At Christmas Mass at the Church of St. Mel in Flushing, Queens, robbers stole a money box with $20,000. The money, collected from three Christmas Eve Masses and the 7:30AM Christmas Mass and meant for church expenses and needy children, was kept in a 100 pound money box. The robbers hit around 9:20AM and witnesses saw men putting the box into an SUV with Vermont license plates. A parishioner did take the license plate number and give it to the police (the SUV belongs to a NYC resident), but it's unclear whether the money will be recovered. From the NY Times:

Established in 1941 and named after a nephew of St. Patrick, St. Mel’s sits in a neighborhood of well-kept brick houses with trimmed shrubbery, on 154th Street between 26th and 27th Avenues. “It’s the kind of place you could leave your side door open and not worry,” Ms. DiMaggio said.

That was the door the thieves used to leave, according to Father Turczany.

He said that about 8:30 a.m., as he was preparing for Mass, he saw a man in a striped gray winter hat — “full faced,” as he put it, with an olive complexion — wandering near a staircase close to the sacristy. Nearby was the safe, which contained church valuables, including money from collections and a gold chalice.

“He said, ‘I’m looking for a bathroom,’ ” Father Turczany said. “I told him, ‘Well, you’re going the wrong way.’ My suspicion was aroused.”

Unfortunately, suspicions can't stop robbers! And unfortunately the thieves were able to open the walk-in safe where the money box was kept. It's unclear whether it was an inside job.

The pastor, Reverend Christopher Turczany spoke to the media about the robbery. While very upset and concerned about how he will make payments on lighting and to payroll (Daily News), he reflected that at least the incident did not end violently (NY Times). But even he did not "feel that much pity" as the SUV the robbers had was a "Lincoln Navigator" (Newsday).