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Cross at Santiago Retreat Center Vandalized!

Person With Chain Saw Desecrates 14-Foot Cross
at Christian Retreat Center in Orange County

SILVERADO, ORANGE COUNTY, CALIF., June 30, 2023 — An unknown vandal, under the cover of darkness used a chain saw to cut down the 14-foot cross recently dedicated at Santiago Retreat Center.


This blasphemous act of violence—desecrating the enduring symbol of Christianity for more than 2,000 years—has shocked the leaders, the chaplain, the staff and the counselors at the 500-acre Christian retreat center in Orange County’s Silverado Canyon.

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The recently dedicated cross was vandalized during the first week of Vacation Bible Camp where campers from kindergarten through eighth grade arrived every day for creative Bible learning stations, singing, games, crafts, snacks, and “saintly” skits. The camp programs this week served more than 300 staff and campers. 


It’s still a mystery why an apparently hateful person destroyed the cross using a chain saw. This first camp of the summer did not include overnight campers—so campers were safe back in their homes when this incident took place. The camp has 24-hour security.



“In the morning, I look over to see the cross—and I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was gone! Our recently dedicated cross was missing! We called the Orange County Sheriff, of course, and filed a report of the crime. We are so saddened—especially for the tormented soul who committed this hateful act,” said Mark McElrath, executive director of Santiago Retreat Center.



At a Friday and Saturday retreat, just before Father’s Day in June, Santiago Retreat Center hosted a “Men on the Mountain” retreat that included a time for the men to gather around the cross for prayer and a special dedication of the cross.


“We will replace the cross, of course,” said McElrath. “Friends of Santiago are already sending donations for a new cross—and for scholarships for children and youth who cannot afford to attend camp this summer."


Santiago has created a Go-Fund-Me for accepting tax-deductible donations to replace the cross. Visit:

Santiago’s chaplain, Father Glenn Baaten, was also disheartened when he learned of the destruction of the cross. “I was saddened, but perhaps not surprised in this day and age. In the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 1:18, we know that the cross—for someone who doesn’t believe—is ‘foolishness.’ The Bible also says that to the person who believes in Jesus Christ, the cross is ‘the power of God.’”


“We are praying for the soul of this person who cut down our cross. Redemption, because of Christ’s blood on the cross, is available to all. The Bible also says in Romans 3:23, ‘For all have sinned and do need the glory of God.’ Forgiveness and redemption from God was extended to the thief next to Jesus on the cross—and it’s also extended to this person who visited last night.”


Santiago Retreat Center is located in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, just 17 miles from the heart of Orange County and the newly consecrated Christ Cathedral. Situated on 500 acres of wilderness setting, the facility includes 500 beds with four distinct retreat areas, each with its own chapel, meeting rooms, recreational space and dormitories. The vision for Santiago Retreat Center is to assist churches in the renewal of parish life through retreats, camps and events which meet the family in each stage of development and walk with them to where Christ is calling them to be.

Santiago Retreat Center is located at 27912 Baker Canyon Rd., Silverado, Orange County, CA 92676. Website:



Mark McElrath, Executive Director

Mobile:     (714) 401-0845



Click here to download high res photos.

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