St. Matthew Catholic increasing security measures for all worship services

St. Matthew Catholic Church, one of the largest Catholic churches in America, sent an urgent message to its parishioners Friday that the church is adding multiple safety measures to its campus.

The safety measures will include uniformed and plain-clothes police officers at all weekend Masses along with hired security guards, Monsignor John J. McSweeney told parishioners in a memo emailed Friday.

The Charlotte church is also banning a list of 15 items in all worship halls. They include: large bags, backpacks, diaper bags, laptops, computer cases, luggage, video equipment, laser pointers, baby strollers, and anything that can conceal items or that clergy and staff determine poses a security hazard.

The church has already added cameras throughout its sprawling campus. The new measures, McSweeney said, were approved by the church’s safety awareness team.

He told the Observer that the measures aren’t a reaction, but “a proactive piece of planning we have for security.”

“This may sound restrictive, but I feel it is important,” he said. “Our philosophy is that this is a parish that is welcoming and hospitable. However, based on what is nationally being experienced and the terrorist events in the world, I believe we have the moral responsibility to protect anyone coming here.”

The church, with a membership of 10,000 households, has received no threats, McSweeney said. It has received its share of graffiti. Five years ago, someone vandalized the church’s concrete statue of the Virgin Mary, removing its head and praying hands. The statue was restored.

It saddens him that the added measures have to be implemented.

“I’ve been a priest for 42 years and never would I have dreamed of having to do something like this,” McSweeney said. “However, my conscience tells me we need to do it.”

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