Nfld. & Labrador

Historic Port au Port church damaged during break-in

The RCMP is on the hunt for whoever kicked in a door at the century-old Our Lady of Mercy Heritage Church.

Doors, window, shed at Our Lady of Mercy tampered with by unknown vandals

Our Lady of Mercy church was built between 1914 and 1925, and when it opened was the largest wooden church in the province. (Gary Moore/CBC)

The latest target in a string of break-ins in the Port au Port West area is one of the province's largest and oldest wooden structures, the Our Lady of Mercy Heritage Church.

The volunteer group that runs the church received a phone call Tuesday telling them the building's backdoor had been kicked in.

"When I got that call, I kind of thought that something bad had happened, due to the fact that there have been numerous break-ins around the area," said Denise Goosney, the church committee's chair.

"I just got a really bad feeling."

Goosney's mind immediately leapt to the church's ornate interior. Built between 1914 and 1925, the massive, 1,000-seat capacity building features hand-carved handrails and pews, sculptures and towering stained glass windows.

Goosney feared that irreplaceable church features such as its altar and statues had been damaged, but that turned out not to be the case. (Submitted/Jon Myers)

"Our main concern was any damages done to any of the statues, and really anything in the church," she told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning.

"I wasn't really worried about anything being stolen, because frankly there's not much there to be stolen."

The incident at the church is one of three break-ins in the last few months in the surrounding community, the RCMP told CBC, although there's no definite link between the crimes at this point.

Small fixes

Luckily for Goosney and her group, none of the church's unique features had been touched. No chalices or other valuable religious objects had been left out in the open, as the church is only open during the summer months for tours and events, and no longer used for weekly masses.

"From what we can tell, nothing has been stolen," she said.

The rear door needs to be replaced, as does an interior door leading to the church's choir loft. Goosney noted that whoever was in the church also broke the lock on a metal cabinet, forced open a window and broke into a shed on the church property.

A shed on the church's property was also damaged. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Those items will need to be replaced or fixed, but Goosney said ultimately the committee wants the person or people involved in the crime to face the consequences.

"We're appealing to the community to come forward if they know anything, if they've seen anything," she said.

With files from Newfoundland Morning

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