ALLOUEZ — A series of break-ins has affected churches from Brown to Sheboygan counties in recent months.
One of the most recent was a St. Anne Church in Francis Creek on the evening of March 7. According to Fr. John Becker, pastor, only a small amount of money was taken from the votive light banks. No large items, such as chalices, were taken and the tabernacle was not touched.
“My first concern was the Blessed Sacrament,” said Fr. Becker, who is also pastor of Holy Cross in Mishicot.
“The damage they did was minimal,” he added. “They broke a window in the basement. They thought that, by going there, they could get in church, but they can’t.
The priest said the thief or thieves then cut the screen over a stained glass window, used something to open the window, got in, closed the window and hid the damaged screen in the basement.
“It was almost professional,” Fr. Becker said. “They have the tools, they know exactly where to look and what to do.”
Fr. Becker said that the security policy already in place at St. Anne’s is to not keep any cash in the church, and that won’t change.
The next night, up the road in Brown County, the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion was broken into.
Father of Mercy Peter Stryker, rector of the shrine, said the thief, whom he described as “skinny,” entered the apparition site in the lower part of the shrine through a small window. He first broke open votive light money boxes. When he went for a larger money box on the counter, near the base of the staircase, an alarm was triggered. The thief fled before the Brown County Sheriff’s department arrived. However, some of the burglary was caught on the shrine’s security cameras.
“The bottom line is that he did not get much, maybe less than $50,” Fr. Stryker told The Compass. “Our security system did work; the alarm did go off when he got to a certain point.”
Nonetheless, Fr. Stryker intends to add more security.
“We’ll have more security lights, some motion detectors,” he said. “We think that would have helped a lot on that particular night when that person came to break in — if we’d had those in place, things might have been a little bit different.”
Fr. Stryker also mentioned his concern that two break-ins that happened before the shrine’s — at Champion and Francis Creek — are not the only church burglaries in the area.
“Those (break-ins) that happened before us, happened about 35 minutes away from us and so we honestly didn’t think he or she would be at our place.”
He thinks differently now and believes that the break-in leaves the message to “beef up the security system” and thinks that other churches are getting the same message.
Other diocesan area churches that were burgled recently include:
- Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Town of Liberty, (rural Manitowoc);
- Silver Lake College Generose Enrichment Center in Manitowoc (both in early March);
- St. Therese Parish, Stangelville site; and
- St. Therese Parish, Pilsen site, (both of these Kewaunee County locations were hit in late February).
The Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department is offering a $500 reward through its Crime Stoppers Program at (920) 683-4466. Callers may remain anonymous.
Anyone with information on the Kewaunee burglaries should call the Kewaunee County Sheriff’s Department at (920) 388-3100 or the county’s Crime Stoppers at (920) 388-0440.