Thief steals cross, sound equipment and other items from Catholic church

A burglar who broke into St. John Vianney Church Thursday night made off with a large wooden cross used in processionals, a fax machine, the parish's sound equipment and a surveillance system that was in the process of being installed in the church.

Constance Walker, the church's pastoral assistant for administration, said the burglary was discovered on Friday morning by Fran Hadenfeldt, the church's facilities supervisor. The thief or thieves broke a small window in the church's social hall to enter the building.

Walker said that the gates to the parking lot of the church had been closed on Thursday night after a meeting and that the burglar had apparently moved large rocks blocking access to the parking lot and damaged a large rhododendron bush in order to drive onto the church grounds.

It's not the first time the church has been burglarized. In 2008, someone stole the church's safe, which divers later came across on the sea floor just off Tramp Harbor dock. And an attempted break-in last December prompted a parishioner to purchase the surveillance system that was stolen this time around.

Walker said it appeared that the thief had spent enough time in the building to explore almost every nook and cranny of the church.

"He got into every room except the office and the sacristy," she said, noting that several doors to rooms in the church had been pried open and damaged, and that file cabinets and desks had been rifled through. The burglar unsuccessfully attempted to break into the church's safe, and a truck belonging to the church had also been tampered with, resulting in a broken ignition switch.

Whoever robbed the church was also hungry, she said — leaving behind a half-consumed plate of cookies and cans of soda that had been taken from the church's refrigerator.

And in a criminal move filled with irony, the thief had even attempted to pry open the door to the church's unlocked confessional.

On Sunday, Rev. Marc Powell, the parish priest, delivered a homily about the burglary and said he hoped that the thief would eventually find his way back to the confessional to seek forgiveness for his sins. Powell singled out the theft of the church's large cross as potentially helpful in terms of instilling remorse in the guilty party.

"It's so big, he can't sell it," he said. "He's got to keep it, perhaps in his living space. Slowly but surely, that cross will start to work on him."

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