Ron Schrader was one of five parishioners inside St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Monday who filled bags with vestments and curtains and the shards of a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Located near Fourth and Washington streets in Buffalo, St. Peter’s and the neighboring Calvary Lutheran Church were vandalized early Saturday morning.
Schrader said there was one vital clue left behind — a bloody palm print on one of the walls of the sanctuary.
Buffalo police are searching for the person or people responsible for the damage, which now could be as much as $50,000 combined.
“After we were able to get in, we originally hoped to clean it up ourselves — but that just wasn’t going to happen once we got in here and saw the extent of the damage,” Schrader said as he stood inside the church’s dust-covered sanctuary.
“All this yellow dust is from a fire extinguisher,” Schrader continued. “I think whoever did this set off an extinguisher next door, too. That wonderful church was vandalized — either before or after ours.”
Buffalo Police Cpl. Rich Aleksiejczyk said members of St. Peter Catholic Church, 406 Fourth St., and Calvary Lutheran Church, 404 Fourth St., discovered the damage at about 9 a.m. Saturday.
“We’re estimating about $20,000 in damage to St. Peter’s and about $10,000 in damage to Calvary Lutheran,” Aleksiejczyk said.
Schrader said the damage in St. Peter’s could be higher, as technicians from ServiceMaster by Blaze Restoration had to be called in to clean up the dust left behind by the discharged extinguisher.
According to the Scott County Assessor’s website, St. Peter’s was built in 1910 — but a remembrance stone at the church and several parishioners said the church was originally constructed in 1867 and later refurbished in the early 20th century.
There was no date on the assessor’s website as to when Calvary Lutheran was built, but it is as least 40 years old — there is a building permit for siding dating to 1979. While no one was inside Calvary on Monday morning, Schrader suggested the Lutheran Church was first built “not long after” St. Peter’s and it, too, has been refurbished over the years.
“The police told us this morning that the investigation is still going on, and I really have no idea who might have done this,” he added. “I’m not sure any of us know why someone would break in to two churches in one small town and do this kind of damage.”
Mass for the St. Peter parishioners was held Sunday at St. Alphonsus in Davenport. Calvary Lutheran’s parishioners gathered in the church’s dining area for their service.
In the immediate aftermath of the incidents, Aleksiejczyk said it was not clear if anything was taken from the churches or if it was purely an act of vandalism. Schrader said “nothing appeared to be missing” from St. Peter.
“As a community, we are thoroughly, deeply disgusted,” Aleksiejczyk said. “These are two beautiful churches that are home to devout people and perform great services to our community.”
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Buffalo police ask anyone with information to call the Buffalo Police Department at (563) 381-4733 or Buffalo City Hall at (563) 381-2226.
Quad-City Times reporter Thomas Geyer contributed to this story.