One repentant sinner

Laura whistled happily as she entered Walsingham House. It was lunch time; she and the rest of the team had slept in late after having had a confirmation group from the joint parishes of Holy Name and Our Lady Immaculate for a residential retreat. They had also had one an interview with Nick, a potential team member. She entered the office for the key to the donation box. It was a job she took seriously. This money helped the Brentwood Catholic Youth Service (or the BCYS) maintain the House.

"Morning Laura," came from over her shoulder.

"Afternoon Mark," she replied cheerily, referring to the clock in the office "its 12:50" Mark just laughed. Smiling she walked over to the donation box. It was in a fixed position between the BCYS banner and the Walsingham House one. The box was emptied every month, this month it was her turn. As she opened the box she gasped.

"Mark, you need to see this" Mark was instantly at her side.

Two hours later, the Walsingham House team was gathered in the Ark, at the centre of the building. Mark was standing at the front, looking at the others who were seated. James and Jess, who were visiting from a retreat centre in Bath, were also there. Mark was looking unusually serious.

"This morning, Laura made a terrible discovery. When she went to open the donations box it she discovered that the box was open. The lock hadn't been smashed; it was opened by a key. And we all know the only key is kept in the office. And only the people in this room plus Father Dan, knows the current code to the office. The money in the box goes to the upkeep of the House and if we don't have the money, then there will be no Walsingham House. I would like to believe that no one in this room would do this but unfortunately I have to".

A deathly silence followed his words. Mark looked around at them, studying their faces. James looked decidedly worried, or was it more? He thought. Jess also looks she knew something.

Out loud he said, "If anybody would like to talk to me, if they know something please tell me. It's not likely but if I don't have any definite leads I will do a search within the next few days. I don't want to but we need the money. Any information will be welcome I will be in the chapel." With that he closed the meeting and walked to the chapel, pausing only to remove his shoes. Everybody looked around, wondering who it was.

Jenny went for a lie down, being six months pregnant.

"I reckon it was Luke", Jade said accusingly. "He was the last person to come in the House yesterday."

"I wouldn't steal the money," Luke retorted angrily. "Besides Mark and Jenny live in the flat, we live next door. They have an easier access to the money then we do. Besides Jenny is pregnant and may want the money to make life easier for themselves"

"But someone else here might have debts that no one else knows about," James pointed out.

"And you would say that becauseā€¦" Brendan said questioningly.

"Because it's true," James retorted.

People started drifting out, still debating who it was. After a while only James and Jess were left in the Ark. Jess gave James an odd look, then walked out, towards the kitchen.

A little while later, Luke walked past. He wanted to go into town to talk to the police. Just as he was about to go through the doors, he heard raised voices coming from his right. It was the Salmon room. Normally he wouldn't listen, but wanting to know if it was about the money, he listened in. It was James and Jess.

"Jess, I had nothing to do with it." James was saying. "What makes you accuse me of being a thief?"

"Because I am one of the few people who know why you were at the Bath centre. You were had just stopped taking drugs and were heavily in debt," she replied. "The money would help you pay off the debt" There was silence in the room. Eventually, Jess said, "You need to tell Mark. He'll understand."

James replied, "And say what, I stole your money because I needed it and I didn't want to steal it from somewhere close to home?"

Luke decided he didn't want to hear anymore. He just caught Jess's last comment.

"If you don't tell him I will"

James sat in the Bosco room. It was at the back of the house and he was unlikely to be disturbed. He knew telling Mark would be the best option, but he'd lost loads of his friends cause of his drug taking, for one reason or another. He saw a book about patron saints, left over from Saturday. He flicked through it and came to the page of Maximillian Kolbe. Reading the page he realised that bringing the fact that he still wanted drugs would mean he could get more help.

In the chapel, Mark was praying for help and guidance again. He had been in and out all day but nobody had come forward with anything. He had believed that this wouldn't happen. Well, truth be told the thought had never crossed his mind. But, he had been director of the team for three years and had been on the team for a couple of years before that. This had never happened to Jenny, the director before him.

After a while, he became aware of someone else in the chapel with him. Glancing up, he saw it was an uneasy James. He waved at James to sit beside him. For a moment James said nothing then glanced away.

"It was me" He admitted. "I needed money as I used to take drugs and ended up running up debts. I got help a couple of years ago, then went to the Bath retreat centre. I still have some of the debt to pay off and I didn't think about what would happen to the House if you didn't have the money". Mark sat next to and let him finish before saying;

"At least you told me. What did you do with the money?"

"Some of the money I spent on the debt the rest is in my room"

Mark assured him "We'll help you pay off your debt. After all, there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than 99 upright men. Or in this case more rejoicing over a drug addict who quits. Just ask next time."

James smiled, "I will"