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Communion wafers found discarded in parking lot of West Virginia church after Easter Mass

April 5, 2024 Catholic News Agency 3
Discarded Communion hosts were found in the parking lot of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, after Easter Mass on March 31, 2024. / Credit: Photo courtesy of St. James Catholic Church

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 5, 2024 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

Catholics who attended Easter Mass at a historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, church were met with a disturbing sight when they left the service to go back home — at least 100 Communion wafers were strewn across the parking lot and nearby street.

“[The people] were upset because they were concerned [they could be] consecrated hosts,” Father Timothy Grassi said of the incident that took place at 190-year-old St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.

It’s unclear who placed the wafers on the ground or what message the perpetrator was trying to convey, but the church reported the action to the National Park Service law enforcement, which is investigating the matter. Grassi told CNA he has not received any updates since the incident was reported to the police.

Whoever spread the wafers on the ground did it while the Mass was being celebrated. The wafers were not present at the start of the Mass but were there when the Mass-goers exited the church, according to the priest.

Grassi said he is certain the wafers “were not from our church [because] none were missing and they were a different size.” He also said: “I don’t know of any churches that have identified having hosts stolen [to] that degree,” suggesting that they were probably not taken from a Catholic church and probably not consecrated.

“My best guess is that [these were] not consecrated hosts,” Grassi said.

Grassi noted that unconsecrated Communion wafers can be purchased online or elsewhere, which is the most likely explanation for the large number of wafers. An unconsecrated wafer has not undergone transubstantiation — the process by which the substance of the wafer becomes the body and blood of Christ.

The priest said he suspects the action was “a way for [someone] to make a statement in some way,” although he was not certain what that statement was. He noted that some of the hosts appeared to have been intentionally placed near the driver’s side doors of the vehicles. He said it did not appear that any of the wafers were defaced in any way, apart from being spread across the ground.

According to Grassi, about 80 people attended the Easter Mass at 9:30 a.m. The parking lot, which only fits about 15 cars, was full and the nearby streets were also filled with cars.

CNA reached out to the National Park Service for comment but did not receive a response by publication time.

St. Peter’s, which was built in 1833, sits on a hill overlooking the point at which the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet and is situated near several other historic buildings in the popular tourist town. The church is maintained as a historic chapel by the St. James Parish in Charles Town, of which Grassi is the pastor.

The church has one Mass every Sunday at 9:30 a.m.


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Destruction of Catholic retreat center’s cross a possible hate crime, Orange County authorities say

July 5, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
Cross installed after Father’s Day 2023 at Santiago Retreat Center, Orange County, California. / Photo courtesy of Santiago Retreat Center

Denver, Colo., Jul 5, 2023 / 07:30 am (CNA).

An unknown vandal or vandals sawed down a 14-foot cross at a Catholic-run retreat center in Orange County, California, and investigators are considering whether the act was a hate crime. 

“It’s still a mystery why an apparently hateful person destroyed the cross using a chainsaw,” said Mark McElrath, executive director of the Santiago Center, the Orange County Register reports.

Men's group at retreat after installation of cross on property of Santiago Retreat Center, Orange County, California. Photo courtesy of Santiago Retreat Center
Men’s group at retreat after installation of cross on property of Santiago Retreat Center, Orange County, California. Photo courtesy of Santiago Retreat Center

The cross had been dedicated during a retreat just before Father’s Day. It is located on a 500-acre retreat center in Silverado Canyon, about 14 miles from the city of Orange. The center has four separate retreat areas and 500 beds for overnight visitors.

Investigators believe the vandalism occurred between 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, and 6 a.m. on Thursday, June 29. Sgt. Frank Gonzalez of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said they are looking at the vandalism as a possible hate crime. He added, “we’re still working on leads.”

Though the retreat center is hosting a vacation Bible camp for school children in grades K-8, none were staying on the campus at night.

McGrath said it wasn’t known whether the camp’s 24-hour security includes surveillance cameras.

Father Glenn Baaten, the chaplain of the Santiago Retreat Center, reflected on the vandalism.

“I was saddened, but perhaps not surprised in this day and age,” he said in a June 30 statement on the retreat center’s website. “In the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 1:18, we know that the cross — for someone who doesn’t believe — is ‘foolishness.’ The Bible also says that to the person who believes in Jesus Christ, the cross is ‘the power of God’.”

“We are praying for the soul of this person who cut down our cross. Redemption, because of Christ’s blood on the cross, is available to all,” Baaten said. “Forgiveness and redemption from God was extended to the thief next to Jesus on the cross — and it’s also extended to this person who visited last night.”

“We will replace the cross, of course,” McGrath said, adding that supporters of the retreat center are already sending in donations.

A GoFundMe fundraiser for the retreat center is seeking $12,000 for repairs and a new cross.