By Jonah McKeown/Catholic News Agency
A historically African-American parish in Denver was robbed Monday night of a number of valuables, most notably the tabernacle and several consecrated hosts.
Thieves plundered Curé d’Ars Catholic Church and made off with all the church’s vessels used for Mass from the vestry, which they accessed by kicking in a wooden door. They also took a laptop used for livestreaming Masses, and a sound board used to connect to the church’s microphones.
Father Joseph Cao, the church’s pastor, said he has no idea who could have carried out the robbery, which took place sometime during the night of Aug. 30-31. This is the first break-in the church has had, he said.
The assailants also tore out four security cameras throughout the sanctuary, ensuring they would not be caught on video. They also cut all the copper piping off of the building’s furnace downstairs and from a stairwell on the building’s exterior, flooding the church basement with water.
Around 8:40 a.m. on Aug. 31, Father Cao discovered that the church’s outer door had been pried open. He found an upturned chair and several unconsecrated hosts on the ground when he entered the sanctuary. He then saw that the tabernacle was gone, and found the flood in the basement.
“My heart just sank. I felt so helpless,” he said. “We pray for a safe return of the Eucharist.”
Insurance will likely cover most of the stolen items, but of course, the Body of Christ is priceless.
“As you can imagine, this is very devastating for the entire community,” Deacon Clarence McDavid told CNA.
“We have people who have been here probably since the mid-60s…I’ve been a deacon here for 34 years.”
Curé d’Ars parish dates to 1952, and its name honors St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests who had care of souls in Ars, France, in the nineteenth century.
By the 1970s, thanks mainly to changing demographics in the area, Curé d’Ars served approximately 200 predominantly black families.
The sanctuary was blessed and rededicated as a sacred space Aug. 31.
Father Cao celebrated a Mass of reparation Sept. 1 to atone for the sins of those who stole the tabernacle. He and Deacon McDavid processed throughout the church, blessing and sprinkling with Holy Water the areas most affected by the robbery.
“Those [other items] can be replaced, but the Blessed Sacrament is such a precious gift, and that cannot be replaced,” Father Cao said during the homily.
“Evil seems to win; but we know God will win in the end, we truly believe that. Because God is much stronger than evil,” Father Cao said.
At the end of the Mass, several parishioners asked the priest and deacon if they could bless and pray over them, as well.
The current church building was dedicated in 1978 under pastor Fr. Robert Kinkel. The parish later welcomed Charlie Bright as the first African-American deacon in the Denver archdiocese.