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Santa Fe church: Donation box does not mean 'please steal'

June 19, 2012|By John M. Glionna
  • Thieves have targeted the Santuario de Guadalupe four times in the last six months, stealing donations and damaging the building.
Thieves have targeted the Santuario de Guadalupe four times in the last… (Artotem / Flickr )

LAS VEGAS -- Talk about unholy deeds: Somebody is breaking the lock on the donation box inside a historic Santa Fe, N.M., mission and stealing more than just the congregation’s good will.

And not just once.

In the fourth theft at the Santuario de Guadalupe in the last six months, a thief pried open the tiny wooden box holding donations and made off with the cash inside. Not long ago, someone broke through several iron bars in the back of the little church, smashed a window and made off with two wooden crosses.

The break-ins have church officials scratching their heads – and praying.

The Rev. Tien-Tri Nguyen told Santa Fe television station KRQE-TV that the shrine is in desperate need of a security upgrade, but that officials don’t have the money in their budget. He said the church had changed the lock on the donation box, but that the thief or thieves keep returning.

The shrine, located near historic downtown Santa Fe, was built in 1795 and is the oldest church in the nation honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe – visited by faithful from all over the world.

The thieves are taking money but also leaving a trail of damage. “Someone came and stole money from the candle box, the donation box, and we’ve been changing the locks, but they keep doing it. It’s so sad,” Nguyen told the station.

He added that the church served a lunch to the homeless three times a week on the premises, and officials suspect that one of the diners may be taking more than is given. Since the break-ins, which police say is part of a larger burglary spree in downtown Santa Fe, church officials have collected cash from the donated boxes each night to deposit in a bank.

The money is used to feed the homeless and for daily necessities.

In one recent break-in, the crooks got away with maybe $20 but caused more than $1,000 in damage. “It causes more to fix [the damage] than what they steal,” Nguyen said.

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john.glionna@latimes.com

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