The Holy Eucharist was stolen early last week from Holy Trinity Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
The tabernacle door was reportedly vandalized and forced open and the Eucharist was removed what is believed to be sometime early Monday morning, Sept. 19, according to Msgr. Thomas Sandi, the pastor.
Msgr. Sandi made the discovery when opening the church for 9 a.m. daily Mass that same day. He reported the incident to police, and at press time was awaiting results of their investigation. The tabernacle door is currently being repaired.
On behalf of Cardinal Dolan, Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara, episcopal vicar of Staten Island and South, East and West Manhattan, presided at Sunday morning Masses at Holy Trinity on Sept. 25.
After introducing the bishop to his parishioners before the 9:30 a.m. liturgy, Msgr. Sandi explained the purpose of the bishop’s visit to the church.
“He’s come to comfort us and to support us,” Msgr. Sandi said.
Desecration of the Eucharist is a serious matter, the pastor said. (The Church teaches that the Blessed Sacrament is the Body and Blood of Christ.)
“We don’t want to scare anybody,” Msgr. Sandi said. “We believe that this robbery was just that.”
The pastor encouraged the people to pray about the incident. “We ask you to be calm, and trust in God.”
Bishop O’Hara blessed the tabernacle, sanctuary and church nave with holy water.
Cardinal Dolan “knows of your suffering,” Bishop O’Hara said in his remarks to the congregation. He noted that the cardinal’s prayers and greetings to them accompanied him on his visit.
Among the parishioners who were taken aback by the news was Mark Pilla, 42, who attended the 9:30 a.m. Mass with his wife Megan and their two young daughters and son.
“I’m very saddened,” Pilla said, “but very grateful that, obviously, it’s recognized by the church and the archdiocese, and that the bishop would come and be here for the community.”
Pilla, who spoke with CNY outside the church after the Mass, said he anticipated their children will have questions for them.
“It’s going to be definitely something to reflect on and teach them,” he said, and “pray that it doesn’t happen again.”
The Eucharist, Pilla said, “means everything.”
“It’s the foundation of our faith,” he added, “the cornerstone.”
That such a violation of the Blessed Sacrament would occur is “obviously disgraceful,” Pilla said, but at the same time “we have to pray for that person or persons as well.”
Bishop O’Hara prayed, “Good and gracious God, we have come together once again to celebrate the Paschal Mystery, and your Son’s triumph over sin and death. But on this the Lord’s day we grieve, as your sanctuary and the Most Blessed Sacrament have been violated.”
“In the midst of this sadness,” the bishop continued, “we come together and ask you to bless and make holy this sacred space, where the mystery of the redemption is renewed daily.”
“Surround this place of worship, adoration and celebration with your protective presence. Deepen our love of your Son’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. Transform our hearts and lives, that we may be radiant tabernacles of His Presence.”
The bishop also prayed for continued blessings upon “the apostolic ministries of this wonderful parish,” particularly those that reach out to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the neglected, the abandoned and the unwanted, “those whom life has left behind.”
“We pray in a special way for the person or persons responsible for this act of desecration,” the bishop said, “that the wideness of your mercy might enter the deep recesses of their hearts, embracing them with love and bringing them to true conversion and change.”
He prayed as well for abundant blessings upon “the entire Holy Trinity family, each and every one, and all the members of this Upper West Side community.”
Msgr. Sandi, in concluding remarks, suggested to the numerous parents present in the pews with their children, of the opportune time to remind their children of “how very much we value Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”
A news release from the archdiocese said the desecration at Holy Trinity was the latest in a series of bias incidents targeting Catholic churches in the archdiocese recently. Among them, it cited pro-Islamist writings spray painted on St. Catherine of Genoa Church in Manhattan, and Sacred Heart Church in Suffern experienced smashed stained glass windows, broken candle stands and other damage, as well as an assault on a church employee.