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Catholic nuns in Hawaii shaken but hopeful after robbery

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by Jonah McKeown

Denver Newsroom, Jun 8, 2020 / 06:01 pm MT (CNA).- A community of Dominican nuns in Hawaii is shaken but hopeful after a burglar broke into their convent last week and stole a minivan that the nuns use for their ministry.

“It was still a good running car, even if it was 13 years old,” Sister Bernarda Sindol told CNA.

Donations have poured in from far and wide to help the nuns replace the stolen vehicle.

“It’s a blessing in disguise, because now we’re going to buy a new car,” she laughed.

The sisters awoke May 30 to find their convent had been broken into during the night.

No one was hurt in the robbery; the nuns live on the upper floor, and for their safety have a heavy gate on the door leading upstairs.

In addition to stealing most of the nuns’ food from the kitchen, the assailant took the keys to their minivan— which were hanging on a bulletin board downstairs— and made off with the vehicle.

Six Dominican Sisters of the Rosary live at the convent, which is located behind St. Elizabeth Catholic Church and School in Aiea, about 10 miles northwest of Honolulu on Oahu.

The police are still investigating and have not yet located the stolen vehicle.

The minivan was important for the nuns’ ministry, Sister Bernarda said, because many of them teach at the school adjacent to the convent— which the order has managed since the 1960s— and also at other schools around town.

Having the car made it easier for the nuns to get around, for their ministry and also for things like shopping and errands, without them having to rely on public transportation.

Sister Bernarda said the robber must have known which windows and areas of the convent were not alarmed, and broke in with relative ease.

The thief removed a painting of the Last Supper hanging in the nuns’ dining room, apparently hoping to find a wall safe.

The town lies on Pearl Harbor in a relatively safe area, Sister Bernarda said, so they never really expected a break-in like this.

“Some people just don’t have any respect for the Church. And those are the people we have to pray for,” she said.

As of Monday, a GoFundMe page set up by St. Elizabeth’s pastor had collected more than $31,000 toward a new vehicle for the nuns.

Sister Bernarda said donations have poured in from all over— the last one she saw was from a trucker in Nebraska, who donated $20.

“Twenty dollars is twenty dollars. It’s from people’s hearts, and we appreciate it. People are just so generous,” she said.

Sister Bernarda asked for prayers for an end to the pandemic, as she suspects the thief likely broke into their convent out of desperation.

“People are frustrated, they’ve lost their jobs, they have to feed their families. So we just pray that this coronavirus will go away so that people can live more normally,” she said.

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