Burglars steal Catholic nuns’ van, leaving them without transportation

Police investigating break-in at convent in Aiea

AIEA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Most people would consider a convent to be a safe space.

But that wasn’t the case sometime during the pre-dawn hours last Sunday.

Six nuns from the Dominican Sisters of the Rosary live at the convent located behind St. Elizabeth Catholic Church and School in Aiea. They were asleep in their quarters upstairs while burglars broke in downstairs, bypassing the alarm system by removing louvers from the laundry room window.

“Fortunately, we did not have much of them to take, except food,” said Sister Bernarda Sindol.

She said the nuns discovered a mess when they went downstairs Sunday morning. They also found most of the food taken from the kitchen. The thieves had also taken down a print of The Last Supper from the wall, perhaps hoping to find a safe behind it. Some items like candies for another convent in the Philippines were taken, but the burglars left items like their televisions alone.

Then Sister Bernarda noticed that the keys to their minivan, usually hanging on a bulletin board, were missing. She asked another sister to look outside to check on the van, but it was gone. The burglars had also taken a remote control that opened the church’s electric parking lot gate.

“When I found out the van was gone, (I thought) ‘oh my gosh, what shall we do?’" said Sister Bernarda.

The van was a blue 2007 Honda Odyssey, Hawaii license plate number PGE 157. It was parked in a stall with a sign saying it was for the sisters only, next to the convent.

“Well, it’s pretty much our life,” said Sister Bernarda. “Because then we cannot leave the campus unless we have the transportation.”

Sister Bernarda is the longtime principal at the school, and the other nuns also live and teach there.

“I got sick to my stomach, almost, because these are precious ladies here," said Father Arnold Ortiz, the church’s pastor. “Their sole purpose for being here is to teach our kids. They don’t want anything, they stay out of the public eye.”

Father Ortiz started a GoFundMe page to raise money to buy a new van for the nuns. By Saturday evening, the page had exceeded its $25,000 goal, and donations were still coming in.

“They need that van, I mean just like any family, to do their shopping or go on errands for whatever it is they need, to visit with the other sisters,” he said.

Sister Bernarda said the theft of their van was an inconvenience, albeit a big one.

“Especially during this time, you know, a pandemic, you need your transportation. And also everybody struggles. And we’re not an exception."

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