Stolen relic from 1400s returned to priest after break-in
Inside St. Mary's Church in Muncie, a special Sunday service had just wrapped up. Father Andrew Dudzinski left to return to his quarters when he came face to face with an intruder.
Once inside the rectory, he noticed the door to his room had been left wide open.
“That was the first sign something wasn't right,” he told Eyewitness News.
It continued once inside.
“The gentleman was bent down going through my toolbox,” he explained.
He's talking about 53-year-old Larry Allen Rhodes.
“I asked him, ‘what are you looking for’ and at that point his back is still towards me and he says, ‘It's none of your business’ and so at that point I knew something was wrong. I mean, at first I just thought maybe they were working on the water heater or the furnace, but the way he responded I knew something wasn't right and at that point I ask him, ‘Do I know you?’ and he stood up and he took the hammer out of the toolbox and he said, ‘No, you don't want to know me I have problems. I'm going to hurt somebody,’” Father Dudzinski explained.
Rhodes then took off down stairs and ran out a garage door. Father Dudzinski called 911 while trying to talk to him.
“The only two things he took was a first class relic of St. Rita. There are three categories of relics. One is a first class, which is basically a part of the person, like a bone fragment,” he explained.
That priceless item dates back to the 1400s. Rhodes is also accused of taking a rare Catholic coin.
“The interesting thing was Pope John Paul II was canonized that day ,” Father Dudzinski explained.
Allen was caught a short time later and while the stolen items were returned, a window is still boarded over at the rectory where police say he broke in.
“I was very calm and very peaceful. Maybe it's because we had St. Rita and Pope John Paul II kind of looking after me but no, I never felt like I was in danger,” Father Dudzinski said with a reassuring smile.
He said Allen had actually been at the church in the past to get help with medicine.
His motive for Sunday’s break-in isn't clear, but it's left a lasting impact.
“I am very cautious now. I'm thinking, 'Okay, I wonder if there's anyone else in there I'm not expecting,'" Father Dudzinski said with a laugh.
Rhodes faced similar charges for a crime committed back in September of 1980.
He remains behind bars in Delaware County where he declined an interview from jail Thursday.