BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A nun with a gambling addiction was accused of stealing $128,000 from two rural parishes where she worked.
Sister Mary Anne Rapp was treated for a gambling addiction and is in recovery, her order said Monday, but she still faces a criminal charge of grand larceny following the thefts from the St. Mary and St. Mark congregations. She was expected to plead not guilty at an initial appearance in Kendall Town Court on Monday evening.
"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."
In 2010, the two linked parishes were assigned a new pastor who sought a routine audit, said Kevin Keenan, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. The audit found "some irregularities" that were turned over to a county prosecutor, he said.
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. St. Mary's in Holley and St. Mark's in nearby Kendall 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."
The parishes' pastor, the Rev. Mark 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, north of Buffalo. 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."
Orleans County District Attorney Joseph Cardone declined to detail how the alleged theft occurred or comment on the motive.
"We're not at this point focused on what she did with the money, we're focused on the money itself," he said.