When thieves broke into the rectory of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church on a Sunday morning in January, the priests who live there were just steps away–one working in the parish office, the other presiding at mass. Among the items stolen were Father Prabhu Lakra’s new laptop computer and his television set, a farewell gift to him from his former parish in Lansing.

At first, Lakra says, he was shocked and angry. But, he emphasized afterward, the stolen possessions are “just things–trinkets that can be replaced.” He says his greater concern is that “some people in our society are left so far behind” they feel they must resort to crime.

Their compassion didn’t prevent the priests from reporting the break-in. “Mercifulness does not preclude justice,” says Father Jim McDougall, pastor of the 6,800-member parish. “If people needed help, we have many ways of helping them. We have a very giving parish community.” If the thieves are nabbed, they may end up getting some help from St. Francis anyway: one of the parish’s many outreach programs is a jail ministry.