by Joe Bollig
GARNETT — Liturgical items stolen from Holy Angels Church here were recovered and returned to the parish by the Garnett Police Department.
Chief John Leinweber said a person of interest was interviewed on Feb. 22. After the interview, the stolen items were “returned to a location by an unknown person” that evening, he said.
The items were an antique monstrance, two thuribles, a small gold-colored angel, the head of the infant Jesus broken off of a statue, two packages of charcoal, and a chalice owned by Father Brian Klingele, the pastor. An altar cross is still missing, and there was minor damage to the items.
The chalice was used by Father Klingele at his ordination and was also used by Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI.
“It’s not a one-of-a-kind, but it’s not the kind of chalice you see very often,” said Father Klingele, who is also pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Greeley. “If you see it at a pawn shop, you’d know [it’s something special].”
The crimes were discovered the morning of Feb. 20, when members of the Altar Society entered the church to do weekly cleaning.
Entry was made into the unlocked church late Friday night, Feb. 19, or early Saturday morning, Feb. 20. A partial bottle of communion wine was also taken, as well as some smaller items. Worn and less expensive chalices were left untouched.
In addition to the thefts, the perpetrators emptied two fire extinguishers on the carpet, walls, altar, sanctuary, and an outside wall. Candles were strewn all about. Mass vestments had been rifled through and left on the floor.
The broken statue of St. Joseph holding the infant Jesus was found in the parking lot, and a fire extinguisher was found at a lake south of town.
Thankfully, the Eucharist was left undisturbed in the tabernacle and the stained-glass windows were undamaged, said Father Klingele.
The church was cleaned up in time for Saturday evening Mass to be held. Father Klingele informed parishioners of the robbery and vandalism at all weekend Masses in Greeley and Garnett.
“Some of the people already knew and were sad,” said Father Klingele. “Some were angry; some felt violated.”
When he announced the crime at that weekend’s Masses, Father Klingele recommended that parishioners pray for the intercession of St. Dismas that the items be returned undamaged and for a conversion of heart by those who committed the crimes.
“Obviously, there is something wrong with these individuals and they need to know God and his love,” he said.
City attorney Terry Solander, also a Holy Angels Parishioner, said that in the event of an arrest, the case would be handled by the district court.
Chief Leinweber said on Feb. 23 that no arrests had yet been made, but he expected them to be forthcoming. Both juveniles and adults were involved in the crimes, which are classified as criminal damage to property and felony theft.