FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A Catholic church in Yokuts Valley, formerly known as Squaw Valley, had a big part of their sacred sacrament stolen.
St. Rita’s Mission Church on George Smith Rd. had their tabernacle, eucharist, and other holy items taken over the weekend, and had to have a mass without those crucial things.
The father who oversees St. Rita’s says the items like the chalice and wine are just that, items, but the eucharist that was stolen, that he blessed to have embodied Jesus Christ, is what hurts the most.
“That could be it, another way they could’ve gone into,” said Father Alfredo Contreras Arias with St. Rita’s Mission Church.
A small gate in the back of St. Rita’s Mission Church is where Father Alfredo Arias believes the thief or thieves got into his church by climbing through the floor.
When the church doors were opened on Sunday morning, things important to the mass and its service were missing.
“I’ve been a priest for 19 years and it never happened to me,” Father Arias said. “You cry and you feel sad. You feel violated like when someone breaks into your house.”
A ceremonial dish, a chalice, two bottles of wine, the church’s thermostat, and the tabernacle, items worth thousands of dollars to the church were stolen.
Also, the eucharist inside of it, which Father Arias blessed himself to both embody Jesus Christ and to share with prayer.
“But then when they stole the most precious gift in the house, for us as Catholics, it’s the Lord Jesus Christ, and that’s why it’s so painful,” he said.
Being a rural church, St. Rita’s mission does not have security or cameras, but after this incident, security measures will have to change.
“Unfortunate, no? When something happens like this you think, okay we should have cameras,” he said.
They’ll now try and install cameras or motion sensors around the property. He has hope that someone will at least return the eucharist, which means so much to the masses.
“The worst is that. For us, they could’ve written negative stuff and we could’ve painted over it or removed it. But the worst is our lord Jesus Christ and the consecrated host and sacrament.”
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office is investigating this case. If the items aren’t returned or found within a few weeks, the church will have to start fundraising to replace their stolen items.