June 12, 2015
Burglars empty soup kitchen at North River Road

For the second time in six months, burglars have emptied the ‘Loaves and Fishes’ soup kitchen at the Cathedral of the Assumption, of food and other supplies.

This most recent burglary, which is reported to have taken place between last Friday night and Saturday morning, {{more}}has resulted in the soup kitchen, located at North River Road, being closed for a 10-day period.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday, Monsignor Michael Stewart said that two cases of chicken, one small cylinder of gas, seasonings and a number of other items were stolen from the establishment that is located on North River Road.

He noted that the burglar(s) attempted to steal a battery from a generator but was unable to do so.

Stewart said that the kitchen was completely ransacked and freezers and cupboard doors opened. Additionally, the back door, which was equipped with burglar bars, was battered and is believed to have been the point of entry.

Other reports reaching SEARCHLIGHT indicate that workers at the soup kitchen had done grocery shopping earlier on Friday.

Stewart, who is the administrator of the Cathedral, declared that last weekend’s break-in has left the soup kitchen in a depleted state and that the church would still need to find food items to feed the poor for the rest of the month.

“Part of the closure too, is really a way of first trying to regroup and also it’s a way of helping others to recognize that even when we do something as Catholic Church, it is something that the whole society is called to do in response to the needs of the poor.

“People hearing this will also be called to think about it. What is it that we must do to safeguard this service which is so vital to the society; that is caring for the poor of this city?”

According to the Cathedral administrator, ‘Loaves and Fishes’ has been in operation since the 1990s. He also disclosed that the soup kitchen is operated through donations made by members of the public and parishioners who bring small food packages to the kitchen on weekends.

In cases when the food stock is really low, Stewart said that the Cathedral pitches in and provides items to the establishment.

For Stewart, it is the church’s obligation to provide for those in need that makes the periodical break-ins annoying.

“It’s annoying, it’s disconcerting, it’s distressing and not only people who help the poor are distressed by such an action, but it also puts the poor too in distress because … it means that some people are deprived of the food that they would get daily because of the break-in,” he said.

Stewart indicated to SEARCHLIGHT his desire to have the kitchen reopened at the end of the 10-day period and noted that if it were to remain closed, it must be because the circumstances working against the re-opening are legitimate.

The Cathedral administrator said that reasons for not re-opening must not stem from what the soup kitchen has experienced or knowing that someone may try to break in again. Instead, he said that re-opening after the 10-day period will show that nothing will stop the church from fulfilling its responsibility to the poor.

“It’s a challenge, but at the same time, it’s a challenge that we are willing to undertake, hard as it may be. What I would hope is that more of our people would support the work we do. And I think, by and large, the soup kitchen is recognized as a very important service in the city. Not just by Catholics, but by other people across the board. So…I hope this incident will be a wake-up call for us to invest more in it,” he said.

Police say investigations into the matter are ongoing.