A former bookkeeper at St. Bernard's Catholic Church in St. Paul is accused of stealing more than $37,000 in deposits and at one point it left the church unable to make its payroll, according to court documents.

Debra Ann Thompson, 44, of St. Paul, has been charged in Ramsey County District Court with one count of felony theft. She is to make her first appearance Feb. 20.

According to the criminal complaint, a police officer was called to St. Bernard's at 1160 Woodbridge St. in June, where the pastor and the human resources director told him that a former employee had stolen money from the church.

The pastor said that on April 30, officials of the North End church were told there wasn't enough money in the account to pay employees. The pastor then met with Thompson, who told him that she had forgotten to enter a previous payroll into the account and had been trying to fix the mistake. She denied stealing any money, the complaint said.

An audit later showed that $37,105.42 was missing from church deposits from March 1, 2007, through April 30, 2008. The complaint said Thompson had been covering up the thefts by transferring money from the church's reserve account to cover the daily operational and payroll costs.

Thompson told police that her family had financial problems and owed $12,000 to the IRS, more than $15,000 to creditors and "a lot of money in medical bills." She admitted taking money from the deposits but said it was no more than $10,000, the complaint said.

"Thompson said she would ask the church for forgiveness and if she had the money she would pay every cent back to the church," it said.