BOSTON — Life on Arch Street was not as it should have been the morning after Thanksgiving.
On Nov. 25, after a busy week – one focused on giving – St. Anthony Shrine was vandalized. A burglar ripped a donation kiosk off the wall and, at first, appeared to have taken audio equipment. Within hours, news of the burglary had spread through both the Shrine’s social media and the city’s media outlets.
The crime happened early on Friday morning, between 4 and 6 a.m., according to the St. Anthony Shrine Facebook page, which reported: “Our security cameras caught the person in the act. Please ask your friends to help identify the person in these two photos.” That social media post was shared nearly 2,400 times.
In a photo published with a Boston Herald article, Thomas Conway, OFM, the Shrine’s executive director, demonstrated how the electronic giving station had been ripped from the wall. A few days later, the Boston Police had arrested a suspect.
On Monday morning, the Shrine announced: “The Boston Police now have a suspect in custody. Thank you to all of you who have expressed concern for the friars, the staff and worshipers of the Shrine. Also, a big thank you to the Boston Police Department, especially the officers and detectives of District A-1, led by Cpt. Kenneth Fong.”
A Message of Forgiveness
It was not only the crime that made news – it was also the attitude of the Shrine’s director.
CBS Boston reported, “The head of the shrine says he’s ready to forgive the suspect. The Rev. Thomas Conway, executive director of St. Anthony’s Shrine, says he’s not ready to judge the suspect and thinks it may have been a call for help. In addition to the latest charges, the suspect’s bail was revoked in two of his open cases, and he was ordered to pay a $500 fee for two other open cases.”
The Shrine’s outreach director was quoted in the Nov. 27 Boston Herald. “Sometimes desperate people do desperate things,” Mary Ann Ponti told the Herald yesterday morning as she surveyed the damage that included empty drawers strewn about the floor and a gaping hole in the wall where the thief tore down the electronic giving station.
Tom said that after checking the lobby of the Arch Street building, it was determined that nothing was taken from the Shrine. Fortunately, the incident turned out to be more of a nuisance, he said. It also turned out to be an interesting commentary of the interest the public took in the break-in.
“We had people saying to us, ‘How could someone do this to you? You’re so good to people,’” said Tom. “We got many calls from the press. On Monday morning, two media trucks were outside our building doing interviews.”
Water Main Break
Just two days before the burglary, the Shrine had experienced its first unsettling situation of the week – a broken water main pipe.
On Nov. 22, the Shrine’s Facebook said, “We had a major water line break tonight at St. Anthony Shrine. It flooded the Franciscan Food Center in our basement. Our thanks to Mayor Marty Walsh and Henry Vitale, executive director of Boston Water and Sewer Commission. They were on the phone to us right away and have a crew working through the night to fix the break. Our apologies to our neighbors for the jackhammering and commotion on Arch Street tonight! We expect to have the water back on and be up and running as usual at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday.”
It was Barry Langley, OFM, who noticed the water in the basement, said Thomas.
The following day, at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the Shrine announced that Boston Water and Sewer Commission crew had just departed after having been there since about 8:30 p.m. the night before.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Shrine’s Franciscan Dinner Raises Close to $700,000” – Oct. 28, 2016, HNP Today
- “Shrine’s Ministry to the Forgotten Captures Media Attention” – Dec. 18, 2013, HNP Today
- “Wilmington Friar Carjacked in Front of St. Paul’s Church” – July 31, 2013, HNP Today