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Money, rings stolen from St. Walburg Monastery while sisters are making funeral arrangements

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

St. Walburg Monastery in Villa Hills was burglarized last week as the Sisters of St. Benedict were making funeral arrangements for a member of the order.

Sister Aileen Bankemper, prioress at St. Walburg Monastery, said in an email that in addition to a large sum of cash, more than 125 rings, covering a history of more than 150 years, were stolen.

Sr. Aileen Bankemper

“What hurts us more deeply is that all the rings from our deceased sisters – our physical remembrance of each sister were stolen,” Bankemper said.”  If anyone could help us recover these invaluable rings we would be truly be grateful.

Bankemper included a photo of a large, nearly empty ring box. The container included just one item, a profession ring with an “IHS” insignia and a cross, that the burglar missed in the robbery.

An anonymous donor has offered a $5,000 reward for the return of the rings.

Bankemper said in the long and storied history of St. Walburg Monastery it has never had to make this type of announcement

The sisters established St. Walburg Academy in a convent building on East 12th Street in September 1863. The academy operated as an elementary school for young women. Later, a high school program was added at the academy.

The sisters purchased land in what is now Villa Hills in 1903 and over the years became valued members of the community. They established Villa Madonna Academy, a boarding and day school for young women and in 1907, a building was dedicated to provide an elementary and secondary school curriculum.

The ring box with the lone remaining ring from more than 125 that were stolen in a burglary at St. Walburg Monastery. The Benedictine Sisters were making funeral arrangements for a member of the order when the theft occurred (provided photos).

Over the years, the Benedictine Sisters of the St. Walburg Monastery purchased additional land and increased their commitment to the community.

The Monastery land grew to include Villa Daycare, Villa Montessori School, the modern Villa Madonna Academy, the St. Walburg Monastery and Motherhouse and the Madonna Manor Nursing Home.

In 1962, Villa Hills was incorporated as a sixth class city in Kenton County and the sisters maintained their role as a strong community partner, in relative obscurity.

In recent years, however, they recognized the need to ensure a comfortable retirement for the members of the order and began to consider options for its valuable property holdings.

In 2012, the Benedictine Sisters of the St. Walburg Monastery, acting on the advice of a consultant, initiated the process of selling some underused property to fund those retirement needs.

The Benedictine Sisters worked with the City of Villa Hills to determine how best to utilize the parcel that would be sold. In March, the Villa Hills City Council approved a plan to allow a multi-use development on the parcel that was to be sold.

This profession ring was the only one left behind in a burglary of cash and more than 125 other rings at St. Walburg Monastery last week.

While that decision included vocal opposition from some residents, which made headlines, it was the only time most can recall the St. Walburg Monastery being in the news, until this theft.

According to the post from Bankemper, the sisters were preparing for the funeral of Sister Cecilia Daigle, OSB, who died on August 8, at age 86, when the theft occurred.

There is no information available about how the thief, or thieves obtained entry to the area where the valuables were kept, or how much money was taken.

Villa Hills Police confirmed that detectives are actively working the case and anyone with information is asked to call the police department at (859) 341-3535.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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