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CURRENT ISSUE:  May 25, 2009
VOL. 47, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Anti-abortion minister urges action by African Americans
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Photographs of the papal journey
Antioch parish shaken by
major theft in sacristy

For the second time in less than two weeks, burglars broke into property at St. Ignatius Church in Antioch, May 19, this time taking the parish’s sacramental records and money collected for Catholic Charities of the East Bay and Relay For Life, as well as the regular Sunday collection.

“We feel violated and a bit shaken,” said Father Robert Rien, parochial administrator, but the thefts “will not stop us from our mission of doing good.”

The thieves used a stone bench from the parish’s memorial garden to break the windows of the parish office, which they ransacked before plundering the sacristy. Three suspects were arrested later that day. Police do not think they are linked to earlier burglaries at the parish.

On May 7, burglars had taken most of the parish’s electrical and maintenance equipment from storage containers. Two years ago, someone stole items from the rectory, including Father Rien’s personal chalice, which was never found. The parish presented Father Rien with a new chalice on May 10, in honor of his 35th anniversary of ordination.

When the priest discovered the latest burglary early on May 19, he feared that his new chalice had been stolen, but it was safe. “None of the sacred vessels were taken,” he said.

However, the sacristy was in disarray and a recently purchased safe, which held the records and money, had been lifted.

Police found the safe later that day in a nearby park, but it was empty. None of the parish records had been located by press time.

Father Rien, who is the Catholic chaplain for the Antioch Police Department, said May 20 that police told him two of the suspects have police records. The third suspect was not involved in the break-in but was in possession of some of the stolen cash.

The thefts have been hard on the parish, said Father Rien, but there is resilence and determination to continue their ministries. The night after the burglary, the parish finance committee recommended that another collection be taken up for Catholic Charities. Father Rien said it will happen sometime in June.

He is also planning to install a security and alarm system, move the safe to another location, and develop new protocols for the storage of monies and documents.

“We are going to do what we can to prevent this from happening again,” he said. “And we are praying for those who did this. They need help.”

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