Human defecation, flowers strewn all over, broken candles, graffiti and the risk of theft as a new air conditioning system is being installed has led the St. Ferdinand’s Catholic Church in the City of San Fernando to install gates to prevent illegal entry into its side garden.

Father Juan Ayala made the announcement at the end of mass on Sunday, Aug. 22, saying the recent incidents have increased worries about the safety of parishioners and the church property.

“You probably don’t notice it because people come and clean before mass,” said Father Ayala, regarding the various instances where human feces were found in the area of the garden adjacent to the church.

But parishioners standing in line for confession on a Saturday about a month ago did notice human excrement next to a church wall and alerted one of the administrators to the problem.

Father Ayala said the problems were the result of homeless people and people “under the influence” entering the garden adjacent to the Catholic temple at night.

The gates, he said, would be opened every day so people can have access to the garden to pray and meditate during daylight hours, but closed at night.

The church has also installed iron bars around the copper pipes and wiring leading to the new air conditioning equipment being installed at the Catholic temple. Copper pipes are sought after by thieves because of the high price recyclers pay for the metal.

The priest added that even a door knob had to be removed from one of the church doors after someone apparently attempted to enter the sanctuary recently, and that a computer was recently stolen from one of its offices.

In addition, Father Ayala, said, the church is considering installing security cameras around the church perimeter for added protection.

“Unfortunately, the community is not what it used to be,” he lamented to parishioners.

Police Incidents

San Fernando Police Department (SFPD) Chief Tony Vairo acknowledged there have been issues with homeless people around the church since last year.

“It’s been on and off in that particular area,” Vario said.

He added the issues involved one particular person. But the problems also extended to the Lopez Adobe, located across the street from the church at the intersection of Pico Street and Maclay Avenue.

According to the county 2020 Homeless Count, there were 23 homeless people in the City of San Fernando.