BILLINGS — What used to be a glass door at Mary Queen of Peace Parish on the South Side of Billings is now boarded up. Vandals broke into the church sometime Monday night, leaving parishioners frustrated. Sadly, this isn’t the first time the building has been targeted.
“I’ve prayed in front of her (Our Lady of Guadalupe) image and her shrine in so many capacities, with adoration, and joy, and grief and love, and to have this happen to her, it hurts,” said Amy Aguirre, a member of Mary Queen of Peace Parish, on Wednesday.
Aguirre has been a part of the Catholic community in Billings her entire life.
“Our roots go all the way to the beginning here in Billings, so it is family. It’s my church family,” Aguirre said.
So when she heard her church had been vandalized, she was devastated, especially with the desecration of their picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“This one was special for me though, ‘cuz when I look at her, I see my ancestors. I see my grandma and grandpa who helped build our church community,” said Aguirre.
Father Jose Marquez was the first to find the destruction Tuesday morning. He believes multiple suspects used a large rock to break in.
“This was the only thing that was broken into, and it seemed like they went out the front door taking the statues out,” Marquez said.
He immediately called the police. Three statues were stolen along with some paintings. Billings Police Department said the items were worth about $8,300.
“I showed them where we have empty pedestals, where the statues were. On the walls, where these pictures were,” said Marquez.
Then there’s the vandalism. Graffiti was written on the walls and the front door was shattered. Overall, the damage is estimated at about $4,000.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened.
“The ones that I’m aware of that have been quite obvious, at least three within the last couple of years,” said Bill Contreraz, a member of the parish.
Contreraz is Aguirre’s father. While he and his daughter are frustrated, they said forgiveness is key.
“If you’re watching this, you’re forgiven. We just hope that you find it in yourself to bring whatever you still have back, no questions asked,” Contreraz said.
And they said they’re praying for the vandals, despite the circumstances.
“What cannot be replaced is the faith and the love that holds us together. Through all the vandalism and negative stuff, I know that that’s what going to hold us together,” said Aguirre.
A GoFundMe has been set up by one of the parishioners. You can donate here.