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On the night of Aug. 29, vandals damaged statues depicting the children of Fatima located on the grounds of St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in North Cambridge.
"It is unbelievable and sad," said Michael Shanahan. For five years he has lived across the street from the statues of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, a lamb, and (Sister) Lucia de Jesus Santos kneeling before a larger statue of the Virgin Mary.
The scene recreates the visitation by the Virgin Mary to the children in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal. On May 13, 2000, Pope John Paul II officiated at the beatification of the brother and sister, Francisco and Jacinta, both of whom died as children. Their cousin, Sister Lucia, still survives.
Another neighbor, gesturing with his pipe, told Shanahan that he remembered when a convent stood on the green space where the shrine now stands. “That driveway was a just a path. I’ve been here for 75 years, and I’m not surprised. You’ve got the shelter down the street and the kids come here to play basketball at the [Peabody Elementary] school,” he said.
Another resident, Robert France, a professor at Harvard University, said he was with a friend when he heard some commotion around 10:30 p.m.
"There were voices and a bus going by, I didn't look out the window because I thought that it was the regular street noise for a Friday night, France said.
Patrolman David Maldonado was driving past the scene when he was flagged down by onlookers. As he waited for another unit to arrive with an evidence collection kit, he shook his head and asked aloud, “What were they thinking?”
It appears the vandals picked up the statute of Francisco, and smashed the statue of Lucia—splitting it at the torso, said Richard Rhuda, a worker at St. John the Evangelist Church.
For one mother and her son, the vandalism is the disruption of a routine. Mollie Sherry and her son, Ovadia Simha, 3, are regular visitors to the shrine.
She said Ovadia has a special bond with the statues. “He loves these guys. He can spend an hour petting and talking to them,” she said. “He doesn’t understand what happened, and I don’t know how I am going to explain it to him.
The incident is under investigation by the Cambridge Police Department.