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January 12, 2014

Suspects sought in Champlain church burglary

Money stolen, Eucharist desecrated Christmas Eve at St. Mary's

CHAMPLAIN — Burglars who stole cash from and vandalized St. Mary’s Church here on Christmas Eve disappeared as silently as Santa Claus.

State Police, however, are working to track them down and have asked the public’s help.

The crime was perpetrated sometime after 7:30 p.m. Mass on Dec. 24, said the Rev. Clyde Lewis, pastor, and Christmas morning, when at about 8 a.m. an employee opened the church.

She found envelopes strewn on the floor then saw someone had smashed open the box that held money donated when candles were lit for special petitions, the priest said.

“The door was torn off the tabernacle,” he continued. “There were consecrated hosts — the Blessed Sacrament — tossed all over.

“(And) they trashed the sacristy.”

While drawers and cupboards were emptied, their contents thrown haphazardly around the room, nothing was taken, Lewis said.

“(But) they were looking for stuff, for sure.”

The vandals also climbed the stairs into the choir loft, where a portrait of Pope Francis is hung.

“They put a sharp object through his eye,” the priest said. 

TWO OR MORE SUSPECTS

“State Police have determined that there were at least two suspects and that they were most likely traveling on foot due to tracks (in the snow) found at the scene,” Troop B Public Information Officer Trooper Jennifer Fleishman said in an email.

The burglars also tried to break into the rectory, which is vacant at present, Lewis said.

Parish staff cleaned up quickly so Christmas Mass could take place at 10 a.m.

The break-in was distressing to the parish family, Lewis said.

“It’s almost like an invasion of privacy,” he said, “worse than your home because it’s a church.”

HOST LOCKED UP

There is protocol to follow when the Blessed Sacrament is defiled, the priest said — it was disposed of down the church’s sacrarium, a special sink that drains into the ground rather than the sewer system.

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