Burglars target Catholic Church, leaders hide teens in kitchen for safety

Posted at 6:18 PM, Nov 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-15 20:10:07-05
ALLENTON -- Thieves targeted a church in Washington County this past weekend while two dozen teens were there for a retreat. 

It happened just after noon Sunday at Resurrection Catholic Church in Allenton. Authorities said two men attempted to break into the church's safe. 

Eileen Belongea was there when the crime took place. She said she was teaching a confirmation retreat at the church and they were just about to eat lunch. 

"We were about to take our first bite of food when we heard a lot of noise upstairs," said Belongea, the director of youth ministry at St. Peter, a sister parish. 

She said they assumed it was one of the parish priests setting up for baptisms. She said she went upstairs to invite the father to lunch and kept hearing noise coming from the sacristy. 
Not wanting to startle him, Eileen said she decided to knock. 

"The door only opened about a foot and the person on the other side of the door was not who I expected," she said. "It was a large man. At first, I thought he was part of the baptism families but then I noticed a large crowbar in his hand." 

She immediately ran back and asked one of the men at the retreat for help. 

"I mean they're heroes, they had no idea what they were going to encounter, they had nothing with them to protect themselves but they needed to put themselves between harm and the youth," Belongea said. 

Meanwhile, they moved all 24 teens into a kitchen and locked the door. Deputies arrived soon after. 

According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, a vehicle description helped them track down one of the suspects, a 52-year-old man from Milwaukee. 

Authorities said he had a crowbar in his car when a state trooper pulled him over.

He is still in custody but hasn't been formally charged in the case. 
Authorities are still looking for a second man who was at the church during the burglary attempt. Deputies said neither of the suspects managed to take anything from the church but did damage the safe. 

"I thank God that the Holy Spirit inspired me to knock on that door first because I shutter to think what might have happened if I just busted in on them," Belongea said.