Mass at St. John the Baptist Church in Westport, Mass. was abruptly canceled over the weekend after a major break-in. Several precious items were stolen and the alter and a small shire room were vandalized.
"Shock. Absolute shock. It wasn't anything we expected," said Rev. Leonard Hindsley who has been with the church for seven years.
The items have since been replaced, but pictures show the destruction. Everything needed to celebrate a Catholic mass was gone including a brass tabernacle from 1911 with consecrated hosts still inside.
"That's a desecration and a sac–religion. It's an outrage," said Rev. Hindsley.
A church employee discovered the robbery at the church located at 945 Main Road just fifteen minutes before Saturday night mass. Other items that were taken included a chalice, two large brass candlesticks, two ciboria, a couple of pyxes, and a Roman Missal, but it was what was left behind that caught the attention of church officials. The thief's skipped over many additional brass candle sticks and other metal religious items that Rev. Hindsley says would have been worth more money.
"Myself, I don't think the motive was for money," said Hindsley. "I think it's more like a hate crime."
The doors to St. John's were locked and the vandals didn't force their way in. Rev. Hindsley is questioning whether who ever is responsible may have had a key. He says many people would have keys to the church for one reason or another, and that sometimes people forget to give them back.
Many of the stolen and/or destroyed items are irreplaceable. All told it's more than a ten thousand dollar loss for the church.
Police are investigating the incident and say no other churches in the area reported being broken into that night. Still, St. John's plans on replacing all the locks.