Park Slope church robbed of ‘priceless’ tabernacle

St. Augustine Church in Park Slope was robbed of their tabernacle late Thursday night.

A tabernacle is an ornate encasing that holds the consecrated eucharist, which in the Catholic religion represents the literal body of christ.

The church along 6th Avenue was broken into on Friday evening according to police. The surrounding architecture was destroyed as well. The angels surrounding the tabernacle were decapitated and the eucharist was strewn across the room.

Cops say the 18 karat gold tabernacle decorated with jewels is approximately worth $2 million. But to the parishioners, a lot more was stolen.

Diane Montemarano, 68, has attended the parish for 39 years. Her father, born in 1918, was an altar boy at the church in his youth.

“I always loved coming here because, you know, he was an altar boy, and he grew up in this parish. So, personally, it’s like, a relic of my dad was taken,” Montemarano said in an interview.

The stolen tabernacle dates back to the 1890s, from when the church was built, and is described as irreplaceable by the church due to its historical and artistic significance. Burglars cut through a steel encasing with power tools. Father Tumino said that when he walked in Saturday morning he saw the door was ajar. After he walked in and saw the destruction, he could still smell the metal shavings from the tools used to break through.

Tumino also stated that the DVR that recorded the security footage within the church was stolen as well. The Father said that the parish is working with police to see if neighboring schools or businesses caught any footage of the suspects.

Tumino also speculated that due to the construction in the neighborhood, the burglars were able to break through the steel encasing without raising suspicion.

Tumino shot down the idea of an inside job at a Sunday morning press conference.

“I know it’s easy for people to say it was an inside job. But the reality is, these are also very public buildings. And so even online, there’s a history of this church,” Tumino said. “And even the history of the church does say that there is a tabernacle and that information is accessible. And because churches are available for weddings and funerals and for mass, people do come in and out.”

“This was a place where you come to gather yourself things are going wrong. You can come here and calm down and sort of get a second boost so to speak,” Michael Okebey, 58, who has been attending services at St. Augustine’s for 35 years, said. “I feel like somebody has interrupted my relationship with God in some way.

After being asked about how he felt about the crime, knowing that the approximate value of the tabernacle is $2 million, Okebey got more stern.

“Now i’m really angry,” he said, explaining that the church is currently raising funds for other projects and that this would put them further behind.

Catholic schools announce back-to-school protocols

The Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes 69 elementary schools throughout Brooklyn and Queens, has announced its COVID-19 safety protocols for the beginning of the school year. Students are set to return to classes on September 8.
Although there is no official mandate in place from the city, the state Department of Health has recommended that schools adopt universal indoor masking based on guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As such, Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens will require all students, faculty and staff to wear masks.
“As the numbers of coronavirus cases continue to spike in children, and the overall numbers of hospitalizations in New York City are on the rise, this is the most responsible approach to take when we begin the new school year,” said superintendent Thomas Chadzutko. “I know the return to these safety measures is not the situation parents, teachers or students were hoping to be the case in the 2021-2022 school year, but we cannot ignore the trends,”
“As this academic year moves along, we will revisit these guidelines and adjust them accordingly,” he added. “As much as we want a return to normalcy in our classrooms, we want our students, faculty, and staff to be safe.”
In addition to masks, Catholic schools will continue to heavily encourage vaccinations, social distancing, and frequent hand washing and sanitizing. Parents of students will also be instructed to keep their children home if they are sick to prevent any potential outbreaks.
The schools will also continue to follow city and state guidelines regarding contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols.
“I have received my vaccination and continue to encourage others to do so as well,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “It is our hope that the COVID-19 vaccines will help bring an end to this terrible virus that has controlled our lives for much of the past year and a half.”
Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens opened on time last school year and offered in-person instruction five days a week.
Currently, New York City public schools are also planning on a return to full, in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.

Catholic education

Dear Editor,
More than ever, Catholic schools play an important role in educating our children. Holy Family Catholic Academy in Fresh Meadows exemplifies the teaching of faith formation and religious values, as well as basic academic subjects each and every day.
With a dedicated and hardworking principal, staff and faculty, along with a wonderful home school association, board of directors, and dedicated pastor, the school is indeed a foundation in our neighborhood.
There are plenty of available seats. Registration for September 2021 is ongoing, and you can contact the school at (718) 969-2124 for further information.
John Amato
Fresh Meadows

Catholic Charities hosts pop-up food pantry in Cypress Hills

Since the pandemic began last March, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has been organizing pop-up food pantry events throughout the two boroughs.
This past Thursday, they set up a food pantry in the parking lot of Blessed Sacrament Church in Cyprus Hills.
“We have been taking people in since 8:30 a.m.,” explained Debbie Hampson, senior director of Community Health and Wellness Services for Catholic Charities, during the event. “We usually serve about 800 families.”
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens operates 49 food pantries. However, when the pandemic hit last spring, the group saw a 1,000 percent increase in food requests from families in need.
In response, they began organizing the pop-up pantry events, and have since distributed over $3.4 million in food assistance to families experiencing food insecurity as a result of COVID-19.
“At the beginning we were doing this every week,” Hampson explained, “and at that time we were serving close to 1,500 families.”
Each pop-up food pantry event requires a great amount of planning and organization. Members of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens and other volunteers fill bags with prepackaged foods the night before.
During the event, the group distributes the pre-filled bags, as well as fresh produce, dairy, and meat items on a first-come, first-served basis.
“It’s almost like a farmer’s market,” Hampson said as the group distributed food to attendees.
In addition to food, the pop-up event offers free COVID-19 testing and possibly COVID-19 vaccines in the near future. Catholic Charities has also partnered with the insurance provider BlueCross BlueShield, the food assistance program SNAP, and the COVID-19 emotional support helpline NY Project Hope, all of which had a presence at Thursday’s event.
“Besides being able to provide food, we want to let people know that they are not alone,” said Hampson. “We have counseling for folks because we know a lot of people have been depressed and anxious during the pandemic.”
Despite the ongoing challenges the pandemic poses, Thursday’s event very much felt like a celebration, with a DJ playing radio hits and taking requests.
Additionally, a large number of volunteers were also present, including members of the Carpenter’s Union, EJ Electric, and many parishioners from Blessed Sacrament Church.
Former Brooklyn state senator Marty Golden was in attendance as well, assisting with the food distribution and cracking jokes with the other volunteers.
“People were lined up around the corner earlier today,” he said. “We need to be there for people who are struggling during this difficult time.”

While some volunteers continued to man the food line, others went to the Blessed Sacrament Rectory for a special lunch buffet organized by the church. During the meal, the Star caught up with
“Food is a part of the community,” said John Gonzalez, an organizer for Catholic Charities. “We are happy that we can share it with our volunteers and local families.”
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is currently holding pop-up food pantry events every other Thursday, alternating between locations in Brooklyn and Queens. The next event is tentatively scheduled for May 6 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria.

For more information on all of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens food pantries and programming, visit their website at

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