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Vandalism strikes three Wilmington churches

Words, images left on doorways and entry steps

Two Catholic churches and one Congregational church in Wilmington were vandalized late Friday night or early Saturday morning, according to police.

A resident priest at St. Thomas of Villanova Parish, a Catholic church on Middlesex Avenue, discovered the word “brainwashing” and an image of a television with a brain on the screen spray-painted in red on church property Saturday morning and called police.

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The Rev. Phillip Earley, who oversees St. Thomas as well as St. Dorothy’s Church, said the vandalism was extensive and estimated that it will cost the church “a few thousand dollars” to clean it up.

He said the vandals left their mark on seven doors at St. Thomas, including three sets of double doors at the front of the church and a side door.

They also spray-painted the image on the frame to the right of the front door, as well as on each of the roughly 10 steps of the main entrance. The 5-foot-tall St. Thomas of Villanova statue in front of the church was marked twice, and a small garden statue was also painted.

“Just given the extent of the stenciling I would suspect it was more than one person,” Earley said. “It wasn’t like someone who just ran down to the local hardware store. They really thought about it.”

He said he is considering adding video cameras to increase security, adding that he has “no reason to believe it will be a repeat offense.” He said nothing like this has happened in the 14 years he has been at the church.

About a mile away, the suspects did less damage at St. Dorothy’s on Main Street, which Earley suspects is because it is in a more visible area of town.

The church hired a cleaning crew to remove the graffiti, but all the doors will probably need to be repainted.

And at the Congregational Church in Wilmington on Middlesex Avenue, less than a mile north of St. Thomas, parishioners were able to quickly clean up markings that were found on the front door and the door to the church’s office, said the church’s pastor, Russell Kent.

Kent said he was disappointed that the suspects used this tactic to express themselves.

“We can’t address the issue unless they come talk to us,” he said.

Anyone with information about the vandalism can call Wilmington police at 978-658-5071.

Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com. Alli Knothe can be reached at aknothe@globe.com
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