Livestream equipment, donations stolen from California parish

The tabernacle damaged by burglars at St. Monica’s in Santa Monica, Calif. The tabernacle damaged by burglars at St. Monica’s in Santa Monica, Calif. | St. Monica Catholic Church

Thieves tried to desecrate a tabernacle and got away with an estimated $150,000 in technology used to livestream services from St. Monica Church in Santa Monica.

Surveillance video showed three people inside the church with flashlights removing the church’s audiovisual equipment at about 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 24. They also removed four candle boxes with donations, and tried unsuccessfully to pry open the church’s tabernacle with consecrated hosts inside.

Donation boxes emptied by burglars at St. Monica's Church. St. Monica Catholic Church
Donation boxes emptied by burglars at St. Monica's Church. St. Monica Catholic Church

The tabernacle is “the most sacred spot in any Catholic worship space — more so than the altar, more so than any other places,” Merrick Siebenaler, St. Monica’s director of development and communications, told the Santa Monica Daily Press. “Imagine someone breaking into the tomb of Jesus — that’s what that feeling is.”

Parish officials believe the burglars may have entered the church in the late afternoon and hid inside while the church was being closed for the night.

St. Monica’s pastor Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson called the failed tabernacle break-in “an inspiring demonstration of the power of the Eucharist.”

“They attempted to breach the tabernacle and it was damaged, but it held strong and protected the Blessed Sacrament,” Msgr. Torgerson told parishioners.

The church’s livestream and audio teams are already working to replace equipment and prepare to stream this weekend’s services. The estimated damages, however, do not include costs to replace the antique tabernacle, which has been in the church since 1925. 

In his message to the parish, Msgr. Torgerson said St. Monica is a “blessed community,” and thanked parishioners and the local police department for their “extraordinary care for this community.”  

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