STE. GENEVIEVE - Thou shall not steal. Four simple words likely foremost on the minds of Ste. Genevieve Catholic parishioners after nine relics were stolen from the church around Christmas.
"I think its pretty upsetting that someone would come in here and take religious objects," said Rev. Dennis Schmidt, pastor of Ste. Genevieve Catholic Church. "The value in them is more of a spiritual value than a monetary value. This is very sad."
According to church officials, the missing relics were accounted for Christmas Eve, when the cleaning crew was preparing the church for Christmas masses. When the crew returned to clean on Jan. 4, a number of the relics were missing. A police report was filed with the Ste. Genevieve Police Department.
"At this time I have spoken with Father Schmidt and we've got some other agencies involved, looking at area pawn shops. It's my understanding that there is more of a sentimental value to the objects than a monetary value, especially without the letters of authenticity," said Ste. Genevieve Police Chief Eric Bennett.
Typically, relics are placed on or near the altars of Catholic churches. They are usually held in a container about the size of a silver dollar. Relics are meant to help those who honor them - to bring people closer to that saint.
"Relics are something belonging to or connected with Our Lord or a Saint, such as a portion of their bodies or a garment they wore. As such, these items are priceless to us as a community," said Rev. Schmidt.
The relics in question have been part of the Ste. Genevieve parish since the 1930s and 1940s when the pastor at that time brought them back from Rome.
"For me, its part of the history of our place and there is no replacement for them. That is why we pray that these holy items are returned to us," said Rev. Schmidt.
Parishioners were also upset over the theft.
"The thought of someone coming into our church and not seeing the beauty and reverence of the sanctuary and relics, but only seeing things that can be stolen, is very sad to me. I am also afraid that if the thieves discover that there is no monetary gain from the items, they will be discarded, resulting in a loss to our church family," said parishioner Holly Parmer.
Officials and parishioners agree that if the relics are returned, the person responsible will be forgiven. While that may not save the perpetrator from arrest, even law enforcement agrees it would be the right course of action.
"We're just really hoping for some public support on this. If someone sees or hears something about this, if they would let us know I'm sure the church would appreciate it. Even if it is as anonymously as they took them. We are just trying to get the artifacts back more than anything else. The most important aspect at this point is that the church is made whole again," Chief Bennett said.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Ste. Genevieve Police Department at 573-883-5707.
Pat Pratt is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010 ext. 172 or firstname.lastname@example.org