Tabernacle Valued at $2 Million Was Stolen
The Most Reverend Robert J. Brennan, Bishop of Brooklyn, blessed and purified St. Augustine Church on Sunday, June 5, following the previous weekend’s desecration and burglary of the church’s tabernacle. The blessing, part of the Penitential Rite of Reparation, took place during the 5p.m. Mass at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Park Slope.
Bishop Brennan said, during his homily, “The material lost is saddening. The historical loss, when you realize that tabernacle represented generations of people who have come before us. A bit of our history was taken from us. But above all, what brings us together every week, is our faith in the presence of Jesus Christ among us in the Blessed Sacrament. It was desecrated in a terrible way and indeed we are broken.”
During the brazen theft, believed to have taken place on May 26-27, and then discovered on Saturday, May 28, the burglar cut through a metal protective casing and made off with the tabernacle, a sacramental receptacle which dates back to when the church was built in the late 1800s, and which is deemed irreplaceable due to its historical and artistic value. The marble angels that flanked the tabernacle were decapitated and destroyed, and the consecrated Eucharist hosts were strewn over the floor.
The Penitential Rite of Reparation starts with a bare church altar.
After his entrance, Bishop Brennan blessed the water and sprinkled the altar, the congregants, and the walls of the desecrated church as a sign of purification. Later, during the Offertory, parishioners vested the altar and Father Frank Tumino, pastor of St. Augustine Church, lit the candles in preparation for the liturgy of the Eucharist. Mass was then celebrated, and the desecrated church was restored to divine service.
“The restoration of the church building to its sacred dignity renews the resolve of the local church in Brooklyn and Queens to grow in holiness and in witness to the presence of our Risen Lord in the world today,” said Bishop Brennan.
The present church building was dedicated just over 130 years ago, on May 15, 1892, with newly-consecrated Bishop Charles McDonnell, presiding, in his first official liturgical action of his episcopacy.
Originally founded in 1870, St. Augustine is now partnered with a neighboring parish on Sixth Avenue, both of which use the name St. Augustine-St. Francis Xavier Parish.