Priest relieved priceless religious relic was returned

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) – A priceless religious relic ended up in the wrong hands.

The thief stole a bone fragment of St. Rita, an Italian nun who died in 1457 and was canonized in 1900 according to Father Andrew Dudzinksi. It happened at the parish office of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Muncie.

“Here at St. Mary’s we try to reach out to, following in line of all of the Popes, even Pope Francis, is kind of emphasizing reaching out to the poor and destitute, those in need,” Dudzinski said.

And he tried doing exactly that Sunday, when he found Larry Allen Rhodes rummaging through a tool box in his bedroom.

“I asked him if I could help him and he said no and I asked him what are you looking for,” explained Duzinski. “And he took the hammer out of the tool box and he said, ‘No, you don’t want to know me, I have problems, I’m going to hurt somebody.'”

Dudzinski didn’t realize it yet, but he said Rhodes broke in through a front window, walked all around the parish office, and into his room.

“I was very calm, very peaceful because we had St. Rita and Pope John Paul looking out for me,” he said.

But no one was looking out for them. Police say Rhodes stole a coin showing Pope John Paul II and a tiny relic which holds a bone fragment of St. Rita.

“She is a patron’s saint of hopeless causes which was interesting that he would take these two things out of everything that we have, the two religious items that he took, there was really no monetary value,” he said.

If money is really what Rhodes was looking for, he had come to the right place.

“The irony is, I’m glad he came to the church, but he tried to rob us instead of asking for help, because we’d have been happy to give that to him,” said Dudzinski.

Something he said the church has done before, specifically for Rhodes.

“He had been here in the past, needed help with getting his medication. Obviously we’re not a drug store but we do help pay for their medication if it’s prescribed by a doctor. And so if he needed medicine, we’re always giving food, anything that he would have needed,” he said.

Dudzinksi said he followed Rhodes all around the parish office until he left. The whole time he said he was trying to reason with him while also calling the police. Officers arrested Rhodes a short time later not too far from the church.

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