SINGAPORE – The prayer room at St. Joseph Church (Bukit Timah) was burglarised on Monday Jan 5 and the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, stolen.

The break-in was discovered at about 6.00am that morning by the caretakers of the church. The caretakers, a husband and wife team, then informed parish priest Father Edmund Chong.

The glass case in which the monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament was kept, was smashed. The monstrance and Blessed Sacrament were missing.

The prayer room, called The Upper Room, is located in a separate wing from the main church. It is locked daily from 10.00pm to 6.00am.

There were two failed burglary attempts at the parish recently. The first was at end November, when the door knob to the parish house was ripped off; and the second in December, when an attempt to disarm the alarm failed.

Both attempts were unsuccessful as the alarm sounded.

Father Edmund suspects that the economic downturn had made these people desperate for money or because the robbers thought the parish had "money stockpiled in the church".

He cannot understand why anybody would want to steal the monstrance though. Yes, it is gold-plated but "who will want to buy a monstrance?" he asked, perplexed.

Following the break-in, Father Edmund Chong and Father Joachim Chang urged parishioners "to be more vigilant and to spend more time in prayer and in reparation" in a Jan 11 notice in the church bulletin.

"Let us pray too, for the conversion of the culprit, and that the Blessed Sacrament would be held in reverence," the priests requested.

The police are investigating the break-in.

Parishioners of the church have responded with shock and anger, but "I tell them we should pray for [the robbers], not get carried away by emotions but, as Christians, continue to pray for those in darkness," said Father Edmund.

"What has happened has happened. My only hope is that the Blessed Sacrament can be found," he added.

"What is the outcome of this, we do not know. But God allowed it to happen, and we will leave the outcome to Him, one that may add value to our faith. I urge people to pray for the conversion of the one who stole it."

He then asked people to "look out on YouTube or anywhere else you can, for a monstrance for sale".

Thefts at parishes have occurred before. It is not uncommon for figurines of Baby Jesus to be removed without permission from nativity cribs during Christmas.

At Church of the Holy Spirit in 2007, a Baby Jesus figurine was removed from the nativity scene displayed in the chapel. In its place was a Singapore two-dollar note.

At Church of St. Francis of Assisi, the statue of Mother Mary was scratched just two days after last Christmas. There are deep cuts across Mary’s face, hands and breast.

The statue, part of a nativity scene, was bought from Australia and had arrived just days before Christmas and was on display in the main church hall.

Parish priest Father John Lau reported that only the statue of Mother Mary was scratched. He suspects that the person who did it might have been "angry" at Mother Mary for some reason. Such an occurrence "saddens me", he added.

- By Joyce Gan

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