The gold-plated Tabernacle, which houses the consecrated Eucharist, was valued at $20,000. The church needed to raise that plus an additional $15,000 to replace the sound system and increase security.
Lopez turned to parishioners, asking them to add an extra dollar to their weekly offering. Just weeks after the burglaries parishioners had raised all of the money to replace the stolen items and then some.
As donations were adding up, so were clues in the case. Thanks to tips and surveillance video, Indio police arrested a man who lived within walking distance of the church.
“It was disheartening, the Tabernacle was in pieces,” said Indio Police Department spokesman Benjamin Guitron, a Catholic. “The hosts were gone.”
In the interim OLPH is using a smaller tabernacle from the parish rectory and a sound system borrowed from a parishioner.
OLPH leadership is asking parishioners to practice prayer and forgiveness instead of hate in its treatment of the suspected burglar.
“I think it’s our responsibility,” said Lopez, adding that Father Luis Guido, parochial vicar, was to visit the man in jail to offer him pastoral care. “I would tell the suspect, God loves you. Know him and you will be blessed.”
She feels blessed too.
“People were coming up to me saying, ‘don’t worry, ‘we’re going to do it,’ “ Lopez said. “The reaction from the community has been unbelievable.
“It’s been a conversion and a transformation for all of us.”
The OLPH burglaries are the latest to hit local Catholic churches this year, prompting an earlier memo from the Diocese advising parishes to use extra security precautions. The struggling regional economy is cited as a potential reason for the church burglaries.
Natalie Romano is a freelance writer and a parishioner of The Holy Name of Jesus parish in Redlands.