IT SEEMS that times have become so bad that some are turning to the church. Not to pray, but to steal.
St Joseph Church at Upper Bukit Timah has suffered three burglary attempts since last November.
The first two attempts failed. But in the third attempt last month, the church's gold-plated monstrance was stolen.
This is a vessel used in Catholic churches during devotional ceremonies.
The first attempted break-in took place last November, when the door knob to the parish house was removed.
The next month, there was an unsuccessful attempt to disarm the alarm.
Both attempts triggered the burglar alarm, which frightened off the would-be thieves.
But on 5Jan, the thieves were finally successful.
The church's caretakers discovered the theft at 6am. They came in and found a glass case in the church's prayer room smashed and the monstrance missing.
The Blessed Sacrament (sacred bread and wine) were also missing.
Parish priest Father Edmund Chong, 46, said he suspected that the culprits were desperate.
'I think people who are financially constrained are just trying to get hold of anything in such desperate times,' he said.
He was, however, perplexed about the choice of the object.
'What can anyone do with the monstrance? The most you can do is to melt it, and even then, it's worth not much at all,' he said.
'It's funny they would want to break into a church. They probably think we keep a stockpile of cash, but common sense would tell you that people keep their money in banks.'
He also suspected that the thefts were planned, as they were carried out in succession in a short span of time.
Thefts in churches have occurred in the past.
According to Father Andrew Wong, parish priest of the Church of the Holy Spirit, it is common for figurines of the Baby Jesus to be taken during the Christmas season.
In 2007, one such figurine was removed from the church's display of the nativity scene in its chapel.
However, Father Andrew thinks this was motivated out of religious, rather than economic reasons.
'I don't think it's about the money. Perhaps people are over-zealous during the Christmas period.'
Bernice Huang, newsroom intern
This article was first published in The New Paper.