Nun's rape outside Catholic church stuns Aliquippa, nation
A nun who was raped outside an Aliquippa church is an advocate for a community that reeled in shock on Saturday over the brutal crime, police said.
“This is not acceptable on any level,” Aliquippa police Chief Andre Davis said. “This is unacceptable to the whole community.”
Prayers and well wishes have poured in from across the country for the 85-year-old retired nun, said Sister Mary Pellegrino, congregational moderator for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden.
“As Sisters of St. Joseph, we live and work to bring all people into union with God, and Sister manifests that spirit every day. Sister is a passionate advocate of nonviolence, peace and justice, and each month she conducts a prayer vigil for peace in the chapel of our Motherhouse,” Pellegrino said in a statement. “As we offer continued prayers of healing for our Sister, we also pray for the young man who has been arrested in the assault.”
Andrew Clarence Bullock, 18, of Aliquippa denied any involvement in the Friday morning attack outside St. Titus Roman Catholic Church, his brother, Zach Hauser, said on Saturday. Bullock remained in the Beaver County Jail on Saturday on charges including rape and aggravated assault, unable to post $50,000 bail. Hauser said his brother called him on Friday night from the Aliquippa police station.
“I don't know what to believe,” Hauser said. “He said that he had been walking by the church, but he didn't do it.”
Police said the nun was dropping off papers in a recycling bin by the convent in which she lives next to St. Titus Church just before 11:30 a.m. Friday when a man approached her from behind, tapped her on the shoulder and asked if she needed help.
“She said that when she turned to look at him, he had a very nice smile,” Aliquippa police Detective Sgt. Steven Roberts said.
Within moments, police said, Bullock attacked the nun and raped her.
Roberts said the nun was able to describe her attacker, and another man gave a matching clothing description of someone he had seen nearby before the attack. Through that, police identified Bullock.
When questioned, Roberts said, Bullock eventually admitted attacking the nun, but he did not give a reason.
“I couldn't believe it when I heard it,” said St. Titus church member Lucy Biega, 89, of Aliquippa. “I don't recall anything ever happening like this before in Aliquippa. Maybe someone trying to steal a purse, but nothing like this. And to a nun. It's just shameful.”
Roberts said the nun underwent surgery in Allegheny General Hospital to repair a broken jaw. Church officials said she was released on Saturday.
“She's always very pleasant, very happy and very helpful,” Roberts said. “She's always been concerned about people within the community, looking out for people within the community.”
While she lived at the St. Titus convent, the Rev. Paul C. Householder said she had worked at a church in West View before retiring several years ago. She continues to visit patients at the Baden Villa St. Joseph and performs other social services chores.
“She's quite a talker and has a great personality,” Householder, St. Titus pastor, said. “People enjoy her visits.”
The nun was the victim of a purse snatching in 2006 after returning from an evening Mass in the same area where the rape took place, Roberts said.
Worshippers at the Saturday evening Mass said she not only fought off the purse snatcher, but told him that she would forgive him of his crime and then gave him $10.
“It's a shame, what happened this time,” said Eddie Katkich, 72, a retired Aliquippa police sergeant and member of the St. Titus congregation. “But that's a sign of the times. She's a sweet lady, too.”