TACOMA – It was the middle of the night when Laurie Halte got a call from the security company saying the alarm had been set off at the old convent at Holy Rosary Parish.
Halte, the parish’s office manager, checked in with the security company before heading to work the morning of December 11; police had been dispatched and found the outside of the building secure.
But when Halte arrived in the building, which houses parish offices and meeting spaces, she knew something was wrong when she saw the door to the chapel was open.
She looked inside and immediately saw “the big empty space where the tabernacle should be,” she said.
The tabernacle, along with the Blessed Sacrament inside, had been stolen.
“My heart just fell,” Halte said.
The brass tabernacle, about 20 inches tall and a foot wide, had been part of the convent chapel since it was built in the 1950s. It had been anchored by a large screw, which was found lying on the floor of the chapel, Halte said.
The tabernacle contained a ciborium (a large covered cup that holds the Eucharist) and a luna (a circular container with glass sides that holds Eucharist in a monstrance for adoration).
Muddy footprints were found in the kitchen, Halte said, but “nothing else was disturbed at all” — not even the flowers that sat on either side of the tabernacle.
The convent chapel and tabernacle have seen increased use over the past year, Halte said.
Holy Rosary’s church building has been closed since last fall, when sheetrock fell from the ceiling, so the parish has been celebrating Masses in the auditorium of Holy Rosary Bilingual School. After Masses, leftover consecrated hosts have been housed in the tabernacle in the convent chapel, Halte explained.
The chapel is also used regularly for prayer, she said.
On Tuesday evening, the pastoral council had prayed the rosary in the chapel before a meeting. “So we’d all been in there just a few hours prior” to the theft, Halte said.
Holy Rosary was left “scrambling” to find a new tabernacle Wednesday until Tacoma’s St. Rita of Cascia Parish offered to loan one, which was delivered and installed in the chapel on Friday.
“It’s beautiful,” Halte said. “It’s just perfect for what we need right now.”
The Archives of the Archdiocese of Seattle also gave Holy Rosary a silver ciborium to replace the one that was stolen.
On top of the closing of their church building, this theft has been demoralizing for parishioners, Halte said. At the same, she said, many are praying that the presence of Jesus will convert the hearts and minds of whoever stole the tabernacle and Blessed Sacrament.