WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — UPDATE: Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 2:30 p.m.
Father Jonathan Demma has issued a response to the community after several community members expressed outrage due to the damage or removal of decorations on gravesites at Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Fr. Demma said a group of volunteers from the church community was meant to help clean up the cemetery over the weekend.
On Saturday, flowers, rosaries, statues and other gravesite decorations were taken from gravesites and thrown into the garbage.
Fr. Demma said that Sacred Heart Catholic Church is currently without a groundskeeper, and the volunteers agreed to help trim the overgrown grass and tree limbs.
“I am heartbroken to learn that during the cleanup, statues and other treasured items dedicated to the memory of your loved ones were collected and discared in the dumpster, and many were damaged in the process,” Fr. Demma said.
Fr. Demma said he is working to understand how this happened in order to ensure it never happens again, as well as clarifying and publishing cemetery policies for the future.
“I am deeply sorry for this,” Fr. Demma said. “It never should have happened.”
Please find the full response from Fr. Demma below:
Local residents are outraged because of damaged decorations on gravesites at Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Some residents with family members resting at the cemetery said they have had the same decorations on gravesites since they were children. And they just want to know why this happened.
“Why did y’all go about it like that? You could’ve easily informed families, made a status,” Corina Arredondo said, whose father is buried in the cemetery.
Arredondo’s father, Javier Torres, has been in the Sacred Heart cemetery since she was a child. Since he was laid to rest, his headstone has had the same decorations. But after a recent cleaning of the cemetery, Torres’ headstone and many other headstones around the cemetery had their decorations removed and thrown in the garbage.
“Why did they do this? Why weren’t we informed? Because honestly, I would’ve easily went up there if they would’ve contacted us and if they laid it nicely but they didn’t, they just threw it away. I feel like disrespectful towards the dead and towards the families,” Arredondo said.
“There was 8 years worth of just momentos and boxes that had just filled up with little things that reminded me of him,” Celeste Hernandez, said whose father is buried in the cemetery.
“Those have been here for 8 years. I lost him when I was little so it was really hard to see them.”
Some loved ones of people resting in the cemetery dumped the decorations out from the garbage and spread them out for other loved ones to collect their items.
According to Father Jonathan Demma of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a volunteer group came to the cemetery to trim trees and mow the lawn. They were not authorized to remove statues or anything else from the cemetery. Even though this may have been a mistake by the volunteer group, the pain is already being felt by loved ones.
“We picked this place of his final resting place so he could be at peace and this destruction has caused just devastation and anger. It’s hurt not only me but literally everyone out here. Everyone’s family,” Hernandez said.
Devastation and anger now in a place that should be restful and peaceful.
Father Demma also said the church is contacting families individually at this time. This incident will make the church review its regulations on what is allowed on gravesites. When they do, he says they will certainly inform families.
WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Local residents have voiced concerns on social media over the weekend about graveside memorials damaged at Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Residents have reported that lights, trinkets, crosses, and graveside memorials have been vandalized and thrown in the garbage at the Sacred Heart cemetery located on Santa Fe Street in Wichita Falls.
In an email sent to our newsroom, a viewer stated that the Sacred Heart Cemetery removed all statues, flowers, rosaries, and anything that was not attached to a headstone off of gravesites. The church did not reach out to the families before the items were removed and many were unaware until photos surface on social media.
We have reached out to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and are awaiting a response.