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St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Abbeville, LouisianaNEWS 15/YouTube

ABBEVILLE, Louisiana (LifeSiteNews) — Louisiana parishioners prevented a masked teen with a firearm from entering a Catholic church during a First Communion Mass on Saturday.

Video footage of the Mass live streamed from the website of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Abbeville shows that prior to the consecration, a man approached Father Nicholas DuPré to whisper to him about the intruder. DuPré then asked the congregation to be seated and proceeded to say Hail Marys together with them.

At one point during the prayers, cries of panic can be heard from the congregation. DuPré and Deacon John Dugas then ducked behind the altar, where another priest joined them. They soon rise to their feet, and a man speaking through a microphone eventually tells the people gathered, “Just get a hold of your child, go slowly. We did apprehend a young man. He is in [p]olice custody.”

The pastor of the church, Father Louis Richard, issued a statement on Monday explaining that a “young man suspiciously dressed and armed approached and entered the church vestibule.” A statement issued by the diocese that day elaborated that “he was dressed all in black, including a black hoodie pulled up over his head, and was wearing a mask, when the temperature outside at the time was in the mid 80s.”

Richard continued, “Immediately upon entry, he encountered a woman parishioner, with her small children nearby, who confronted and questioned him. She noticed a handgun on his hip and denied him further entry. Having been alerted, a gentleman in attendance entered the church building from the same door and removed this young man who was then disarmed and detained.”

A local news outlet reported that “By the time police arrived,” which was within a minute, “the teen was unarmed and pinned to the ground by multiple parishioners.”

According to Richard, the teen “initially said that he had learned there was a disturbed person who was planning to come to this Mass to attack a priest” and said that “he had come to stop this attacker.” Because of his claim, he explained, “law enforcement had no choice but to enter the church to look for this supposed attacker,” and their search, conducted “in tactical gear” and with “guns, radios, vests, and dogs,” had “caused fear and panic.”

The police found no further threats, and the “all clear” was given. The children received First Holy Communion the following day, on Sunday, as the church’s Facebook page shows. “​​The joy that these kids experienced today upon receiving their First Communion is beyond words. Congratulations!” reads the post sharing photos of the children receiving the Holy Eucharist.

According to Abbeville Police Chief Mike Hardy, the teenager did not plan anything except to “intimidate parishioners before he ran away with his girlfriend to Texas.”

“I don’t think his goal was to shoot people. He was there to intimidate somebody,” Hardy told The Acadiana Advocate. 

The police chief said that the 16-year-old suspect was questioned at the Abbeville Police Department with his parent present. The teen was charged with terrorizing and two counts of possession of a firearm by a juvenile, according to the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office. He is reportedly residing at the Abbeville General Hospital Behavioral Unit for medical evaluation. 

St. Mary Magdalen Church shared in a statement that “uniformed law enforcement” will be present “at all upcoming Masses.”

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