The St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church of Shelby Township, Mich., lost nearly $40,000 in donations over Easter weekend after thieves broke into the place of worship, using methods and equipment which local law enforcement is describing as "sophisticated" and "professional."
"We're looking at probably a professional crew," Shelby Township Police Chief Roland Woelkers told the Detroit Free Press regarding the burglary that occurred sometime between 10 p.m. Sunday and Monday morning, when a maintenance worker discovered the church had been broken into.
A team of thieves reportedly used special equipment to break through a glass door at the St. Therese of Lisieux church, and then used more specialized equipment to break into the safe room of the church, where they stole roughly $40,000 in donations collected during six masses over Easter weekend.
"The police think they used some type of grinding, drilling-type tool to get into it. We had six collections in there from our six masses. There were six plastic bags of our Sunday collections, checks and cash. We believe it to be probably around forty thousand dollars," the church's administrative manager, Linda Maccerone, told WWLP 22 News.
Nearby, St. Luke Lutheran Church in Michigan's Clinton Township also lost an undisclosed amount of donation money over the weekend due to a robbery, and authorities told the Detroit Free Press that they believe the two burglaries are connected.
Thomas Guastello, a former state lawmaker and current owner of the Comfort Inn in the Shelby Township, has offered a $1,000 reward to anyone able to supply information regarding Sunday's robberies.
Additionally, Guastello offered $1,000 to the St. Therese of Lisieux church as support while it recovers from the robbery.
"This type of criminal conduct is unacceptable and violates the basic fiber of our community," Guastello told The Macomb Daily.
"I am familiar with St. Therese church and the outstanding work it does. It is absolutely reprehensible that people would rob a church and steal a large amount of collection money and chalices," Guastello continued.
"The robbery of St. Therese and the stealing of the Easter collection is especially sad. Easter is one of the most holy and sacred religious days, celebrating the resurrection of Christ."
A rash of church burglaries occurred in December 2012 in the Detroit area as well as surrounding townships, and at the time police believed the burglaries to be connected.
The break-ins then ceased after the holidays, and police have not indicated if they believe these most recent robberies are related.
The money stolen from St. Therese of Lisieux church was insured, but congregation members have reportedly continued to donate money to the church to help with the damages.