- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It’s not easy replacing more than 100 years of history, but that’s the task that faces Archbishop Michael Seneco.

The rector of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Old Catholic Church in Southeast was in Louisville, Ky., on Sunday morning when he got some bad news from a member of his clergy: A vandal had smashed two of the century-old chapel’s original stained-glass windows.

“I was devastated,” said Archbishop Seneco, whose congregation meets at the chapel on the grounds of the historic Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill. “Being 1,000 miles away didn’t help.”

Two of the windows had holes about the size of a baseball, and the wooden frames on both windows were severely cracked. The congregation, which is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, proceeded with the morning service after cleaning up the glass that littered the floor.

Archbishop Seneco said he had no idea why someone would damage the windows.

“It could have been just kids in the neighborhood who had nothing better to do,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense regardless.”

A Plexiglas shield that protected the stained glass on the outside of the chapel was undamaged. Archbishop Seneco said he thinks the vandal must have hurled a large stone brick, which was found lying on the ground nearby, so hard that it caused the Plexiglas to flex enough to shatter the handblown stained glass inside. The windows were struck with enough force to send shards into the chapel’s center aisle.

“If I saw the kid, I’d probably smack him in the head and tell him to see an agent for the Nationals,” he said. “He whaled it pretty good.”

Metropolitan Police from the 1st District are investigating the incident. Archbishop Seneco said it was not clear when the vandal struck, since the damage wasn’t obvious from the outside and the broken windows were only discovered before Sunday services.

The church, described as “pet-friendly,” typically draws about 30 people and a dozen dogs to its services.

The chapel was originally constructed in 1903 as a burial chapel. The Congressional Cemetery that surrounds it is the oldest cemetery in the District, marking its bicentennial this year. It predates Arlington National Cemetery by more than 50 years.

Among those buried at Congressional Cemetery are former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, composer John Philip Sousa, 19 senators and 71 congressional representatives.

Construction crews have been at work replacing the water lines and repairing electrical service in the chapel. The cemetery association also is looking at replacing the chapel’s slate roof.

The congregation has started a “window fund” to pay for repairs. Archbishop Seneco said he has “no clue” how much it might cost, but he hopes something positive can come out of the incident.

“We hope it’ll bring attention and light to the unique historical significance of the Congressional Cemetery,” he said. “Hopefully we can turn this into something good.”

Donations for the window repair can be sent to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Old Catholic Church Window Fund, 227 Tennessee Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide