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CURRENT ISSUE:  March 5, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 5   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Lenten tradition
Saving girls, one handmade
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FACE, families partner
to help educate children
Messages of hope, healing
follow attack on church
First-graders at Holy Spirit School had a message of love.

Early-arriving parishioners at St. Anne Church in Union City on Ash Wednesday found exterior walls of the church had been spray-painted with satanic messages and symbols, a statue of the Holy Family defaced, and a tablet of the Beatitudes and a 6-foot wooden cross toppled.

As Union City police investigated the hate crime, parishioners gathered at the church for daily Masses and for distribution of ashes. "A lot of parishioners are crying," Father Geoffrey Baraan said. The attack had come without warning, Father Baraan said. "We are a welcoming community."

While the physical damage was assessed by investigators, Father Baraan tended to "the emotional impact of the community being attacked by hatred, at such a special time of the year for the church."

He incorporated the event into his Ash Wednesday messages. "Don't react with hatred, react with prayer. Jesus said, 'Pray for those who hate us.' React with love. No matter what, do not react with hatred."

Television and newspaper reports showed images of the spray-painted pentagram, with the words "Carpe Noctem" ("Seize the Night") and "Satan." On the Holy Family statue, the faces of Mary and Joseph were covered in black paint, but the face of the Christ Child was untouched.
Parishioners discovered spray-painted
images on St. Anne Church when they
arrived for Mass on Ash Wednesday.

On Feb. 23, cleaners dispatched through the insurance company arrived to repair the physical damage. A parishioner built a new cross, which Father Baraan blessed. "It's a sign we will rise up," he said.

"It was a very emotional week," the pastor said Feb. 27. But visits, calls and e-mails from the various faith communities have raised spirits at St. Anne. "It was very uplifting for us," Father Baraan said. "Something good will come from this." The parish was also the recipient of some welcome words of comfort and comfort from some nearby first-graders. "Holy Spirit sent us a nice poster," Father Baraan said.

"My first grade came up with the idea of creating posters of support after the recent vandalism at our sister parish, St. Anne's Church, Union City," said Renee Martin, who teaches first grade at Holy Spirit School in Fremont. "The posters were delivered to the pastor of St. Anne's and shared our message of love and support."

Father Baraan said he echoed the positive spirit to parishioners on Sunday. "We will not allow hate, insult and ignorance to destroy us," he said. "We will destroy violence and hate with compassion, love, patience and prayer."

Union City police are continuing to sift through tips they've received, Cmdr. Ben Horner said Monday, but so far no arrests have been made.

"The good news is there weren't any other incidents," Horner said. He confirmed that Union City police have classified it as a hate crime.

"This was all done for shock value on Ash Wednesday," he said. "Whoever did it knew it was going to be a big deal."

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