Tabernacle stolen from Tacoma chapel

TACOMA, Wash. — A thief broke into a Catholic church in Tacoma this week and stole one of the most sacred objects from the parish, police say.

Investigators said sometime overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning, someone broke into the Holy Rosary Catholic convent’s chapel and stole the tabernacle.

According to police, the thief went through the kitchen door, which was closed but not fully latched.

“Tabernacles are a fixed, locked box where the Eucharist is kept. Tabernacle means ‘dwelling place,’ and so it's where Christ dwells within the church. Since the tabernacle houses the Eucharist, it is a very significant object for Catholics,” said Helen McClenahan, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

McClenahan also said the tabernacle has always been part of the convent chapel since it was built in the 1950s. It’s made of brass, roughly 20 inches tall and a foot wide and was bolted in.

Police said the tabernacle was the only thing the thief stole.

The convent chapel holds parish offices and an outreach center. It sits a few buildings down from Tacoma’s Holy Rosary Church, which groups are fighting to save from demolition.

Holy Rosary Bilingual Academy principal Katie Dempsey believes this week’s theft was targeted, but she doesn’t know why someone would take the tabernacle.

“We have a lot of families that are just really fervent in their faith and they just were just stunned and they were sadden and they just were sick to their stomach that somebody would come in here and violate this area and that something that was just so precious to the community,” said Dempsey. “It’s pretty shocking, especially with everything this church and this perish community has been going through, to have somebody come in here and take something out of such a sacred space.”