Vandalized graveyard in St. Lazare
PHOTOS BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Ten headstones were broken overnight between June 23 and 24 in what the town’s Mayor Robert Grimaudo refers to as, “completely despicable.”
Sûreté du Québec police are investigating but have few leads following 10 granite gravestones that were vandalized at the Saint-Joseph-de-Soulanges Church on Chemin Ste. Angélique in St. Lazare.
“It happened overnight June 23, before la fête nationale,” said groundskeeper Richard Charlebois. “It’s also happened before. Usually I can put them back together, not this time.”
Charlebois said there have been at least four other occasions headstones have been broken in the 40 years he’s worked at the church but this time the damage is worse. Most of the toppled stones landed intact and are repairable but at least one Celtic cross on a stone marking multiple individuals, one whose recorded birthdate is the late 1800s, broke in two places.
Charlebois said the same graveyard was vandalized last year and thieves made off with a bronze plaque that had been affixed to one of the stone markers. Sûreté du Québec spokesperson Sgt. Bruno Beaulieu said last week’s vandalism seems random, with no one familiy or religion being targeted.
“It’s completely despicable,” said St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo. “What the heck is wrong with people?” He said while the financial cost was not extreme, the collateral damage to the family members and the collective morale is significantly higher.
Father Gérald Sareault said the church is looking into making improvements to its security systems currently in place and is consulting with security specialists. He also told Your Local Journal that he regularly has to stop youngsters who attempt to use the paved entryway to the graveyard as a place to ride their skateboards.
The gravestones are the property, and the responsibility, of the respective families rather than the church. Therefore, the cost of fixing or replacing them is up to the deceased’s surviving family members. Charlebois estimates the total damages of this latest incident at about $2000.
“It’s not a question of the money,” said Grimaudo, “it’s the principle. What affects me the most is the complete disregard and disrespect for something that requires the most respect. ”
Anyone with information on this event is asked to call the Sûreté du Québec at (450) 456-3883.