Mass, Service Comfort Faithful at Manhattan Parish After Theft of Blessed Sacrament, Monstrance

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In response to the recent theft of the Blessed Sacrament and the small, gold monstrance that contained it at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard in Manhattan, a regularly scheduled Spanish evening Mass was offered there, followed by a prayer service.

The Blessed Sacrament and monstrance were reportedly stolen after 10:30 a.m. Aug. 22 from the church’s adoration room. Police were notified and an investigation continued as of Sept. 8. The theft, allegedly by a male perpetrator, was caught on surveillance video. The church had been open for anyone to enter and pray.

The Church teaches that the Blessed Sacrament is the Body and Blood of Christ.

“Thank you for the opportunity to share this moment of special faith,” Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen, principal celebrant, said in remarks toward the end of the Aug. 27 Mass at the West 14th Street parish. He was referring to the liturgy being dedicated to the resolution of the case.

“We are here to reflect together, with the Eucharist, the hunger that the world has for Him, the hunger that the world has for the Lord,” the bishop said. He told the faithful in the pews that they are certainly “a gift to this parish and to the archdiocese.”

Earlier, in his homily, Bishop Whalen said, “Tonight there is a remembrance that with all the difficulties that we have here in our city at this moment, with (the hardships) from the coronavirus, with the economic problems in the world, and with the political difficulties, the most important thing is the presence of the Lord.”

The bishop acknowledged the day was the feast of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, and the significance of a mother’s prayers for her children, for her family. He also noted the importance of praying for humanity, the human family. All this, he said, is related to the Holy Eucharist.

“For all of us, the presence of Christ in each of us and in our community, that is the reason for our faith, that is the reason for all of our actions of our days,” the bishop continued. “Jesus lives in us through the Eucharist, He nourishes the world with His Presence. He nourishes us, in our bodies, in our souls with His Presence. This is the realization of our faith. We must be grateful to the Lord for the great gift of the Eucharist, especially after an act of misfortune.”

Bishop Whalen also led the prayer service after the Mass, which included an Act of Reparation with the Blessed Sacrament, for the theft. “We pray for the man who has committed this misfortune,” he said. The Act of Reparation was conducted with the church’s regular-sized monstrance.

The bishop noted during the Mass that Cardinal Dolan asked him to inform the faithful of the parish that he was thankful for their presence at the Mass, and for their faith and their fidelity, especially during the coronavirus crisis.

At the prayer service, Father Jesus Ledezma, the newly appointed parish administrator, said, “We give thanks to Bishop Whalen for being here, for accompanying us in this moment of prayer, in this moment of redress for what occurred here last Saturday.

“I must confess that as priest administrator of this parish community, I feel very responsible for what happened. I just arrived here (early) this month, and I took caution to care for everything: the church, the people, the sacraments, the Mass celebrations, the workers, for whatever is needed. And yet, the most important thing is gone. I have learned a lesson.

“We must all be careful that we don’t lose the most important things, that we don’t separate ourselves from Jesus.”

Father Ledezma went on to note the parental worry when Mary and Joseph realized the youngster Jesus was missing and set out to find Him, and the joy they felt when they found Him three days later in the temple. “And here we ask ourselves: why has this happened? Why has this person done this?”

He added, however, that the Lord “is with us always in the middle of difficult moments...We ask for forgiveness from the Lord for the person who has done this.”

More than 70 people attended the Mass and prayer service, including two nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, the order of St. Teresa of Kolkata, and several members of the parish youth group.

Silvia Saavedra was among the faithful at the Mass and prayer service. “It hurt me very much; it hurt me very much. He should not have done that,” Ms. Saavedra, a parishioner for two years, told CNY before the Mass. She was referring to the person who allegedly stole the monstrance that contained the Blessed Sacrament. “That should not be done. It is our Lord Jesus who is present there.”

Carlos Miron, 46, a longtime parishioner, told CNY after the prayer service, “It was like he (the alleged thief) took away a piece of us...But we were here to give thanks to God for all that He has given us; and we were here to pray for the person who has committed this act of theft—not to condemn him, because we do not know his situation.”

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