The Michigan Catholic is proud to publish this special section honoring priests, religious and deacons who are celebrating milestone jubilees in 2017. Throughout this section, we honor 118 religious men and women, 56 priests and 46 deacons who have given a combined 10,740 years of service to God’s Church. For all they continue to do, we say thanks.
‘In persona Christi’
Local priests the face of Christ to their flocks
In the Catholic world, there is no life without the sacraments. And there are no sacraments without priests. But while priests across the Archdiocese of Detroit bring those sacraments daily to their parishioners, their service goes well beyond that. They are comforters, friends, advisers, shepherds, leaders, listeners and sometimes even handymen. This year, we honor 34 local priests — and one local bishop — who are celebrating milestone anniversaries of their priestly ordination, as well as 21 priests and bishops celebrating anniversaries greater than 60 years. For all they do, and for their lifelong commitment to Christ’s flock, we say thanks and offer our prayers.
Fr. William Murphy
Fr. Murphy, 85, was born in Windsor, Ontario, and attended Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, the University of Detroit, and St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township.
He was ordained June 1, 1957, in Detroit, and celebrated his first Mass at St. Rita Church in Detroit’s north end.
Fr. Murphy served as an associate pastor at St. Philomena Parish, Detroit (1957-61); and Shrine of the Little Flower Parish, Royal Oak (1961-65). He became principal of Gabriel Richard High School, Riverview, in 1965.
Fr. Murphy served as vicar of the Downriver Vicariate (1973-74), Northwest Wayne Vicariate (1985-86), and Vicariate of the Lakes (1990-93) as well as director of the archdiocesan Department of Education (1974-79). He was appointed pastor of St. Agatha Parish, Redford Township (1979-86), and also served as vicar of the Northwest Wayne Vicariate (1985-88). He was pastor of Our Lady of Refuge Parish, Orchard Lake Village (1986-2004), and also served as vicar of the Lakes Vicariate (1990-93). He was granted senior priest status in 2004. Since 2011, he has served as a weekend associate at St. Thomas a’Becket Parish in Canton.
Fr. William Petron
Fr. Petron, 86, was born in Highland Park and attended Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township, as well as the University of Detroit.
He was ordained June 1, 1957, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit, and celebrated his first Mass at St. Rita Church, Detroit.
Fr. Petron served as an associate pastor at Guardian Angels Parish, Detroit (1957-62); St. Peter Parish, Mount Clemens (1962-64); St. Christine Parish, Detroit (1964-65); St. Gertrude Parish, St. Clair Shores (1965-67); and Ascension Parish, Warren (1967-70). He was also a Family Life Bureau speaker.
Fr. Petron later served as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Detroit (1970-76). He completed clinical pastoral education training in 1976, and became chaplain at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Clinton Township (1977-78), and at Bon Secours Hospital in Grosse Pointe (1978-81).
He was pastor of St. Mel Parish in Dearborn Heights (1981-97), and was granted senior priest status in 1997.
Fr. Ronald Sayes
Fr. Sayes, 85, was born in Detroit and attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake Village and St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township.
He was ordained June 1, 1957, and celebrated his first Mass at St. Raymond Church in Detroit.
Fr. Sayes served as an associate pastor at St. Benedict Parish, Highland Park (1957); and at St. Frances Cabrini Parish, Allen Park (1957-58). He was an associate at the Detroit parishes of St. Thomas Aquinas (1958-63); St. Catherine (1963-65); and Mother of Our Savior (1965-70).
In 1970, Fr. Sayes was involved with the campus ministry at Monroe Community College as well as with the Shalom Community in Monroe. He was appointed pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Carleton, in 1971, and served as vicar of the Monroe Vicariate (1973-76). He became co-pastor of St. James Parish, Ferndale, in 1975.
In 1980, Fr. Sayes was appointed pastor of SS. John and Paul Parish in Washington Township, where he had begun working to establish a parish in 1978, and continued there until 1990. He served as pastor of St. Perpetua Parish, Waterford Township (1990-95); and was appointed pastor of St. Bernadine of Siena Parish, Westland (1995-2001). He was granted senior priest status in 2001.
Fr. Richard Schmidberger
Fr. Schmidberger, 87, was born in Detroit and attended Maryknoll-Glenn Ellyn and Maryknoll-New York seminaries.
He was ordained June 8, 1957, in Maryknoll, N.Y.
Fr. Schmidberger’s first assignment was as a Maryknoll priest in Bolivia in 1957. He then served as an associate pastor at St. Genevieve Parish, Livonia (1969-72); and at St. Mark Parish, Warren (1972-73). He returned to St. Genevieve Parish as an associate pastor (1973-77), and in 1977 was appointed an associate pastor at St. Gabriel Parish in southwest Detroit. That year, Fr. Schmidberger was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Detroit.
In 1980, he was named temporary associate pastor at St. John the Baptist Parish in Monroe. He became pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Temperance in 1981. In 1986, Fr. Schmidberger was named pastor of St. Nicholas Parish in Capac. He served as vicar of the Thumb Vicariate (1986-89).
He was pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, Lapeer (1987-90), and St. Henry Parish, Lincoln Park (1990-96). In 1996, Fr. Schmidberger became pastor of St. Mary Burnside Parish in Burnside Township, as well as of Sacred Heart Mission in Brown City, and served there until he was granted senior priest status in 2000. From 2004-07, Fr. Schmidberger served as administrator of Sacred Heart Mission.
Fr. Eugene Wojtewicz
Fr. Wojtewicz, 86, was born in Detroit and attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit; SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake Village; and St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township.
He was ordained June 1, 1957, in Detroit, and celebrated his first Mass at St. John Cantius Church in Detroit’s Delray district.
Fr. Wojtewicz served as an associate pastor at St. Francis d’Assisi Parish, Detroit (1957-62); St. Hyacinth Parish, Detroit; and Our Lady Queen of Apostles Parish, Hamtramck (1962-70).
He was pastor of St. Casimir Parish, Detroit (1970-89), also serving as vicar of the Core City Vicariate (1988-91). He was later pastor of St. Cyril of Jerusalem Parish, Taylor (1989-93); and of St. Hugh Parish, Southgate (1993-2009), when he was granted senior status.
Fr. George Askar
Fr. Askar, 83, is an extern priest from Lafayette, Ind., who has assisted at parishes in the Blue Water Area, including Holy Trinity Parish and St. Mary Parish in Port Huron.
Fr. Askar was ordained for the Diocese of Lafayette on May 20, 1967. He moved to Michigan in 2007, and currently lives and assists at St. Mary Parish in Port Huron.
Fr. Anton Kcira
Fr. Kcira, who turns 78 on June 17, was born in Djakavic, Kosova, Yugoslavia.
He was ordained in Skopje, Yugoslavia, on June 29, 1967. In Yugoslavia, Fr. Kcira served as associate pastor at Distrazhi (1967-69) before becoming pastor of Gusi in Montenegro (1969-70) and later Gllagjam in Kosova (1970-89).
He came to the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1989 and was named associate pastor of St. Paul Albanian Parish in Rochester Hills. In 1991, he was named administrator of St. Paul Albanian and served there until 2011, when he was granted senior status. He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Detroit on April 25, 1995.
Fr. Richard Leliaert
Fr. Leliaert, 76, made his first profession into the Crosier Fathers and Brothers in 1961, and was ordained a priest June 3, 1967.
He had served the Archdiocese of Detroit as a Crosier for 16 years before being incardinated into the archdiocese on June 25, 2004.
Fr. Leliaert served as chaplain at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Pontiac (1988-92) and director of pastoral care at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn (1993-2006). He also was a sacramental minister at Holy Family Parish in Inkster (2004-2006).
Fr. Leliaert was named pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Redford in 2006, and he continues to serve in that role today.
Fr. Giuseppe Licciardi
Fr. Licciardi, 72, is a priest of the Diocese of Monreale, Italy, who is serving in the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Fr. Licciardi was born in Altofonte, Italy, and was ordained for the Diocese of Monreale on June 28, 1967. He ministered there for many years. He earned a licentiate in sacred theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Lateran University in 1970.
Fr. Licciardi arrived in Detroit in 2011, and since then has served as pastor of Holy Family Parish in downtown Detroit, where he continues to minister.
Fr. Donald MacLennan
Fr. MacLennan, 77, was born in Charleroi, Pa., and attended St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
He was ordained in the Diocese of Kitchener, Ontario, June 3, 1967.
While serving as associate pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Harper Woods (1971-75), he was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Detroit by Cardinal John Dearden on July 29, 1974. He also had been coadjutor pastor of Ascension Parish in Warren in 1975.
Fr. MacLennan then served as associate pastor of St. Anastasia Parish in Troy (1975-80) before serving as pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Lake Orion (1980-87), and later St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township (1987-95). He was granted leave for medical disability in 1995, and attained senior priest status in 2005.
Fr. Gary Tierney
Fr. Tierney, 76, was born in Detroit and attended St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township.
He was ordained June 3, 1967, by Archbishop John Dearden.
Following ordination, Fr. Tierney earned a master of divinity degree from St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township (1983), and a licentiate and master’s degree in canon law from St. Paul University in Ottawa (1984).
Fr. Tierney was associate pastor at St. Regis Parish in Bloomfield Hills (1967-69). From 1969 to 1971 he served in the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal. In 1972, he began work in the clergy office, where he ministered in the permanent diaconate program and then served as personal secretary for Cardinal Dearden. During that time, he also served as vicar of the Core City Vicariate (1972-73). Fr. Tierney then was made pastor of St. Clement in Dearborn, where he served from 1976-80. He also was vicar of the Dearborn Vicariate (1977-80).
From 1980-82, Fr. Tierney pursued his master’s degree in canon law full time at St. Paul University in Ottawa. He returned to the Metropolitan Tribunal in 1982, where he served as a defender of the bond and as a judge. He also returned to parish ministry, becoming pastor of Our Lady Queen of Hope Parish in Detroit (1985-86), St. Anne Parish in Monroe (1986-89), and Guardian Angels Parish in Clawson (1989-98). For two months, he was administrator of St. Colman Parish in Farmington Hills in 1984.
From 1998 to 2007, Fr. Tierney was pastor of St. Alan Parish in Troy. He was granted senior status in 2007.
Fr. Terence Treppa
Fr. Treppa, 75, was born in Detroit and attended St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township.
He was ordained June 3, 1967, by Archbishop John Dearden.
Following ordination he earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Central Michigan University (1977), a master of divinity from St. John’s Provincial Seminary (1981), and a doctorate in theology from Walden University (1994).
Fr. Treppa served as associate pastor at St. Gregory the Great (1967-69) and Guardian Angels (1969-71) parishes in Detroit, before becoming co-pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Roseville (1971-73).
After a brief assignment in the Diocese of Toledo, Fr. Treppa returned to the Archdiocese of Detroit to become pastor at St. Mary Parish in Wayne (1977-78). He then was pastor of St. Norbert Parish in Inkster (1978-94) and SS. John and Paul Parish in Washington Township (1994-98).
For the next 17 years, Fr. Treppa served as pastor of St. Richard Parish in Westland, until being granted senior priest status in 2015.
Fr. James Wieging
Fr. Wieging, 75, was born in Monroe and attended St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township.
He was ordained June 3, 1967, by Archbishop John Dearden.
Following his ordination, Fr. Wieging did postgraduate theological studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Md., and earned a master of divinity from St. John’s Provincial Seminary (1982).
Fr. Weiging served as associate pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Utica (1967-71) and St. David Parish in Detroit (1971-73). In 1973, he was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in River Rouge, serving there until 2012. In 2010, Fr. Wieging took on additional responsibilities as pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Ecorse for two years.
Fr. Weiging also has served as vicar of the old Downriver Vicariate (1980-82) and as administrator of Our Lady of the Woods Parish in Woodhaven (1999, 2014), St. Elizabeth Parish in Wyandotte (2003-04), and St. Timothy Parish in Trenton (2015). He was on the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council from 1999 to 2003.
In addition to his ministry in parishes, Fr. Weiging has taught as an adjunct professor at Madonna University in Livonia, and served as chaplain for the Michigan State Circle of the Daughters of Isabella, the FBI, the Federal Air Marshals, and Wayne County Metropolitan Airport. He was granted senior priest status in 2012.
Fr. Ronald Babich
Fr. Babich, 67, was born in Detroit and attended St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake and St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township.
He was ordained a priest on March 5, 1977, in Detroit.
Fr. Babich served as associate pastor at the parishes of St. Veronica, East Detroit (1977-80); SS. Peter and Paul (West Side), Detroit (1980-81); St. Rene Goupil, Sterling Heights (1981-85); and Guardian Angels, Clawson (1985-87). He also served as parochial administrator at St. John the Baptist in Monroe in 1985, and as pastor of St. Hilary Parish in Redford Township (1987-94).
From 1994 to 2014, Fr. Babich served as pastor of Our Lady Queen of All Saints Parish in Fraser. In 2014, he was appointed pastor of St. Daniel Parish in Clarkston, where he continues to serve today.
Msgr. John Budde
Msgr. Budde, 66, was born in Dearborn Heights and attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit; St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township; and American College, Louvain.
He was ordained Aug. 6, 1977, at Sacred Heart Seminary.
He served as associate pastor at the parishes of St. Christopher, Detroit (1977-80), and St. Angela, Roseville (1981-83). From 1980-81, he studied at the University of Louvain.
Then-Fr. Budde was on the faculty of St. John’s Provincial Seminary from 1983-88, and also at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 1988. From 1994-2001, he served as ecumenical officer for the Archdiocese of Detroit.
In 1989, he was named pastor of Holy Family Parish in Novi, where he ministered until 2007. From 2007-13, he was pastor of the fledgling Divine Mercy Parish in Davisburg, and since 2013 has been pastor of St. Mary Parish in Milford. He also served from 2003-07 on the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council.
Msgr. Budde was named a “chaplain to His Holiness” (monsignor) by Pope Benedict XVI on Sept. 30, 2005.
Fr. Brian Chabala
Fr. Chabala, 66, was born in Detroit and attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township.
He was ordained June 11, 1977, at St. Agatha Parish in Redford Township.
He served as associate pastor at the parishes of St. Basil, East Detroit (1977-80); St. Frances Cabrini, Allen Park (1980-84); and St. Mary, Wayne (1984-87). He served as temporary parochial administrator at St. Mary Parish, Monroe, in 1987, and was then named its pastor that same year. He served there until 1996, when he was named pastor of St. Fabian Parish, Farmington Hills.
In 2011, Fr. Chabala was named pastor of St. Irenaues Parish in Rochester Hills, where he continues to serve today.
In addition, he served on the clergy assignment board from 2001-05 and 2008-12.
Fr. Loren Connell, OFM
Fr. Connell, 74, is celebrating his 40th year as a priest, being ordained Nov. 20, 1976.
He has served as pastor of St. Aloysius Parish in downtown Detroit since 2013.
A priest of the Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, based in Cincinnati, Fr. Connell previously served as pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Detroit (2013-15), and as administrator of both St. Patrick and St. Aloysius parishes from 2012-13.
Fr. Connell joined the Franciscans in 1967 and has also served in Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana.
Fr. Joseph Dailey
Fr. Dailey, 66, was born in Toledo, Ohio, and attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township.
He was ordained Sept. 10, 1977, at St. Agatha Parish, Redford Township.
He served as associate pastor of St. Genevieve Parish, Livonia (1977-78); St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Detroit (1978-82); and St. Edith Parish, Livonia (1982-85). In 1985, he was released to serve in the Diocese of Kalamazoo as associate pastor at St. Thomas More (Student) Parish until 1988.
Upon returning to the Archdiocese of Detroit, Fr. Dailey served briefly as associate pastor of St. Matthias Parish in Sterling Heights (1988) and as temporary administrator of St. Valerie of Ravenna Parish, Clinton Township.
In 1989, he was appointed pastor of Christ the Redeemer Parish in Orion Township, where he remains today.
Fr. James Jagielski,
CH(COL) USA Ret.
Fr. Jagielski, 72, was born in Detroit and attended Wayne State University in Detroit and St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township.
He was ordained March 5, 1977, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Fr. Jagielski served as associate pastor at the parishes of St. Ladislaus, Hamtramck (1977-80); Our Lady of Good Counsel, Plymouth (1980-83); and St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Clair Shores (1983-84). He was an auditor in the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal from 1981-82.
He served as military chaplain for the U.S. Army (1984-90), and served in Fort Polk, La.; Fort Monmouth, N.J.; Ansbach, Germany; and Fort Stewart, Ga. Fr. Jagielski returned home to serve as pastor of St. Mary Queen of Creation Parish, New Baltimore, from 1990-93, before again serving as military chaplain from 1993-2001 at Fort McClellan, Ala.; and Heidelberg, Germany. He was episcopal vicar for the U.S. Army in Europe from 1998-2000. In 2001, he took a sabbatical at the Catholic Theological Union.
He served briefly as administrator and pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in St. Clair Shores in 2002, and from 2005-07 served as chaplain at the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. He currently resides in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Fr. Thomas Kramer
Fr. Kramer, 67, was born in Royal Oak and attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit; St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township; and Detroit College of Law.
He was ordained Feb. 12, 1977, in Detroit.
Fr. Kramer served as associate pastor at the parishes of St. Regis, Birmingham (1977-79); St. Clement, Center Line (1979); and St. Matthew, Detroit (1979-81). He was named an auditor for the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal from 1981-82, and again in 1983. He also served as associate pastor at the parishes of St. Alphonsus, Dearborn (1982-83); St. Louise de Marillac, Warren (1983-86); and St. Joseph, Port Huron (1986-90), also serving as administrator of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Port Huron.
He then went on to help at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, Detroit, until 1991, and served as temporary associate pastor at St. Thecla Parish, Mount Clemens, for a year after that.
After a leave of absence, Fr. Kramer was appointed pastor of St. Mel Parish in Dearborn Heights in 2001, and continues to serve there today.
Fr. Kramer also served as vicar of the Dearborn Vicariate (2003-04) and West Wayne Vicariate (2004-07, 2007-09).
Msgr. Thomas Rice
Msgr. Rice, 66, was born in Dearborn and attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit; St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township; and St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.
He was ordained Oct. 8, 1977, in Detroit.
Then-Fr. Rice served as associate pastor at the parishes of St. Mark, Warren (1977-79); St. Joan of Arc, St. Clair Shores (1979-85); and St. Agatha, Redford Township (1985-88). He was named temporary parochial administrator at St. Clare of Assisi Parish, Farmington (1988) and at St. Mary Parish, Wayne (1988-89). In 1989, he was named pastor of St. Louise de Marillac Parish in Warren, where he ministered for 25 years. In 2014, Msgr. Rice was named pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Troy, where he remains today.
On Sept. 30, 2005, he was named a “chaplain to His Holiness” (monsignor) by Pope Benedict XVI.
In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, Msgr. Rice served for 13 years (1999-2012) as editor-in-chief of The Michigan Catholic newspaper.
Fr. C. Michael Verschaeve
Born Aug. 3, 1950, Fr. Verschaeve, 66, attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit; the University of Detroit and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township.
He was ordained March 19, 1977, at St. Stephen Parish, Port Huron, and celebrated his first Mass at St. Joseph Parish, Lake Orion.
Fr. Verschaeve served as associate pastor at the parishes of St. Frances Cabrini, Allen Park (1977-80), and St. Linus, Dearborn Heights (1980-82). From 1981-82, he was an auditor at the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal before being assigned as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Monroe from 1982-87. From 1987-2000, he was pastor of St. Alfred Parish in Taylor, and then at St. Anne Parish in Ortonville from 2000-03.
In 2003, Fr. Verschaeve was named pastor of his boyhood parish, St. Joseph the Worker in Lake Orion, where he continues to serve today.
In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, Fr. Verschaeve has served as a member of the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council (1997-99, 2002-06), on the priests pension board (2012-15), and as vicar of the old Monroe Vicariate (1985-88).
Fr. Robert Bauer
Now 58, Fr. Bauer was born in Monroe. He attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township.
He was ordained Nov. 14, 1987, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Detroit.
Fr. Bauer has served as associate pastor of St. Agatha Parish, Redford Township (1987-88); and of St. Colette Parish, Livonia (1994-95).
He became pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Carleton, in 1995, serving there until 2012. Additional duties as administrator of St. Joseph Parish, Maybee, were added in 2004, and he served as that parish’s pastor from 2009-12. In 2012, Fr. Bauer became pastor of St. Mary, Our Lady Queen of Families Parish in Warren, where he continues to serve today.
Fr. Richard Cavellier
Now 73, Fr. Cavellier was born in Detroit. He attended Wayne State University and Sacred Heart Seminary, both in Detroit, and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township, from which he earned a Master of Divinity degree.
He was ordained Nov. 14, 1987, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Detroit.
Fr. Cavellier was associate pastor of St. Clement Parish, Center Line (1987-88); and of St. Edmund Parish, Warren (1988-90); before becoming temporary administrator of St. Christopher Parish, Detroit, for a brief time in 1990.
He served on the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal (1992-96), and was administrator of St. Valerie of Ravenna Parish (1995-96), later becoming its pastor (1996-2008).
Fr. Cavellier was pastor of St. Alan Parish, Troy, and St. Columban Parish, Birmingham (2008-09); and has been pastor of Sacred Heart of the Hills Parish, Auburn Hills, since 2009. Fr. Cavellier served on the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council from 2014-16, while at the same time serving as vicar of the Pontiac Area Vicariate.
Fr. Gregory Deters
Now 60, Fr. Deters was born in Detroit. He attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township.
He was ordained Nov. 14, 1987, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Detroit.
Fr. Deters has served as associate pastor of St. Mary Parish, St. Clair (1987-88); and of Divine Child Parish, Dearborn (1988-89).
He served as pastor of St. Anthony Parish, Temperance (1995-2006), and of St. Mary Parish, St. Clair (2006-12). In 2014, Fr. Deters was named associate pastor of the clustered parishes of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Moses the Black in Detroit, serving there until 2016. Since 2016, Fr. Deters has served as associate pastor of St. James Parish in Novi.
Fr. Joseph Gembala
Now 60, Fr. Gembala was born in Ypsilanti. He attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of Arkansas Law School; St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana; and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township.
He was ordained Nov. 14, 1987, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Detroit.
Fr. Gembala has served as associate pastor of Divine Child Parish, Dearborn (1987-88); Christ the Good Shepherd Parish, Lincoln Park (1988-91); St. Gabriel Parish, Detroit (1992-93); and St. Stephen/Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Detroit, in 1993, before becoming its pastor (1993-96).
For the past 21 years, Fr. Gembala has served as pastor of St. Malachy Parish, Sterling Heights.
Fr. John Hedges
Now 60, Fr. Hedges was born in Trenton. He attended Madonna University, Livonia, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree; Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit; and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree.
He was ordained Nov. 14, 1987, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Detroit.
Fr. Hedges served as associate pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, Troy (1987-88); Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Detroit (1988-92); Sacred Heart Parish, Dearborn (briefly during 1992); and at St. Linus Parish, Dearborn Heights (1992-95).
He was pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Wyandotte (1995-2005), during which time he also served as a chaplain to Henry Ford-Wyandotte General Hospital. Since 2005, Fr. Hedges has been pastor of St. Stephen Parish in New Boston, where he continues to serve. Fr. Hedges has also served as spiritual director to the Riverview-based Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima.
Fr. Walter Ptak
Now 55, Fr. Ptak was born in Wyandotte. He attended St. Mary’s College, Orchard Lake (Bachelor of Arts), and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township (Master of Divinity).
He was ordained Nov. 14, 1987, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Detroit.
Fr. Ptak served as associate pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Monroe (1987-88); and St. Alfred Parish, Taylor (1988-90); before joining the faculty of SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake (1991-92).
He was named associate pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Wyandotte, in 1992, becoming the parish’s administrator in 1993, and its pastor from 1994-2013.
During his time at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, he has also served as administrator of St. Helena Parish, Wyandotte (2003-04 and 2007-08); and as pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Wyandotte (2009-13), also filling the roles of parish business manager and director of religious education. In 2013, Fr. Ptak was assigned as dean of SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, where he continues to serve. Fr. Ptak is also finishing a term as president of the Polish American Priests Association.
In 1999, Fr. Ptak was honored as the Orchard Lake Schools’ Alumnus of the Year.
Fr. James Bilot
Fr. Bilot, 55, was born in Detroit and attended Wayne State University (bachelor’s in business administration) and Sacred Heart Major Seminary, graduating with a Master of Divinity in 1992.
He was ordained June 27, 1992, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit and celebrated his first Mass at St. Germaine Parish, St. Clair Shores.
Fr. Bilot served as associate pastor of Divine Child Parish in Dearborn (1992-96), where he would later return as pastor in 2007.
Fr. Bilot also served as associate pastor of St. Hugo of the Hills Parish, Bloomfield Hills, from 1996-98. In 1998, he was named pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Harper Woods for two years until Cardinal Adam J. Maida appointed him as director of priestly vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Fr. Bilot served in this role for seven years, counseling future priests, until his return to Divine Child Parish as pastor. Fr. Bilot has also served terms on the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council and Clergy Assignment Board.
Fr. Mark Brauer
Fr. Brauer, 60, was born in Detroit and attended the city’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
He was ordained a priest on June 27, 1992, and was assigned as associate pastor of St. Ephrem Parish in Sterling Heights.
In 1995, Fr. Brauer was assigned as pastor of both St. Catherine of Siena and St. Gemma parishes in Detroit, and he ministered in both roles for a decade. In 2005, he was named pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington, where he continues to serve today. For a brief time, Fr. Brauer served as temporary administrator of St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Farmington Hills (2013-14).
In addition to his pastoral duties, Fr. Brauer has served on the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council (2004-08, 2012-14), and as vicar of the North Macomb Vicariate (1994-95), West Detroit Vicariate (1996-2002), Farmington-Southfield Vicariate (2007-09) and South Oakland Vicariate (2012-16).
Fr. Patrick Connell
Fr. Connell, 54, was born in Chicago. He attended Sacred Heart (Major) Seminary in Detroit and was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on June 27, 1992.
Fr. Connell was assigned as associate pastor of St. Thecla Parish in Clinton Township (1992-95), and St. Regis Parish in Bloomfield Hills (1995-97). During the latter ministry he also served as chaplain to the all-boys Brother Rice High School and all-girls Marian High School near St. Regis Parish.
In 1998, Fr. Connell began an 18-year ministry as pastor of Our Lady of La Salette Parish in Berkley, serving in that role until 2016. From 2006-09, he served as vicar of the Southeast Oakland Vicariate.
Bishop Robert J. Fisher
Bishop Fisher, 57, was born in Detroit. He earned a bachelor’s degree in management science from the University of Detroit in 1983 before entering Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. He graduated from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 1992 with a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on June 27, 1992. He celebrated his first Mass at St. Bede Parish in Southfield.
Then-Fr. Fisher’s first assignment was as associate pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Grosse Pointe Woods, where he served from 1992-95.
In 1995, he was appointed by Cardinal Adam J. Maida to be director of priestly vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit, helping young men discerning their call to the diocesan priesthood. After serving in this role for five years, he later served as pastor of St. Angela Parish in Roseville (2000-03), St. Lawrence Parish in Utica (2003-14) and rector and pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak (2014-17). From 2002-04, he served on the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council.
On Nov. 23, 2016, Pope Francis appointed Fr. Fisher to the ministry of auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Bishop Fisher was consecrated and ordained a bishop at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron on Jan. 25, 2017.
Bishop Fisher is currently finishing his assignment as pastor and rector of the Shrine Basilica, which will conclude on June 30, when he will assume his full-time duties as regional moderator of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Northeast Region.
Bishop Fisher also serves as an adviser to Sacred Heart Major Seminary and is on the board of trustees for the Catholic Youth Organization.
Fr. Michael Loyson
Fr. Loyson, 57, attended Sacred Heart (Major) Seminary and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on June 27, 1992.
He served as associate pastor of St. Rene Goupil Parish in Sterling Heights from 1992-94.
Fr. Loyson studied for a canon law licentiate at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and since 2000 has worked with the Metropolitan Tribunal in the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Central Services. Fr. Loyson also has served as a weekend associate at St. Colette Parish in Livonia since 2010.
Fr. Joseph Mallia
Fr. Mallia, 54, was born in Malta and moved as a young boy with his family to Allen Park, growing up in St. Frances Cabrini Parish. He attended Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township and Sacred Heart School on Theology in Hales Corners, Wis.
Fr. Mallia was ordained on June 27, 1992, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit, celebrating his first Mass at St. Frances Cabrini.
Fr. Mallia served as associate pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Lake Orion, and chaplain to Oakland Catholic High School in Pontiac (1992-94); associate pastor of St. Michael Parish, Sterling Heights (1994-96); and associate pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish, Warren (1996-97), serving concurrently as chaplain to Warren De La Salle High School.
From 1997-2003, Fr. Mallia served as pastor of St. Kenneth Parish in Plymouth. In 2003, he was appointed pastor of his hometown parish, St. Frances Cabrini in Allen Park, serving there for 13 years. In 2016, he was appointed pastor of the clustered parishes of St. Augustine in Richmond and Holy Family in Memphis.
Over the years, Fr. Mallia has also served as vicar of the Northwest Wayne Vicariate (1998-2004), Downriver Vicariate (2006-13) and as a member of the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council (2005-07, 2008-14).
Fr. John Wynnycky
Fr. Wynnycky, 56, was born in Detroit and attended Sacred Heart (Major) Seminary.
He was ordained on June 27, 1992, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament and was assigned briefly as associate pastor of St. Veronica Parish in Eastpointe.
Fr. Wynnycky served for five months at the St. John Deaf Center in Warren before being assigned as associate pastor of St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe Farms (1993-95).
He was named pastor of St. Michael Parish in Pontiac from 1995-2001, and administrative responsibility for the city’s St. Vincent de Paul and St. Joseph parishes was added in 1996. In 1997, Fr. Wynnycky became pastor of both parishes.
Fr. Wynnycky later served as associate pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Utica (2002-03) and a second stint at St. Paul on the Lake (2003-12), while serving on the clergy assignment board from 2008-10.
He served for a year as administrator of Holy Innocents-St. Barnabas Parish in Eastpointe before becoming pastor of that parish in 2013. He continues to serve there today.
A Special Calling
Religious jubilarians celebrate decades of service
This year, 118 religious sisters, brothers and priests are celebrating milestone jubilees in the Archdiocese of Detroit. The calling to religious life takes many forms, and no two vocations are exactly alike. But some of the common threads that unite these selfless ministers include a commitment to the evangelical counsels — their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience — and a passion for serving others. Many serve as educators in local schools, universities and institutions, while others serve as health care workers in hospitals and clinics. Still others served as missionaries, carrying the Gospel to faraway places and sharing the love of Christ with all who would listen. For their sacrifices and ministries, we give thanks for them and pray that God continues to bless them.
Adrian Dominican Sisters
Sr. Shirley Mary (James Barbara) Heymes, OP, has ministered as an educator and hospital volunteer in the Archdiocese of Detroit, including as a teacher at St. Jude, Detroit (1965-67), and St. Peter, Harper Woods (1972-95). She also volunteered at the Dominican Literacy Center (1995-2006) and St. John Hospital in Detroit (2006-15). She is now retired and resides in Roseville.
Sr. Noreen (Rita Mary) O’Connell, OP, has served in education and pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit for many decades. Among her ministries she served as a teacher at St. Mary, Rockwood (1951-53); St. Lawrence, Utica (1953-56); St. Norbert, Inkster (1956-57); St. Mary, Royal Oak (1957-62); Aquinas, Southgate (1967-68, 1974-75); St. Gabriel, Detroit (1968-71, as principal); and Rosary, Detroit (1971-74). She served as pastoral minister at Our Lady Gate of Heaven (1975-77) and St. Suzanne in Detroit (1978-81, 1982-85); St. Rene Goupil, Sterling Heights (1985-95); and St. Pius X, Southgate (1995-2001). She was director of the resource center at St. Mary of Redford Parish from 1977-78, and from 2002 until the present has served as an annulment consultant in Detroit.
Sr. Barbara (James Annette) Cervenka, OP, has served in education and art ministry throughout her years in the Archdiocese of Detroit. She taught at St. Joseph, Maybee (1959-62); St. Lawrence (1962-66) and Bishop Borgess, Detroit (1966-67); and Bishop Foley, Madison Heights (1967-69), before spending seven years on the staff of the Dominican Center for Religious Development in Detroit (1982-89). Sr. Cervenka co-founded and co-directed Con/Vida – Popular Arts of the Americas, from 2000 until the present.
Sr. Bernitha (Ann Gertrude) Glombowski, OP, ministered in education and parish ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit, including teaching at St. Mary, St. Clair (1968-70); St. Peter, Harper Woods (1972-77); and Our Lady Star of the Sea, Grosse Pointe (1978-89). She was a dental assistant at the office of Dr. James Morris in East Detroit from 1977-78, and served as bookkeeper for St. Sylvester Parish in Warren from 1989-2005. From 2005-15, she volunteered at St. John Macomb Hospital in Warren.
Sr. Janet (James Kathleen) Traut, OP, has ministered in education for many decades in the Archdiocese of Detroit, including teaching at St. Theresa (1963-69), St. Leo (1969-72, 1973-81, 1983-93) and St. Gerard, Detroit (1981-83); St. Agatha, Redford (1993-98); St. Alphonsus, Dearborn (1998); St. Albert the Great, Dearborn Heights (1999-2001); and Bishop Borgess High School and Academy, Redford (2002-03). She served in adult education at the Siena Literacy Center in Redford from 2001-02, and again from 2003-06 in Redford and 2006-07 in Detroit. She retired to Dearborn in 2007.
Sr. Mary (Michael Bridget) Ward, OP, served in administration and clerical support in Detroit, including as an administrator for the Dominican Center for Religious Development (1989-91); as secretary and typist for the Archdiocese of Detroit (1991); registrar for Sacred Heart Seminary (1992-2000); and coordinator of fund data for the Congregation Development Office in Detroit (2001-02). She was executive assistant to the chapter prioress for the Great Lakes Dominican Chapter Office from 2002-08, when she retired to volunteer work while residing in Warren.
Sr. Eileen (Mary Jennifer) Burkhardt, OP,served in education and pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit, including as a teacher at Dominican High School and Academy in Detroit (1990-97); as pastoral associate at St. Augustine Parish, Richmond (2000-03), and St. Jude Parish, Detroit (2003-04); and as registrar for the Dominican Literacy Center in Detroit, where she continues to serve today.
Bernardine Franciscan Sisters
Sr. Jeanne Marie Budd, OSF, is celebrating 60 years of religious profession with the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters. She is currently retired and residing in Farmington Hills.
Sr. Elena Sabalausky, OSF, has ministered in education for several schools, including Divine Child High School in Dearborn, where she served as principal for many years, and as a counselor at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills.
Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph
Fr. Daniel Crosby, OFM Cap., has served the Archdiocese of Detroit since 2014 with parish help-outs and as a confessor at the Solanus Casey Center at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit. He also travels the U.S. and Canada providing parish missions and retreats.
Fr. Albert Sandor, OFM Cap., is a native of Detroit and served in the archdiocese from 1967-75 at the Capuchins’ St. Bonaventure Monastery and as director of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. He also served at St. Mary Magdalen Parish (1982-84) and St. John’s Hospital (1985-90). Since 1990, he has been providing weekend parish help-outs and has served as a confessor at the Solanus Casey Center. He assisted the Secular Franciscans from 1992-97.
Fr. Raymond Stadmeyer, OFM Cap., has been an integral part of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen since 1998. He assisted in the founding of the Soup Kitchen’s On the Rise Bakery program that assists individuals “re-entering” society after bouts of incarceration or substance abuse. He is also pastor of St. Charles Borromeo (2008-present) and Nativity of Our Lord (2015-present) parishes in Detroit.
Congregation of Christian Brothers
Bro. Ross E. Wielatz, CFC, has taught math, science and religion and coached sports in schools across the United States, and currently teaches at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills. He also has ministered in addiction counseling and in ministry to the homeless.
Congregation of St. Basil
Fr. Joseph Moffatt, CSB, has been involved in a number of ministries, including in the field of education. In the Archdiocese of Detroit, Fr. Moffatt has served as principal of Detroit Catholic Central High School, in liturgical music and in parish ministry for a number of local parishes.
Fr. Richard Elmer, CSB, has been a strong proponent of Catholic education throughout his ministry, having served as teacher, counselor, vice principal, principal, athletic director, director of alumni relations and development, and finally as president of his alma mater, Detroit Catholic Central High School in Novi from 2008-10. Fr. Elmer also served as principal of St. Catherine of Siena Academy in Wixom from 2010-11. Fr. Elmer also ministered at the Basilian Fathers’ men’s religious house in Novi, and currently serves as chaplain to St. Catherine of Siena Academy.
Fr. John Huber, CSB, is the current president of Detroit Catholic Central High School in Novi, where he also served as principal from 2010-14. Before then, he served as vice principal of Holy Redeemer High School in Detroit. Fr. Huber also helps celebrate Mass at nearby St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills, and serves on the board of Detroit Cristo Rey High School. Fr. Huber was ordained to the priesthood in 1992 and also spent time ministering in California and Texas.
Congregation of St. Joseph of Nazareth
Sr. Consuelo Alcala, CSJ, has ministered in education and social work with the Congregation of St. Joseph of Nazareth. She has worked to defend the right to public education in the city of Detroit and encourages women in leadership roles.
Sr. Mary Ann Ankoviak, CSJ, entered the Congregation of St. Joseph of Nazareth from St. Bernard Parish in Detroit and has serving as a teacher, youth and young adult minister and in parish administration. In the Archdiocese of Detroit, she has served at Our Lady on the River Parish in Marine City and St. Veronica Parish in Eastpointe.
Sr. Valerie Binder, CSJ, entered the Congregation of St. Joseph of Nazareth from Guardian Angels Parish in Detroit. She has served in education, teaching young children, special needs students, adults and Title I participants. She currently teaches English as a second language and volunteers as a tutor at the Dominican Literacy Center and Freedom House in Detroit.
Sr. Diane Densmore, CSJ, entered the Congregation of St. Joseph of Nazareth from Portland, Mich., and has taught middle and junior high school students in language arts and religion in the Detroit and Kalamazoo areas for the majority of her ministry.
Daughters of Mary, Mother of Mercy
Sr. Marie Michelle Ezenwokemodo, DMMM, ministers in health care, caring for the sick as a licensed nurse in Canton. As a Daughter of Mary, Mother of Mercy, she directs her ministry especially toward the poor and underprivileged.
Discalced Carmelite Nuns
Sr. Mary of the Angels Kleman, OCD, serves as a cloistered nun in contemplative prayer ministry at the Monastery of St. Therese in Clinton Township.
Cloistered Dominican Nuns
Sr. Mary Vincent Wagner, OP, entered the Monastery of the Holy Name in Cincinnati in 1953, making perpetual vows Aug. 22, 1957. She transferred to the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament in Farmington Hills in 1989 after the Cincinnati monastery closed. In addition to her primary ministry of prayer, she is a self-described “jack-of-all-trades” at the monastery and has “enjoyed filling in the cracks where a little putty might be helpful.”
Dominican Sisters of Peace
Sr. Lois White, OP, is a resident of the Oxford Motherhouse, where she serves as a volunteer. She also volunteers at the St Mary’s Retreat House in Oxford, a founded ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
Sr. Colette Heck, OP, is a resident of the Oxford Motherhouse. For almost 45 years, she served at St. Alexander Parish in Farmington Hills, where she was an active member of the parish and community, especially in interfaith affairs.
Sr. Virginia Marie Butler, OP, is a resident of the Oxford Motherhouse, where she continues with her ministry of prayer and community service.
Sr. Mary Idalia Konopka, CSSF, 102, has served as a teacher at a number of Detroit-area schools, including Queen of Apostles, Hamtramck (1935-39); St. Casimir, Detroit (1940-42; 1948); Sacred Heart, Detroit (1942-43); St. Florian, Hamtramck (1948-50); Our Lady of Refuge, Orchard Lake (1953-56, as principal); St. John Cantius, Detroit (1962-63); St. Christine, Detroit (1963-64); St. Andrew, Detroit (1964-65); St. Valentine, Detroit (1966-67); and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Wyandotte (1968-70).
Sr. Mary Ursula Dzienis, CSSF, has ministered as a teacher and principal at a number of schools in the Detroit area, including Sacred Heart, Detroit (1945-47); St. Stanislaus, Detroit (1947-49); St. Michael, Livonia (1953-54, 1963-66 as principal); St. Valentine, Redford (1958-60); Our Lady Help of Christians, Detroit (1960-61); St. Thecla, Mt. Clemens (1966-72 as principal); St. Anne, Monroe (1973-74); St. Hilary, Detroit (1974-78); Our Lady Queen of Apostles, Hamtramck (1978-84 as principal); St. Michael, Southfield (1986-92 as principal); Our Lady of Refuge, Orchard Lake (1992-93); and St. Sabina, Dearborn Heights (1993-2006 as principal).
Sr. Mary Honoria Bartoszek, CSSF, has taught at the schools of St. Louis the King (1950-52); Our Lady Help of Christians (1952-53) and Sacred Heart (1957-58, 1960-61), all in Detroit; and St. Michael, Southfield (1996-99).
Sr. Maristella Nowakowski, CSSF, has served in education and prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit, including as a teacher at St. Hyacinth, Detroit (1950-52); Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Wyandotte (1953-54, 1955-58); St. John Cantius, Detroit (1954-55); St. Hilary, Detroit (1958-59); St. Leonard, Warren (1959-60); St. Michael, Livonia (1961-62); St. Edith, Livonia (1968-69, 1992-94); St. Stephen, New Boston (1972-73, 1983-85); St. Florian, Hamtramck (1975-78); Our Lady Queen of Apostles, Hamtramck (1979-83); Our Lady Help of Christians, Detroit (1994-97); Our Lady of Refuge, Orchard Lake (1997-2000).
Sr. Mary Mercita Kula, CSSF, has served as a teacher at the Detroit-area schools of Corpus Christi, Detroit (1950-52); St. Louis the King, Detroit (1952-53); Assumption, Detroit (1953-54); Resurrection, Detroit (1954-56); St. Josephat, Detroit (1956-58); Patronage of St. Joseph, Detroit (1958-59); Felician Academy, Detroit (1961-62; 1964-65); St. Florian, Hamtramck (1962-64); Ladywood High School, Livonia (1965-67); St. Ignatius, Detroit (1972-73); St. Genevieve, Livonia (1976-79, as principal); St. Thecla, Mt. Clemens (1991-92).
Sr. Mary Agnestine Rosinski, CSSF, has served as a teacher at the Detroit-area schools of St. Stanislaus, Detroit (1955-56); Patronage of St. Joseph, Detroit (1956-59); Immaculate Conception, Detroit (1961-62); Our Lady of Refuge, Orchard Lake (1972-75); St Hilary, Detroit (1975-80); St. Christine, Detroit (1980-86, as principal); St. Stephen, Detroit (1986-87); St. Damian, Westland (1999-2001); St. Thecla, Mt. Clemens (2001-02); St. Damian, Westland (2002-09).
Sr. Mary Thaddea Meyers, CSSF, has served as a teacher and principal at the Detroit-area schools of Our Lady of Refuge, Orchard Lake (1968-69); St. Edith, Livonia (1969-70); St. Genevieve, Livonia (1970-71); Montessori Center of Our Lady, Livonia (1980-81, 1983-89); St. Florian, Hamtramck (1981-83, 2003-05, including as principal); St. Christine, Detroit (1992-94, as principal); St. Christine/St. Gemma, Detroit (1994-96, as principal); St. Thecla, Mt Clemens (2005-07); and St. Stephen, New Boston (2007-11, as principal).
Salisbury was one of more than a dozen priests named in a November 2016 press release by the local chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, as part of the group’s push for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to publicly identify, for the first time, all of its priests who’d been accused or convicted of crimes against children.
When the Houston Press reached Salisbury in October for a comment on the group’s efforts, he chuckled. “I’m certainly not going to say anything to vigilantes, no,” he said in a New England accent, referring to the group (known as SNAP).
When the Press mentioned his Houston victim’s name, Salisbury said, “That doesn’t ring a bell at all.”
Told who it was, Salisbury said, “Good Lord, I mean...that’s 30 years ago, or whatever it is.”
Unlike Salisbury, his victim couldn’t so easily forget a name.
“The first time I ever ejaculated was from some dirty old man’s hand,” the victim told the Press in December. (We’re calling the man, who asked not to be named, “Darren.”)
He also never forgot about how, when the movie was over and Salisbury was driving him back home, the priest — who served for decades as the chaplain of Texas Southern University’s Catholic Newman Center — pulled over in an alley, unzipped his pants and put the boy’s hand around his penis.
Funny thing was, Darren — a bit of a rebel, which is why his parents scheduled counseling with a priest in the first place — had a knife in his pocket at the time. He could’ve cut the old man. But, he said, “I was scared to death.” He was a problem child back then — he’d already been arrested for burglary. He knew Salisbury could hold that over his head. “I was in trouble already,” Darren said. “I didn’t want to resist anything, because he had that, like, against me.”
Like most of the known priests who were accused of crimes against children while serving in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Salisbury appears unscathed by past acts. Salisbury’s victim wasn’t as lucky. While he’s relatively happy now, there were hard years — alcohol, divorce. But, unlike with some other victims researched for this story, those hard years didn’t drive him to a premature death.
Unlike other dioceses throughout the country — Boston, Los Angeles, Orange County, among others — Galveston-Houston has escaped scandal. Advocates say this archdiocese has avoided scrutiny largely because of Texas’s rigid statute of limitations, which has stifled the kind of successful civil litigation that has forced other bishops and cardinals into disclosing the records of hundreds of predators.
As Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Bishop Accountability, puts it, “Texas has one of the most victim-hostile statute[s] of limitations in the country.”
Although the religious order Salisbury worked under — the Josephites — and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, released statements on Salisbury’s crimes in 2004, Houston’s top Catholic clergy have acknowledged the diocese’s predator priests only if forced to through criminal charges, civil lawsuits or media reports.
The furthest nod toward transparency was in 2004, when then-bishop Joseph Fiorenza stated that 22 priests between 1958 and 2004 had been “credibly accused.” Their names, work histories or criminal records (if any) were not released.
But victims’ advocates believe that number is unrealistically low. As Barrett Doyle told the Press, “My educated guess is that an extraordinary amount of information about abuse of children by priests remains buried in that archdiocese.”
For years, the archdiocese has refused to identify its predator priests, and likely never will. But something happened last November to re-energize Houston SNAP members’ push for disclosure: Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and a cardinal, was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
After SNAP reached out to local media about the push for transparency, the Press looked into some of the names on its list.
With the help of records compiled by Bishop Accountability, the Press reviewed civil and criminal case files of some of the priests who paid very little for their crimes or escaped punishment entirely. Predators who, thanks to the archdiocese, were able to live in relative peace, while their victims are still suffering.
It took 43 years, but Michael Norris finally got a sense of justice.
Norris, the head of Houston’s SNAP chapter, was able to achieve this in part because, unlike other Houston SNAP members, his abuse occurred in his home state of Kentucky.
It was there that prosecutors charged 74-year-old priest Joseph Hemmerle with molesting Norris at a summer camp in 1973. Testifying on the stand, Norris was able to tell jurors exactly what he had told the Louisville Diocese in 2001, and which was ignored: that Hemmerle, a high school teacher and camp counselor, called Norris into his cabin one night under the pretense of treating the ten-year-old boy for poison ivy, and had Norris strip and stand on a stool. The priest then used his hands and mouth on the boy.
Hemmerle was found guilty in November, with the jury recommending a seven-year sentence. The priest will be formally sentenced in February. He has not been defrocked.
At trial, Hemmerle’s attorney accused Norris of making up a story for attention. But Norris said he felt utterly alone when Hemmerle was charged. “I’ve had more people come to me and tell me, ‘Hey, I believed you all along,’” Norris said. “I didn’t hear that up until he was found guilty.”
Norris knows that the Hemmerle case couldn’t be duplicated in Houston. All he wants the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to do is identify the credibly accused priests and place them in positions away from children.
“If someone comes forward who was abused back in the ’70s or ’80s, they’re SOL,” Norris said. “There’s not a whole lot of recourse that they can [take]. But ultimately, I can tell you from experience: You’re not going to go public just to go public. You don’t do this to get attention — you’re trying to do the right thing. You’re trying to get the church to do the right thing.”
DiNardo and other officials with the archdiocese declined to comment for this story. But the archdiocese provided a statement:
“The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston fully cooperates with civil authorities regarding any allegations of clergy sexual abuse with minors. Since the adoption of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People by the U.S. Bishops in 2002, the Archdiocese has provided ongoing child abuse awareness and prevention training to all of its priests, deacons and employees, as well as parents and those volunteers who work with children…The Archdiocese also has an Archdiocesan Review Board, which meets quarterly to review any allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy. In addition, the Archdiocese has a Victim Assistance Coordinator who provides outreach and facilitates counseling services to those who have been a victim of clergy abuse as a minor.”
The archdiocese’s tendency to protect accused child molesters is rooted in the checkered history of former bishop Joseph Fiorenza, whose participation in the Catholic Church’s scandal began before he moved to Houston.
While serving as the bishop of San Angelo in 1982, Fiorenza cautiously welcomed a known serial child molester into the fold. That priest, David Holley, was one of the Catholic Church scandal’s most notorious criminals, and he was ultimately convicted in 1993 of sexually abusing eight boys in New Mexico, between 1972 and 1974. He was sentenced to 275 years in prison, where he died in 2008. (Holley’s story, and that of his outspoken victim, Phil Saviano, is highlighted in the 2015 film Spotlight).
Letters among bishops regarding Holley’s proclivities, made public years after the fact, show that in 1982, Fiorenza wrote to Worcester, Massachusetts, Bishop Bernard Flanagan that he was “aware of some of [Holley’s] past difficulties, yet I do not know the extent of his problems.”
But, Fiorenza wrote, “With our shortage of priests, I am willing to risk incardinating him.”
Two years later, when Fiorenza was the bishop of Galveston-Houston, he allowed a priest who had abused a 13-year-old girl in Navasota to hold a post in a Galena Park parish. In 1990, the priest, Noe Guzman, was convicted of sexual abuse of a child, and served 90 days in the Grimes County Jail.
According to court records, the incident was investigated by Monsignor Daniel Scheel, who never bothered to learn the girl’s name.
Scheel said in his deposition that his major concern was the embarrassment the church might suffer if word of the sexual assault got out. His solution was to reprimand Guzman and tell him to stay away from the girl.
Guzman was never defrocked. His whereabouts are unknown, and he is one of the priests that Houston SNAP is asking the archdiocese to publicly acknowledge.
Although Fiorenza was deposed in the Guzman case, his deposition is not available in the Harris County District Clerk’s online record system. However, a 1992 Houston Chronicle article about the case states, “Fiorenza, in his deposition, said he had left the matter in Scheel’s hands.”
The Chronicle article also noted Scheel’s weak excuse for how the case was handled. “Things were a lot different then,” Scheel said. “We didn’t know about the tendency of these people to repeat their acts.”
In 2004, as part of a historic, yet hardly transparent, initiative, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops tasked the John Jay College of Criminal Justice with producing a report on abuse in the church, based largely on self-reported numbers. Covering the years 1950-2002, the report indicated that 4,392 priests and deacons had been accused of child sexual abuse, or 2.7 percent of the overall population of Catholic clergy working during that time.
That rate has risen to 5.6 percent today, according to Anne Barrett Doyle of Bishop Accountability, which calculates and reports the numbers annually. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has never amended its figure of 22 priests and 4 deacons — a 1 percent rate.
“That is just insane,” Barrett Doyle said, noting that in the small diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, “We know of more than 90 accused clergy.”
The Manchester diocese’s abuse and cover-ups were made public by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, which, following media reports in 2002, convened a grand jury and subpoenaed roughly 9,000 pages of documents showing how the diocese regularly covered up allegations of abuse.
In 2003, just before the AG’s Office was about to seek indictments on multiple counts of endangering the welfare of a child, the diocese entered into an agreement with the AG’s Office requiring the diocese to submit to annual audits for five years, as well as other governmental oversight. Through the AG’s oversight, the diocese has identified 98 priests accused of sexual abuse.
But Fiorenza was never pressured into such disclosure, nor was his successor, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, whom Barrett Doyle calls “one of the less-transparent bishops in the United States.”
For one thing, Barrett Doyle said, DiNardo has not updated Fiorenza’s “absolutely preposterous” 2004 report on credibly accused clergy.
And, she said, in addition to being a low number, it’s useless without knowing all of the priests’ names.
“We don’t even know who they are,” Barrett Doyle said. “This is actually a public safety crisis…We don’t know where those perpetrators are, not to mention the dozens, if not hundreds, of allegations, that the archdiocese has rejected and they aren’t counting as ‘credible.’”
Although the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ policy defines sexual abuse, the archdiocese has historically had a fuzzy way of interpreting that policy. According to the conference’s 2002 policy and the resulting John Jay report, sexual abuse was defined as any instance where an adult used a child for “sexual gratification.” On paper, it’s a tough measure — there doesn’t even need to be physical contact in order for it to be considered abuse.
It’s not known if Father Noe Guzman, who abused the 13-year-old girl in Navasota, is on the list, even though archdiocesan officials went so far as to acknowledge that, at the very least, a 43-year-old man was moments away from penetrating a child.
Similarly, archdiocesan officials acknowledged, as vaguely as possible, that Father John Keller, who is currently the pastor at Prince of Peace Catholic Community near Tomball, inappropriately touched a 16-year-old boy at a parish in Spring.
The accusation surfaced in 2002, when the victim came forward after 20 years and claimed that, while on a trip out of town, Keller gave him wine, invited him into his bed and fondled him. Keller then allegedly wrote a series of love letters to the boy. (Keller did not respond to requests for comment, and the accuser declined to comment for this story.)
In June 2003, the Dallas Morning News obtained a copy of a letter that Fiorenza wrote to the victim earlier that year, in which Fiorenza stated that archdiocesan officials questioned Keller.
The newspaper reported that “Father Keller told the review board he had no sexual intent in ‘holding’ the teen, according to Bishop Fiorenza’s letter to the accuser.”
The bishop said that Keller denied any sexual abuse, but did admit that he “crossed a proper boundary by holding you [the victim] in a manner inappropriate for a priest,” according to the article, which also noted that Fiorenza wrote that Keller would require counseling “to ensure he is not at risk for future inappropriate behavior.”
Keller’s accuser was incredulous.
“He put his hands down my pants,” the man told the Morning News. “How could that not be sexual intent?”
In November, a handful of Houston SNAP members picketed outside Prince of Peace, holding signs saying things like “A Predator Priest Has Been in Your Parish.”
“They called the cops on us and had us leave,” chapter president Michael Norris said. “…We weren’t hurting anyone. All we were doing was trying to make people aware — keep your kids away from these people. Don’t trust them.”
Keller was not the only priest at Prince of Peace ever accused of inappropriate behavior with a child. In 1993, the parents of a young girl, identified only as “Jane Doe,” sued the archdiocese and Father Robert Ramon. The archdiocese did a masterful job of making sure the suit was not only quietly settled in 1995 but virtually wiped from the record: The suit does not turn up in a search of the Harris County District Clerk’s website. But the case’s docket history, which contains no specific information, is available on a different county database.
The Press only learned of its existence through the posting of a case number and brief description on the Bishop Accountability website. According to the site, Ramon was “accused of sexual misconduct with a minor female in 1991. Parish personnel were notified immediately; the diocese investigated and determined there was no evidence. Per the girl’s family’s request, the diocese provided counseling. The family’s contact w/ counselor ceased within few months and family threatened litigation.”
While attorneys on either side of a civil case can ask for certain records to be sealed, the motion to seal cannot itself be sealed. But, according to an attorney for the Harris County District Clerk’s Office, the entire Ramon file was sealed, including the motion, and it can only be unsealed with an order from the judge who presided over the case. The judge has since retired. Ramon died in 2014. The lawyer for the girl’s parents declined to comment.
There’s virtually no way to determine how many other lawsuits have been similarly buried.
A case that wasn’t sealed, involving the late Reverend Dennis Lee Peterson, is perhaps the most disturbing publicly available complaint against the archdiocese.
According to the man known as John Doe II in a 1999 lawsuit, he was first molested by Peterson when he was 14 and Peterson spent the night in his family’s home.
A social worker who operated a group home for troubled male teens before his ordination in 1973, Peterson had an eye for boys who needed special counseling. From 1969 to 1983, he oversaw the Houston Community Youth Center on Irvington Boulevard on the north side of Houston. He would later become a chaplain at the Harris County Juvenile Justice Center. He took boys on camping trips. Wherever there was a troubled boy, Peterson was there.
John Doe II — whom we’ll call Tim — met Peterson in 1972, when Tim’s parents felt the 14-year-old boy was running with the wrong crowd. According to Tim’s psychological evaluations contained in the court records, his parents often invited Peterson over for drinks. He liked Cuba libres. One night, after a few too many, Peterson decided to crash at the house.
Tim had taken the folding couch for the night. But, he told the psychologist, he was awakened by Peterson’s hands on his body. Tim was half in a daze, but he could feel that Peterson had ejaculated on him.
“You are so young — how can you keep it so long this way?” Peterson asked.
In the morning, Peterson was gone.
From that point on, Tim spent an average of two days a week with the priest, who sometimes left a $20 bill after their special sessions. Peterson plied the boy with Valium, marijuana and beer. He made the boy fellate him, and he would reciprocate.
Sometimes, Tim told the psychologist, “he would take his penis and put it against mine and...just go back and forth on himself.”
After these encounters, Tim said, Peterson would “jump in the shower...because he felt dirty after.”
Peterson often apologized to Tim for the size of his penis, which he felt was inadequate, saying, “I know I am older than you, and I am sorry that I am smaller than you…You will make a lot of women happy when you are older.”
Of course, that wasn’t true. Tim grew into a broken, alcoholic, drug-addicted mess who couldn’t truly make anyone happy, most of all himself. His third wife loved him, but she was a caretaker. She spent their few years together talking him down from the ledge.
At first Tim liked the attention from Peterson. But that dissipated. He felt rotten inside, especially when, according to his third wife, he learned that his sister, his younger brother and two of his friends — altar boys — were also being abused by Peterson.
“His two friends managed to get away from Dennis by killing themselves,” she told the Press. “[Tim] attempted to kill himself by shooting himself in the stomach. But he wasn’t able to get away. He didn’t die.”
Tim was afraid to tell his parents, assuming no one would believe him over a priest. The fear only increased after Peterson, who had a close relationship with deputy constables in Pasadena, began wearing guns on his hip and ankle. (Court records show that Peterson’s accusers believed he was a deputy constable, but it’s unclear if he was ever a licensed peace officer.)
Tim temporarily escaped by joining the Navy, but he could never get rid of Peterson, who resumed the abuse when Tim was an adult. A grown man, Tim was powerless over the man who had completely dominated him as a child.
“Even after we were married, Father Dennis — before I ever knew anything about it — would call the house, and [Tim] would just go into a rage,” his widow said. “And I didn’t understand why…One point, I remember him, as a grown man…curling up on the floor and crying.”
Later, when Tim finally told his wife about the abuse, she learned that Peterson had always told Tim that it was his fault, because he tempted the priest.
Sometimes, on especially hard benders, Tim would talk about killing Peterson “so he wouldn’t do this to anyone else,” the widow said.
Tim told the psychologist in November 1999 that, two months earlier, Peterson had called his sister to say he got a penis enlargement. He had no idea why he told his sister, who, along with his younger brother, was a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
They were joined in the suit by a man we’re calling Gary, who came into Peterson’s orbit under especially haunting circumstances.
One of four boys, Gary was the son of strict parents who were active in their Clear Lake church. They were the kind of parents who saw damnation on the horizon when, in 1985, they found 13-year-old Gary in possession of a quarter-ounce bag of pot. They called the police, and sent the boy to another active church member, David Hoop.
Hoop was a close family friend and active in church youth groups. But instead of counseling Gary, Hoop molested him. He gave Gary marijuana, orally copulated him and sucked on his toes. He loved toes.
Years later, Gary would tell his psychologist that Hoop “provided a security blanket — allowed me to escape from reality by giving me access to the drugs.”
His parents also must have felt Gary was getting the guidance he needed, because they soon sent another son to Hoop. But the boy told his parents that Hoop did things to him that he didn’t like. In 1988, Hoop was convicted of indecency with a child and sentenced to five years’ probation and a $500 fine.
Within a year, Hoop left the country and settled in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje, where, in 1981, a group of boys said they saw the apparition of the Virgin Mary appear on a mountaintop. The town became a tourist destination for Christian pilgrims. Hoop found a way to milk these pilgrims for money; he appears in a 1995 Harper’s magazine article about the legend surrounding the apparition. The story mentions Hoop’s gift store, Devotions, at the foot of the mountain, where pilgrims can buy all sorts of chintzy posters, CDs and figurines.
Gary’s parents believed their son would need counseling after what Hoop put him through. A police officer who attended their church recommended Peterson, who had a knack for troubled kids like Gary.
At their first session, when Gary told Peterson about Hoop, the priest brushed his hands on Gary’s crotch and asked, “Was it something like this that happened?”
Gary was both sickened by Peterson and intimidated by the pistol on his hip. He ran away from home and managed to avoid Peterson for several years, sticking mostly to the streets, where he turned tricks and kept himself as high as possible on any substance he could get.
In 1989, at age 17, Gary overdosed on barbiturates and wound up at Ben Taub. Upon his release, he called Peterson, who offered to put him up at his place. That night, Gary told the psychologist in the 1999 lawsuit, Peterson came into the guest bedroom, straddled Gary and made the teen touch his penis.
“I told him I was going crazy and couldn’t handle what was going on,” Gary told the psychologist. “He got scared and went to his room and locked the door.”
Afterward, Gary felt tremendous guilt. A few days later, he went to Peterson at the church for confession. Peterson told the teen that God had forgiven him.
The sexual abuse continued for several more years, even after Gary married for the first time. Like Tim, he couldn’t shake Peterson.
Then, in June 1996, Peterson called Gary in an agitated state.
“The priest was frightened about letters he received from Mr. Hoop,” the psychologist wrote. “Hoop threatened that he was going to expose [Gary] and the priest’s sexual relationship.” Peterson tried to convince Gary to fly to Bosnia and kill Hoop. Gary briefly considered it, but instead got sidetracked with another drug binge. That was only exacerbated when Peterson later called him with news about his penis enlargement.
In 1999, around the time of the civil suit against Peterson, Gary told police about the abuse. According to an affidavit, investigators asked Gary to call Peterson, get him to talk about the abuse, and record the conversation.
“I told Dennis Peterson that I needed to speak with him regarding the sexual acts that he performed on me,” Gary stated in his affidavit. “[Peterson’s] response to me was ‘Why do you want to talk to me about that?’ This conversation was recorded and turned over to the Houston police.”
When Peterson was deposed by Gary’s attorney around this time, the priest refused to discuss Gary. When asked about the date of his penis surgery, Peterson invoked his Fifth Amendment rights.
In October 1999, Peterson was charged with sexually assaulting Gary on two occasions in 1997, when Gary was 25. A grand jury declined to indict.
Because grand jury proceedings are secret, it’s unclear what evidence prosecutors brought forth. Records in the civil case show that Tim testified, but there’s no mention of Gary testifying. It’s unknown if the grand jury heard the tape-recorded telephone call, or if they heard from Gary’s wife, who was listening on another phone at the time of the call.
But the prosecution seems to have missed out on a key component of the case: David Hoop.
Gary’s psychologist’s notes show that Hoop was arrested for child molestation in Bosnia in 1998, and authorities there had contacted the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. They wanted to know if they should extradite. But by that time, according to Harris County District Clerk records, Hoop’s probation had been “unsatisfactorily terminated,” meaning that, even though he had fled the country, Houston authorities no longer had any interest in him.
Additionally, according to the psychologist’s notes, the district attorney asked Gary’s parents if they wanted Hoop extradited.
“They declined, deciding that they preferred that Hoop remain out of the country,” according to the notes.
However, by the time Peterson was charged in October 1999, Hoop was, by at least one account, back in the country.
According to a London-based journalist who interviewed Hoop in late 1998 and early 1999 while on assignment in Medjugorje, Hoop avoided serving any time in Bosnia, and flew to Liverpool shortly after the child-molestation charges. The journalist, who asked not to be named, said Hoop then relocated to Los Gatos, California.
It’s unclear if the prosecutor in Peterson’s case even knew that the priest and Hoop shared a victim, and that Hoop could have corroborated Gary’s allegations. Either way, Peterson walked.
The archdiocese managed to get the civil case dismissed, and in 2000, the 14th Circuit Court of Appeals kicked the case back to the trial court, ordering the parties to enter into mediation. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Gary died in 2003, at age 30. Shortly before he died, still unable to shake the guilt that followed him to his grave, he went to the home of David Hoop’s ex-wife and asked for forgiveness.
That same year, Gary’s widow opened The New York Times and read a story about Robert Scamardo, a Houston attorney who had for years defended the archdiocese and who stuck up for Peterson in a 2000 article in the Houston Chronicle.
Scamardo had decided to come clean about the sexual abuse he said he suffered at the hands of an Austin priest when he was a teen. According to Scamardo, the Times reported, “most victims’ cases were beyond the statute of limitations, so the diocese could offer little to settle a case, perhaps just the cost of a short course of therapy…The settlements always had a confidentiality clause,” which specified “how much the victim would have to pay the church for breaking confidentiality.”
Scamardo made sure that wouldn’t happen to him though, telling the Times that he settled with the Diocese of Austin for $250,000.
Gary’s widow told the Press that she was so bothered by Scamardo’s story that she wrote him a letter. “We didn’t get all of that assistance that he got for him and his family, and I was angry about that.”
Scamardo was unavailable for comment.
According to Tim’s widow, “After the lawyers and all that, [Tim] got somewhere between $20-$30,000, and he literally just gave it away…His mind couldn’t cope with being paid hush money, and he didn’t want anything to do with it.”
He died in 2010 of cirrhosis. He was 42.
Peterson died in 2007. He was 60. It’s unclear if he was one of the “credibly accused” priests on the archdiocese’s list. There is no record of the archdiocese’s reaching out to other potential victims of a man who had nearly unparalleled access to troubled boys for four decades.
Two years before Peterson’s death, he and the archdiocese were sued by a man who said that Peterson had sexually abused him years earlier, when the victim was a teenage runaway stuck in a juvenile detention center.
According to the suit, Peterson picked out the boy as if he were candy on a shelf, and then escorted him to a constable’s station, where he retrieved a pistol and stuck it in his boot. He then allegedly took the boy back to his quarters at St. Michael Catholic Church near the Galleria and raped him over the course of 72 hours. The suit alleged that “parish staff were aware” that the boy was staying in Peterson’s quarters.
It appears that, by 2005, the archdiocese was tired of going to bat for Peterson. The victim quickly nonsuited, which suggests that the suit was settled, but that cannot be confirmed. Windle Turley, the Dallas attorney whose firm represented the victims in both Peterson suits, declined to speak for this story.
Today, David Hoop is living in an assisted-care facility in Omaha run by a company called Ambassador Health. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment. He’s active on social media, tweeting under the name “Dave Spielberg,” and posting photos of shirtless boys on Facebook, as well as videos of teens and adults wiggling their toes.
After Father Walter Dayton Salisbury ejaculated in 13-year-old Darren’s hand in the alley outside the movie theater, he drove the boy home and chatted with his parents.
Darren tried to keep his cool while Salisbury drank hot chocolate in the kitchen, but his mother could sense that something was wrong.
The boy held it together until Salisbury decided he wanted to ride Darren’s bike. That bike was Darren’s pride. No one messed with it. It was one badass bike.
But he was powerless to stop the 47-year-old priest from hopping on the seat and riding it down the block.
“That just pissed me off, man,” Darren told the Press. “He got on my bike, you know?”
After Salisbury left, Darren told his parents what had happened. He had always tried to hide his cigarette smoking from them, but that night, he recalled, “I just lit a cigarette right in front of them, with tears in my eyes.”
Unlike many other victims, Darren was lucky to have parents who believed him. They immediately notified the police.
“I had my folks to back me up, thank goodness,” he said. “How many kids don’t have that?”
Darren’s father took him down to police headquarters for a lie detector. Darren said his father had his back all the way, psyching him up as the detectives hooked him up to the machine. The boy was scared to death. During the questioning, Darren was asked if Salisbury ejaculated. He had to ask what that meant.
He remembered the lead detective as an imposing figure — but he also believed Darren.
“This guy was a great cop,” Darren said. “He said, ‘I’m going to get this guy, man.’”
When Salisbury was charged with indecency with a child in May 1978, no one from the archdiocese, TSU or Salisbury’s religious order, the Josephites, did anything to warn parents or reach out to other possible victims.
Instead, four months after Salisbury’s arrest, he delivered lectures on “Parent-Teenager Communications” and “Coping With Tension” at a church in La Marque, according to a Galveston Daily News article announcing the lectures.
At a court hearing, Darren was too scared to take the stand. He broke down. He was barely able to look at Salisbury, who, he recalled, was sitting still, staring down at his shoes. “I would love to see him in a courtroom now,” Darren said. “I would just let him have it.”
Salisbury pleaded no contest, received probation and was shuttled off to a parish in Washington, D.C.
His past caught up with him in 2010, after he was appointed to a position on the housing authority board in Bar Harbor, Maine. A member of another advocacy group for victims of priests asked then-sheriff Bill Clark to look into Salisbury’s background. Local media reported that Clark wrote the advocate a letter outlining Salisbury’s criminal record, which included convictions in Houston and Washington, D.C.
The Press was unable to obtain a copy of the letter, and it appears that the conviction in Washington, D.C. may have been expunged, because there is no record of it in D.C. Superior Court. Although the Metropolitan Police Department has an offense number related to Salisbury’s arrest report, a department spokesman said that files are destroyed after 12 years.
The media reported that both the Josephites and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, released public statements in 2004 disclosing Salisbury’s criminal record. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has never released a statement, and it’s unclear if Salisbury is on the list of credibly accused priests.
Speaking with the Press in November, Salisbury didn’t understand why he was being asked about his crimes, since they were so long ago. When asked at what point people should stop asking questions, he said, “When the case was over and it was settled.”
Before hanging up, he made it clear that he was sorry for even talking in the first place, saying, “It was a mistake, because I thought you actually had something positive you were after.”
Darren said he can’t blame every bad thing that’s happened in his life on Salisbury. It may not have ruined his life, but it changed it. Salisbury came into his life when he was 13 and trying to forge his own identity. About ten years ago, he talked to a lawyer friend about possibly suing Salisbury, but the lawyer said he wouldn’t have a shot. Too much time had passed. And besides, the old man was probably dead.
But the priest still remains there, in the back of his mind.
“That’s something, just…” Darren said, searching for the words, “…you cannot forget.”
See sidebar: "How Problematic Priests Are Warehoused."