Members of a north-central Alberta church are appealing for the return of several stolen items after the building was robbed for a second time within three months.
Mounties say they believe a group of suspects broke into St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church and Cemetery, about seven kilometres north of Onoway, sometime in the last four weeks.
The thieves took a number of religious items, including a chalice and liturgy set, incense boat and burner, candelabra, holy water bucket, gold and wooden crosses and a large Ukrainian red and gold gospel.
Police say some of the items were close to a century old.
“It was a shock,” said congregation member Lynn Shabada. “We couldn’t even believe they were gone.”
The items were discovered to be missing during repair work on the small church, located along Range Road 22 in Lac Ste. Anne County, about an hour’s drive northwest of Edmonton.
“It was devastating actually,” said Shabada.
She said the church and its neighbouring cemetery were built in the 1940s by Ukrainian pioneers and held their first service in July of 1950.
The stolen items were donated over decades by members of the community and their families.
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“When the minister is using a particular item for a part of this service, you know exactly whose family donated that item,” she said.
“It’s a piece of our history and a piece of our heritage.”
A large bell, weighing more than 250 pounds and bolted to a 16-foot-high wooden tower, was also taken from the church sometime between July 10 and 12.
Police aren’t sure if the same suspects are responsible for both robberies.
Anyone with information about the theft should contact Stony Plain/Parkland RCMP at 825-220-7267 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Shabada remains hopeful the items will be returned.
“All that matters is recovering the items,” she said.
“We want our heirlooms back is what we want.”