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Vandals sack Trout River Oratory

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TROUT RIVER – Vandals sacked St. Bridget’s Oratory on County Route 20 at some time in the last two weeks and the state police are investigating the act as a felony burglary.

Four of five statues, some of which are thought to be over 100 years old, were smashed. Some of them bore names of which they were given in memoriam: “In memory of Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Glennon by Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Glennon.” Another reads “In memory of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Smythe by Mr. and Mrs. William Smythe.” A third statue reads “In memory of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Brady by The Family.” The surviving statue appeared to be made from metal. Several small, thin crucifixes were snapped off, the pieces scattered around the altar. The vandals tried to rip a larger crucifix down from the wall above the altar; it hung at a crooked angle, suspended by one arm with a chain. The perpetrators discharged a fire extinguisher and almost every flat surface was coated in a yellowish-white dust. It appeared that the vandals tried to start a fire. On the altar was a notice inside of a plastic protector that was partially burned and melted to the floor. Matches were strewn about two of the pews.

“They didn’t smash the altar, which is quite good,” Father Howard Vernette, a priest with the Constable-Westville parish, said.

The vandals left footprints in the fire extinguisher discharge, which could provide clues to police as to who wrecked the sanctuary. They also may be able to lift fingerprints from the extinguisher itself. Bureau of Criminal Investigation Senior Investigator Miranda LaBrake, who is handling the case, could not be reached for comment.

The damage was discovered Wednesday by Joe Santamore of Malone, who does custodial and maintenance work for the oratory every couple of weeks.

“I was dumbfounded to see that when [I] opened the front door,” he said.

Locals who frequented the church in its heyday were shocked, saddened, and angry upon learning of the damage.

“If there’s such a place as Hell, whoever did it should be going there,” Mike Shea of Constable said. “They have no moral conscience.”

Rod Lauzon of Westville said he went to the oratory throughout his life. He said he and his wife Maryellen attended their first Mass together at that church in the late 1980s.

“They may have gotten away with it now, but in the end they won’t,” Mr. Lauzon said.

He added that he could recall when services brought capacity crowds to St. Bridget’s, which was built in 1865.

Dorothy Shea of Trout River said the congregation used to include large numbers of Canadians, farmers, and Scandinavian immigrants who made their new homes in Canada. She said she was married at St. Bridget’s, her eight children were baptized there, and her late husband’s funeral was held there in 1993.

“My life was really involved there,” she said, adding that she spent a time as the organist and choir director.

She partially attributes the congregation dwindling to the Mass schedule changing during the 1990s so that it was an inconvenience to farmers.

Anyone with information regarding the St. Bridget’s Oratory vandalism is urged to contact state police at (518)483-5000.

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