Breaking In At St. Bernard’s


Many people have already heard about the recent break-in at St. Bernard’s churcColSommer_Ah. Someone gained access by breaking a stained glass panel and then proceeded to try to open all the locked doors by smashing the doorknobs. He also broke the lighting control panel—probably with the assumption that it was the alarm control. Many thanks to the Nassau County Police department for their time and a thorough investigation.

Needless to say, as pastor, I was upset that the church was broken into and damage was done. But no more upset than when I hear of neighbors in Levittown whose cars are being broken into overnight, or homes invaded by burglars. These acts—often caught on surveillance cameras—lead to a realization of how drug addiction fuels these kinds of crimes. If the theory that our burglar was looking to steal things to feed a habit is true, then I feel more upset about the damage he is doing to himself than the damage done to the church. We’re out only a $5,000 deductible and we’ll rely on insurance to cover the rest. Someone on drugs isn’t as easily made whole.

In the meantime, I am both heartened and disheartened by the community’s response. First the bad news: there are many theories going around social media, but I’m most disturbed that people are suggesting that this is a Muslim attack on our church and community. There is no evidence that this was a “hate crime” and I’m sure God is not happy that believers are immediately tempted to blame another religion and deepen a divide between all of God’s sons and daughters. This is not what our religion teaches. Nor does it teach the revenge that some people expressed a desire for.

In the “heartened” department: I’m grateful to Rob Saunders, president of Temple B’nai Torah, who sent a message of concern and prayers from his congregation. He wrote, “Our feeling is that an attack of any sort on any one of us is an attack on all of us. Please know that we are here for you, should you need any kind of assistance or support, and we will, of course, keep your community in our prayers.” Many other people have offered prayers and support and some used our Paypal link to make a donation—people are quite generous.
One act of generosity took place when a young man from AHRC (a group that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities) stopped in to say how sad he was when he heard the news of the break in and that he wanted to help. He opened his wallet and took out $5 and donated it. Now $5 might not seem like much to some, but he works two days a week for two hours at a fast food place. He makes $10 an hour but has to spend $13 each day for a cab to work and $2 for a bus ride home. Five dollars turns out to be an amazingly generous gift.

So as upsetting as the break-in was, the goodness of people abounds and gives me hope. Now the question is, how can our goodness combat the terrible plague of addiction that hurts so many?  Since the three years I’ve been in Levittown we’re buried 18 people from overdoses at Saint Bernard’s alone!  And all but four of these were parents. We need to find ways to break in to the cycle of addiction and offer help and healing.

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Pastor of St. Bernard's since 2013 and known for his engaging homilies and community presence, Father Ralph Sommer is also a treasured columnist for the Levittown Tribune.


  1. What a beautiful response Father Ralph. Amen! I miss your services at St. Brigids Church. You are surely missed in the Westbury community.

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