Burglar steals more than just a church's tabernacle

BEAVERTON, Ore. - A Beaverton burglar might have to answer to a higher power than the police.

Somebody broke into St. Cecilia Catholic Church on Wednesday night or Thursday morning and stole the church's tabernacle, prying off the wooden altar it was bolted to.

The stolen item is about a foot wide and made of gold, with a value of about $10,000.

There was no forced entry. The tabernacle was located in a room that is always open, though it requires a key code to get inside.

The church's pastor, Father Pat McNamee, said he was "sick to the stomach" when he found out a burglar stole the tabernacle. He said what hurts the most is the "depth of disrespect."

The chapel, where the tabernacle sat, is a place many come to escape from the rest of the world.

"They come in and they sit and they meditate and they read, and they reflect on the Eucharist as the bread of life, which Christ called it. And so it builds up their faith," McNamee said. But "right now it's gone from here. So we have this absent feeling, this void."

McNamee is less interested in finding the suspect and the tabernacle than with finding the most sacred part of his Catholic faith stolen along with it.

"Gold can really be replaced. It's not so much that," he said. "Our faith is tested when someone enters this space and takes our most precious thing - that Holy Eucharist."

He said he doesn't think the person had any particular hatred toward the Catholic faith, but more likely viewed the tabernacle as an "easy catch."

He hopes to find the tabernacle or have it returned with no questions asked before someone tries to sell it.

It's uncertain how long the tabernacle has been at St. Cecilia, though one woman said she's worked at the church for 16 years, and it's been there for at least that long.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Beaverton Police Department at (503) 629-0111.