Lavaca County deputies are investigating after a shrine to the Virgin Mary located in a pecan grove west of Hallettsville was vandalized on Monday.
A large wooden cross at the shrine was broken and a cement statue of the Virgin Mary appeared to have been pulled down from the gazebo where it stood and dragged along a county highway until it broke into several pieces, two people said.
Pete Guevara, the shrine’s caretaker, said he received a call on Monday morning from a woman who had gone to pray at the sacred site only to find that the large statue was gone.
Guevara said he found the statue broken into pieces a quarter of the mile down U.S. 90A toward Shiner. The statue’s head, torso and bottom lay about 20 to 30 yards apart from each other in the road.
“When I found her head, it was all scraped up,” Guevara said. “I thought, who would possibly do that?”
Judy Werner, whose father founded the shrine in 1986 after he had a vision of the Virgin Mary in the family’s pasture, said it was “heartbreaking” to see the shrine desecrated.
“It’s just so disrespectful,” she said.
The shrine is an important site of worship to many, Werner said, and draws visitors who come to pray and leave flowers and candles. On the second Sunday of every September, a crowd gathers to say the rosary and pray for peace.
“Every time I go there, there’s people there,” Guevara said.
This is not the first time the site has been vandalized, according to Werner. Years ago, a statue was thrown into the gully behind the shrine and someone attempted to pull the shrine’s gazebo from where it stood.
Werner said she is working to find a replacement statue and install a security camera in an effort to prevent any further acts of vandalism from occurring.
The county’s sheriff and chief deputy could not be reached on Friday, but the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook that it is investigating the incident and encouraged anyone with information to contact the sheriff’s office or Lavaca County Crime Stoppers.
Werner and Guevara both said they hope whoever vandalized the shrine is arrested.
“I’m not a vengeful person, but maybe that would show an example to someone else that’s thinking of doing ugly things,” Werner said.