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New Kensington church officials respond to burglaries with prayer

Chuck Biedka
| Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011

A Christmas Day break-in at Mount St. Peter Roman Catholic Church is getting the burglars more than they might expect.

The thieves walked away with about $5,000 and two digital cameras, but they also are being targeted with prayer.

New Kensington Police said the burglars broke a window to enter the church at 100 Freeport Road.

Church members said the crime apparently happened after midnight Mass and early Sunday when people arrived to prepare for services on Christmas Day. Church offices were rifled.

Last week, burglars broke a window to enter The United Presbyterian Church of New Kensington at 601 Fifth Ave., only five blocks away.

After making a mess of those offices, the intruders walked away with about $500 and some copper pipe.

On Monday, clergy from both churches said they are remembering the burglars with prayer, not anger.

Catholics on Monday were celebrating the Feast of St. Stephen, said Monsignor Michael J. Begolly, pastor of Mount St. Peter parish.

"Stephen followed the example of Christ and prayed for his persecutors as they were stoning him to death," the priest said. "We are praying for those who broke in on Christmas and are saddened that for some, their lives are so desperate that they would break into a church on Christmas Day."

Yule dinner served

At The United Presbyterian Church of New Kensington, the Rev. Colin Yuckman, had a similar view.

"We're not angry at them," the pastor said. "We're angry at the conditions that make it possible for people like these perpetrators to feel it would take a crime to meet their needs."

Churches have a mission to help people, Yuckman said, and both churches are trying to do that.

Whoever broke into the Presbyterian church took about $500 raised by the youth group, some copper pipe, and thousands of dollars worth of laptop computers.

Papers were strewn in several offices where the burglars searched for valuables.

Most of the copper pipe was left behind in a cart.

The thieves also broke numerous windows and caused other damage.

For a while the break-in threatened a community Christmas dinner at the church. But a plumber was able to complete repairs and about 60 meals were served.

In addition, numerous donations have been made. "There's been an impressively positive response," Yuckman said.

Myers Coach Lines will give the church use of a luxury charter bus to take the youth to Washington, D.C., and back.

"The youth will be going to The Pilgrimage, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that will provide service and learning opportunities to help us better understand hunger and homelessness," added Yuckman's wife, Meredith.

New Kensington Police Detective Sgt. Dino DiGiacobbe said officers checked for fingerprints and other evidence.

Police are asking witnesses to come forward.

Police don't know yet if there is a connection to the theft of copper wire from Community Bible Church, Allegheny Township, in September.

Additional Information:

Police seek your help

Police are asking for information about the Dec. 18 overnight break-in of The United Presbyterian Church of New Kensington at 601 Fifth Ave., and the Christmas Day break-in at Mount St. Peter Catholic Church, 100 Freeport Road.

Anyone with information is asked to call New Kensington police at 724-339-7533.

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