A group of elderly women who attend a central Edmonton church are being praised after they used their canes to fight off a man who attacked their priest.
At around 8 p.m. on March 13, evening mass had just let out at Our Lady Queen of Poland Parish on 99 Street and 83 Avenue.
At the end of the service, police said the priest was saying goodbye to members of the church when he was randomly attacked by an unknown man.
“He noticed a young man who he didn’t recognize and asked him, ‘Do you speak Polish?’ And the guy said no,” explained Lorraine Turchansky, chief communications officer with the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton.
“The next thing you know … he grabbed him and he got thrown to the ground and started getting choked.”
That’s when the group of women jumped into action.
“They were quite perturbed by this and shocked, really,” Turchansky said.
“They were older women so they’re not the kind of people who would whip out a cellphone and take a video or call 911. They did what they could and they had canes. They started striking the guy with their canes.”
Turchansky said the women also tried to pull the man off Father Marcin Mironiuk, and that’s when the suspect fled the scene.
The father, meanwhile, was shaken by the incident but is OK, Turchansky said.
“Father is doing alright; he’s totally recovered. He was certainly traumatized, he didn’t want to sleep in his own rectory that night so he went to a friend’s,” Turchansky said.
“It could have been much worse, for sure. And of course, this is something that no one really expects. At the same time, though, our churches are public places. The priest is there in a very public way so they are vulnerable, I guess, in some ways.”
Turchansky said incidents like this are rare; they’re just thankful the women stepped in.
“We thank God for them and we thank God that he didn’t suffer any serious injury at all. I think what we find in a lot of parishes is that people love their priest and they will go to bat for them and they will go to cane for them.”
The church provides abuse prevention and safe environment training for all staff and volunteers, Turchansky said, but added there is no way to prevent incidents like this from happening. Everyone has to look out for one another, she said.
“Our churches here are generally safe environments and we’re proud of that, and these incidents are oddities. They’re not the usual thing,” she said. “All we can do really is just keep our eyes open and be vigilant.”
Edmonton police said the suspect is described as about 25 years old, five-foot-nine with short dark hair. Police said he was wearing a red T-shirt and black jacket at the time and he smelled of liquor.