff from St. Elisabeth’s parish school held a procession Wednesday afternoon, ending with prayers before the damaged mural. “It was a touching moment seeing the children from the smallest to the oldest come and pray in front of Mary,” said pastor Fr. Vito Di Marzio.
On Friday, April 23, Father Di Marzio led a prayer service, which was livestreamed on the parish Facebook page. Some 30 parishioners gathered to sing and pray a decade of the rosary in front of the mural, which is roped off with caution tape, while nearly 100 others joined online. In closing, Fr. Di Marzio encouraged parishioners to “continue to pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us, and to touch the heart of the person who did this.”
Also on Friday, a local artist, Geo Rhodes, was scheduled to visit the mural and discuss a plan for repair, arranged by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “We hope that soon we will restore the image, or have a new one more beautiful than the one we had before,” Fr. Di Marzio said.
To donate to the restoration fund, visit stelisabethchurch.org.