By Tim Harfmann and Andrew Pugliese
MANHATTAN — An unidentified male stole a bag outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on East 116th Street in Manhattan on Oct. 13. Inside was a second-class relic, a piece of stone from the Shrine of St. Michael on Mount Gargano in Italy.
Teddy Thongratnachat, 27, a parishioner at St. Sebastian, Woodside, was at the East Harlem parish for the weekly Sunday 10:30 a.m. Latin Mass, which he has attended since 2014.
After Mass, he was praying the rosary with a group of faithful outside the church, as they have done once a month for the last two years. He was intending to return the relic, which was in a $175 bronze reliquary, to his friend who had let him borrow it a few weeks earlier for a celebration of the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel on Sept. 29.
The most recent prayer gathering in East Harlem was in honor of the anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady in Fatima in 1917. The participants held a banner to invite those passing by to join them. They also had a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. When Thongratnachat went into the church to return the statue and banner, he realized his bag was missing.
“I thought maybe I left it in the basement or sacristy,” he said. “I checked those areas, but the worst reality was true that someone took my bag because I wasn’t paying attention.”
Thongratnachat said the bag also contained documents and other valuables, including another relic, a rosary which had touched the tomb of St. Therese of Lisieux in France.
He thanks cops, whose patron saint is St. Michael, for their work on the case. While he is shocked, sad and angry, he has learned a lesson. Now, he hopes the man returns the bag to Our Lady of Mount Carmel or to the local precinct and asks for prayers.
“Please pray for the person who took my bad that they may return it,” he said. “Thank you for all of your prayers and words.”