The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

November 7, 2012

Nun charged with grand larceny

Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — KENDALL — A Roman Catholic nun who served at a pair of parishes in Eastern Orleans County has been formally charged with the theft of thousands of dollars in church funds.

Sister May Anne Rapp, who served at the sister parishes of St. Mary’s in Holley and St. Mark’s in Kendall, was charged Monday with second-degree grand larceny, after allegedly embezzling approximately $128,000 from the churches over a five-year period. She surrended herself earlier Monday at the Orleans County Public Safety Building.

District Attorney Joe Cardone said that the severity of the offense led to the charging Rapp with a Class C Felony, which carries a potential jail sentence of up to 15 years in jail.

“With that much money, how can you not (act),” said Cardone, who said Rapp would more likely face probation or a local jail sentence if convicted.

Rapp, 67, was treated for a gambling addiction and is in recovery, her order said Monday, but she still faces charges following an investigation by the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department. She appeared in Town of Kendall Court Monday, where she plead not guilty and was released on her own recognizance.

“She’s been a nun for a very long time, been a very good person, never in any trouble before,” said her attorney, James Harrington. “She did great work wherever she was assigned.”

The investigation into the theft began in 2010, when Father Mark Noonan, who had recently been assigned to the two churches, requested an audit of the parish finances. According to Kevin Keenan, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, the audit turned “some irregularities” that led to a criminal investigation.

Rapp is accused of taking the money between 2006 and 2010, Keenan said.

She was placed on leave from her position as pastoral associate in February 2011 and fired in April 2011, he said. The two parishes serve a combined total of about 600 families.

Keenan could not say how the alleged thefts had affected the day-to-day parish operations.

“These are smaller parishes in a rural part of the diocese,” Keenan said. “Regardless of the size, this would be a significant amount of money for any parish.”

Noonan, declined to comment and referred questions to Keenan.

Officials believe Rapp spent the money at casinos. She is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis, based in Lewiston. Sister Edith Wyss, provincial minister of the 138-member order, said that when Rapp was placed on leave, she agreed to seek treatment for a gambling addiction.

“She spent 9 1/2 months in an in-patient treatment program and has maintained her recovery in the year since,” Wyss said.

Wyss said the order does not condone the conduct but continues to pray for Sister Mary Anne as she deals with her addiction.

“This is a difficult time for all of us,” she said, “especially those of us who have lived and worked with Sister Mary Anne for her nearly 50 years in our community.”