Man Arrested in Attack on Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine at Manhattan Parish

The police department identified the individual as 42-year-old New Jersey resident Walter Chisolm.

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is home to the Seton Shrine in New York City.
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is home to the Seton Shrine in New York City. (photo: Beyond My Ken| / Wikipedia|GFDL)

An “unhinged” individual reportedly broke into a Catholic church in Manhattan and vandalized a shrine to American-born St. Elizabeth Ann Seton over the weekend. 

A man wearing priest’s vestments — and reportedly without pants on — broke into Our Lady of Rosary Catholic Church and ripped down a large crucifix at the Seton shrine, according to a report in the New York Post, which cited “cops and witnesses.”

The suspect reportedly chased off a witness and was subsequently found on the front steps of the parish, “pacing back and forth” and holding a bottle of wine. 

A spokeswoman with the New York Police Department confirmed to CNA that officers responded to a burglary call at the address of the church at around 11:20 a.m. on Saturday. 

“They were informed by a church volunteer that there was a male inside the church. That male was placed into custody,” the spokeswoman said.

The police department identified the individual as 42-year-old New Jersey resident Walter Chisolm. The alleged perpetrator was charged with assault on a police officer, burglary, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, and obstructing government administration.

The full extent of the damage and the reason for the vandalism were both unclear as of Monday morning. The parish did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter. 

The city has seen several attacks on local churches in the recent past. Vandals last year damaged Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s residence at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. In July 2021, vandals destroyed statues of both the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Therese of Lisieux at a Queens parish.

Police earlier this month, meanwhile, arrested two individuals in connection with vandalism and harassment incidents at churches in Brooklyn and Queens.

And a church in Queens said last month that a man entered the parish, destroyed a photo of Pope Francis, donned a priest’s robes, and bashed himself on the head with a monstrance before being arrested. The church necessitated re-consecration before Mass could be celebrated there again. 

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