Priest fears for those who stole Christmas collection
CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wisc. -- So many symbols of giving can be found in a Catholic church - especially at Christmastime. But the worldly reality at St. Borromeo Catholic this week is one of taking.
"It was just a sickening feeling," said Rev. William Felix, the pastor now dealing with an awful betrayal. Sometime between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning someone broke into the church and stole the entire collection from six masses on Christmas weekend.
"It hit the parish really hard," said Father Felix. "How could someone do this at Christmastime to a church?"
The money - which police say could total in the tens of thousands of dollars - was taken by forced entry. Pry marks were found on both church exterior doors and the entry to a secure room where church offerings are kept until counting can commence on Monday mornings.
The theft seems particularly cruel given that a significant portion of the money was designated for an orphanage in Peru. "To actually take food from orphans, I'm sure they didn't realize that, but that's really what they did, and that's not what we're about," said Felix.
Wendy Stelter, Chippewa Falls police chief, said she has two investigators assigned to the case, but so far no suspects. She said she has no reason to conclude the theft was the work of an insider, stating if anyone put their mind to it, they could figure out that "this is a large church with a large group of members. It's very likely they would have a large amount of money after services."
Stelter suggested that parishioners stop payment on any checks they wrote to the church during weekend services. She also asked community members to be on the look-out for anyone who suddenly seems flush with cash.
Felix looks at the theft with a long-term view. "I wouldn't want to meet God in judgment having done this."
He sent a letter to parishioners expressing sadness, but also asking church members to forgive the thief or thieves. They'll need it, if the scriptures have anything to say about it. Quoting Jesus, Felix said, "'You will not enter the kingdom of God until you repay the last penny.' So I am concerned about them."
If the thieves would like to talk, we can recommend a good priest.
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