On Sunday, January 17, the rectory was robbed. The theft happened between 9 and 10 in the morning at a time when no one was in the building. The most serious loss was the collection from the 5 pm and 7:45 am Masses. All four collection bags as well as the cash from the candle offerings was taken. I also lost some cash from my own personal quarters. Because the collections were not yet opened or counted, I do not know how much money was taken from the parish, and I am not interested in telling anyone how much money I lost in the theft. The police and the archdiocese have been informed, and we will determine what losses may be covered by our diocesan insurance. Now I am informing you. I suggest that all who donated by check last weekend monitor those checks and stop payment on them if possible.
I am embarrassed and disappointed by this theft for several reasons. One reason is that I was too trusting that our rectory would not be violated by crime. We are not cavalier with collection money, but it was too easily accessible for the thief. It appears that this could have been an “inside job” of sorts — not that it was performed by someone who works or volunteers at the parish, but that someone had unauthorized access to a key to the rectory and knew exactly where cash was likely to be, both on the office level and in my own living space. Another larger reason is that I did not act decisively enough to secure the money that people so generously gave to the parish. The third is that the collection for Haiti produced a larger than normal amount at all the other Masses and probably had done so in the two that were stolen.
Please accept my humble apology for my mistakes that allowed this theft to be so damaging to our parish. I will work with the police to the extent that I must to catch this criminal and bring about justice, but we all know that there is no real likelihood of an arrest. I will also make sure that our collections are safeguarded at any time when no authorized people are in the rectory.
Thank you for your ongoing generosity to the parish. I hope that this incident will not make you reconsider your contributions. I assure you that I will do everything in my power to make sure that such a crime is never repeated.
Fr. Phil Cyscon
FROM MY CORNER OF THE WORLD
Even before the crime that befell us over the weekend, I had been thinking about this topic for my reflection. There are a few times a year when the theme of forgiveness is expressed in the readings, and I usually take those opportunities to reflect on the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
Forgiveness is the act of pardoning someone for a mistake or wrongdoing. Reconciliation is the ending of conflict or renewing of a friendly relationship between disputing people or groups. We know from sacred Scripture that God always forgives. We also know from both Scripture and church tradition that God always wishes to be reconciled with sinners. God wants us to know that we are always pardoned, and God always wishes for us to be in relationship with him. That is a great comfort and ought to be a delight for all sinners.
It isn’t so easy or clear for people. When Peter asked Jesus how often he needed to forgive a brother who wronged him, Jesus replied in essence that he must forgive every time. The trouble with sins is that they tend to stick more to the victim than the perpetrator. Let one terrorist come onto an airplane with a bomb in his shoe, and every single person who flies must stand barefoot while all the shoes are x-rayed. Let one thief steal a collection bag from a rectory, and forever will we have locked rooms and lock-boxes to protect these precious gifts from our parishioners. Let one person lie to you, and you are likely to carry around distrust for that person for a long time to come.
We forgive to get rid of the burden of carrying around the hurt done to us. We do not want to hate, and unforgiven sin leads to hatred. Eventually, we get over airport security, or security measures in our parish house, or even the checking we must do for our family members because we don’t want to carry anger or something worse with us.
That is very different from giving someone the chance to hurt us again. I want any terrorist punished to the fullest extent of the law. I want the same for the thief. I want the liar to be forced to tell the truth all the time, even if I must follow the person around to make sure it happens. Just because I am willing to put down the anger and hatred caused by the sin doesn’t mean I want to or need to allow the person the opportunity to sin again.
I forgive for my own sake. I reconcile in order to have a relationship again. Reconciliation is serious business because it is the act of love. If Peter had asked Jesus how many times he must reconcile with someone who had sinned against him, I suspect that Jesus would have given a very different answer than the one he gave about forgiving. Jesus would have known that sometimes a relationship is irrevocably broken by the sin or dispute. He would have known that sometimes it is better not to allow a person the chance to hurt us again.
I reconcile when I want more than anything else to build a loving and respectful relationship with a person who has sinned against me. I seek reconciliation with someone I have wronged when I want them to know that my love is greater than the hurt I have caused. It doesn’t always happen, and it isn’t ever automatic. As I work through feeling angry, hurt, and embarrassed by the person who stole from our parish and from me, I am already in the process forgiving the unknown thief. I don’t know whether I’ll ever be able to reconcile if I even had a prior relationship with the person who did this evil deed.
Please consider the persons who have wronged you. Forgive them always, and reconcile with them when it is possible to rebuild a loving, trusting relationship. Please consider all the persons you have sinned against. Seek their forgiveness, and reconcile if they allow it.
God bless you!
Fr. Phil Cyscon