When Doug Johnson opened his computer to answer emails, he saw a story listed in the March 30 Catholic Review e-newsletter about a tabernacle that was stolen a few days earlier from St. John the Evangelist in Hydes.
“Interesting,” thought the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s project manager. “I just saw a tabernacle looking for a new home 15 minutes ago.”
Johnson had previously met with Joe Salkeld, facility manager at Villa Julie Residence in Greenspring Valley, a former retirement community and provincial office for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Johnson was assisting the sisters in finding new homes for religious artifacts as the religious community prepares to sell the property.
Although the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur left Villa Julie Residence in 2021, Notre Dame Sister de Namur Patricia Loome oversees the property from the religious community’s Ohio Province office.
Salkeld told Johnson the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were hoping to donate several items including chairs, candleholders and a tabernacle to parishes around the area.
After reading the article, Johnson quickly connected Salkeld with Father Pete Literal, pastor of St. John, who has been grieving the theft of his parish tabernacle containing the Eucharist.
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur tabernacle was installed April 1 at St. John in the same sanctuary where the stolen tabernacle once stood. The installation is expected to be fully completed April 2.
“After 20 years working on designs and construction projects for the archdiocese, something like this is a no-brainer,” Johnson said. “When something seems really obvious, then it really should happen.”
The three were surprised to find out how similar the Villa Julie tabernacle was to the stolen one. The measures were exact, both had a golden appearance and were from the early 1960s.
“They are contemporary with each other,” Johnson said. “It was meant to be.”
The tabernacle brings some history to the parish.
“When you open the tabernacle, there are cedar floors and with written signatures. I assume it is from the sisters,” Johnson said.
Father Literal accepted the donation.
Shawn Blair, business manager at St. John, picked up the tabernacle from Villa Julie and brought it to its new permanent home.
The tabernacle arrived a few hours after the parish celebrated a rededication Mass and Holy Hour of Reparation April 1.
Blair expects the tabernacle to be used by the parish for the first time for a weekend Mass, April 2.
“The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were actually going to donate the tabernacle to St. Mark in Catonsville,” Blair said, “but they (St. Mark parish) were gracious enough to say ‘No, give it to St. John, they need it.’”
“It’s a perfect fit,” Blair added.
Blair said maintenance staff members at St. John are in the process of installing the necessary bolts so the tabernacle is permanently secured and ready to use for the weekend.
A few days after the burglary, Father Literal told the Catholic Review security measures in the parish would have to be reconsidered, including the installation of cameras and securing doors in the church and parish offices. Parishioners have already volunteered to provide financial donations.
“I feel so good,” Father Literal said. “We had two offers of tabernacles: one from the School Sisters of Notre Dame and another from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.”
Sister Patricia said the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were happy to donate the tabernacle to the St. John community.
“Wouldn’t that be a great place for our tabernacle to go and continue its life in a parish with people?” she said.
Email Priscila González de Doran at pdoran@CatholicReview.org
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