‘Irreplaceable’ relics stolen from St. Martha

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A service is held before the Shrine of All Saints at St. Martha Parish in Morton Grove in this 2016 file photo. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Police in Morton Grove arrested a man July 24 in connection with the May 25 theft of relics and money from St. Martha Church.

The theft was discovered and reported to police in June. Church staff were able to review security footage and turn over pictures from security cameras showing the thief in action.

Sam Dellano of Chicago was arrested after a detective spotted him at a bus stop in Morton Grove, still carrying the tool he used to get money from the poor box in the church, according to the police department. He was charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools.

A woman who was captured on security footage was not arrested and is not believed to be involved in the theft.

The church, at 8523 Georgiana Ave. in Morton Grove, includes the Shrine of All Saints and is home to more than 1,500 relics of saints.

A Morton Grove detective said police circulated photos of the suspects, but no one came forward to identify them. A parish in LaGrange reported that the man was there seeking help; he was given gift cards and left.

Dorothy Noel, St. Martha’s business manager, said the loss was discovered when the pastor, Father Dennis O’Neill, noticed that something looked out of place. When he approached the display, he realized that the medals were gone.

Noel couldn’t give a monetary value for the medals, which are about 300 years old.

“They’re irreplaceable,” she said.

She also wondered what the thieves planned to do with the medals.

“You really can’t sell them,” she said.

The detective said the police had not learned the location of the medals as of the evening of July 24.

The church houses everything from first-class relics such as bone fragments or hair from saints to third-class relics, or items that have been in physical contact with first-class relics. The church is kept locked when there is no one there to assist visitors, she said.

Noel said she didn’t know how the people ended up in the church alone.


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