When two teens burst in on a funeral at Holy Child Jesus Church in Richmond Hill last Friday morning, the priest spotted a man chasing them, yelling in Spanish.
“I’d never seen them before,” said the Rev. Christopher Heanue, who’d been conducting the funeral. “It was quite a commotion.”
The man claimed the teens had shoplifted some items from a nearby grocery store and, when confronted, took off.
“The man wasn’t the owner or anything,” said the priest. “He was just in the store and saw them stealing.”
With the irate shopper on their trail, the teens ducked into the landmark church just as the funeral Mass for a 79-year-old grandmother was ending.
The idea that the two teens sought sanctuary in a Catholic church was intriguing, said Heanue. But he believed the teens simply “grabbed the first door that was open they could find.”
The chaotic scene was captured on cell phone by one of the funeral-goers and, a few hours later, Heanue posted it on his Facebook page.
“It was sort of ‘Les Mis’-esque, you know, seeking refuge in a church,” said the priest. “I was just hoping the Facebook post would serve as a teachable moment.’’
The video shows the man in the pews holding one of the teens by the jacket and yelling something unintelligible at the other youngster standing a few feet away.
One teen tosses the Good Samaritan something that appeared to be a lighter. Then the two young men scurried out of the church quickly before police arrived.
In the post that accompanied the 23-second video, Father Heanue wrote: “They came to the right place — God’s house.
“I do hope these boys return to the church one day under different circumstances — and enter that small confessional in front of which they were caught. Not to receive punishment. But to receive God’s forgiveness and perhaps start on a better path for the rest of their days,” the post read.
The incident occurred at around 11:30 a.m. just as the coffin and mourners were making their way out of the church to a waiting hearse.
“I felt so bad for the family who was at the funeral,” said the priest.
Police arrived a short while after the two teens fled, Heanue said. Without a complaint from the store, however, “they said they couldn’t do anything and left.
“It was sad,” he said, “but not police-worthy, I guess.”