The Church of the Immaculate Conception on North Fullerton Avenue. FILE PHOTO

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news 

A thief made off with part of the collection money from a Sunday morning Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and township police are investigating the crime.

At 11:15 a.m. Sunday a man was reported to have entered the church on North Fullerton Avenue and stolen the money, Police Detective Lt. David O’Dowd said on Monday. The suspect was described as a heavy-set African-American male, roughly 5 feet 2 inches in height, with a goatee, he said.

The Roman Catholic house of worship informed parishioners of the robbery in an email Sunday night.

“I write to advise you that today, during the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Immaculate Conception, the first collection was stolen from the sacristy with the second collection for heat being left behind,” wrote the Rev. Amilcar Benito Prado, administrator of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish.

“The Montclair police were immediately notified and are canvasing the area around the parish for the suspect,” Prado said.

The exact dollar amount of the stolen money was unknown, and an investigation is underway at this time, according to O’Dowd.

“The staff and I have been discussing safety and security and this adds a sense of urgency to those conversations,” Prado said in his email.

“If you have an expertise in this area, we would welcome your input,” he said. “Until we have a good plan in place, let me ask you to take to heart that saying ‘if you see something, say something.'”

Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Pine Street last year were merged into one new parish, St. Teresa, with Prado as its administrator.

He sent a second email to churchgoers on Monday afternoon suggesting that they stop payment if their donation at that Mass was a check.

Thank you to all our parishioners who have generously supported our parish,” he wrote. “As you know, our parish suffered an unfortunate loss yesterday when someone stole the regular Sunday collection from the 10:30 Mass. If you attended that Mass and made a donation by check, you may want to consider asking your bank to stop payment on your check to minimize the risk of the perpetrator cashing your check. I am very sorry for the inconvenience.”

Erin Roll contributed to this story.