Norwood church property destroyed by burglar in apparent search for cash

Norwood church property destroyed by burglar in apparent search for cash

NORWOOD — Norwood police are searching for a burglar who destroyed church property in an apparent search for cash late last month.

The suspect, whom police believe was captured on a camera in St. Catherine of Siena on Jan. 27, entered the sacristy – a room where items for Mass are kept – and pried open a wooden cabinet with a tool, stripping the wood.

Finding nothing of value inside, the burglar then moved to the next room, destroying the tabernacle, a wooden case that holds the remaining Eucharist blessed during the previous Mass. For Catholics, it is the body of Jesus Christ.

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“This is someone committing sacrilege,” said Fr. Anthony Medairos, a parochial vicar at St. Catherine’s. “It’s not just an annoyance of breaking in and stealing money. This is the essence of our faith here. The Eucharist. So it’s very upsetting.”

The Eucharist itself was not disturbed, a relief to parish staff. But the tabernacle was so badly damaged it likely cannot be repaired. The church hopes to have a new one covered by insurance.

As police investigate, church staff are taking extra security precautions.

A sign on a now-locked side door of the church reads, “Attention: Due to recent security concerns the sacristy will be locked when Mass is not being offered.”

It is an inconvenience as that now-locked room is the only way to get to the restrooms, Fr. Medairos said. A new security system has also been installed, with a camera shooting toward the place where the tabernacle once was.

“I kind of think it was someone – because they left the eucharist alone – someone who was looking for money,” Fr. Medairos said. “And if they had just come to us, we could’ve helped them. This is the irony. We would’ve helped them.”

Fr. Medairos, feeling for the person respondible, also extended an invitation for the burglar to come back.

“Come back again,” Medairos said. “We’d love to have you. Worship with us. And if you need help, we have a St. Vincent de Paul Society. That’s all they do, the lay folk of the parish, is help people in need.”

Norwood police tell Boston 25 News a cash donation box was also pried open. It is unclear what, if anything, was taken.

Police believe the suspect is a white man with a shaved head, in his late teens or early 20s, who, at the time, was wearing all black and a Patriots ball cap.

Police ask anyone with information about the suspect or the crime to call Det. Paul Ryan at 781-440-5196.

The incident is not the first time someone has desecrated the church’s property. Vandals defiled a Virgin Mary statue on the property with black spray paint on Good Friday in 2016.