Priest removed from ministry
FORT WAYNE — On June 10, Father Thomas J. O’Hara, CSC, superior of the United States Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross, informed Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades that a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor had been received against Holy Cross Father Cornelius Ryan, Administrator of St. Joseph Parish-Hessen Cassel, and former pastor of St. Therese, Little Flower Parish, South Bend. The abuse took place approximately 20 years ago in Uganda, where Father Ryan then served. In accord with the Church’s norms, Father Ryan was immediately removed as parish administrator.
At the end of a Mass Bishop Rhoades celebrated at St. Joseph Church-Hessen Cassel, on June 22, he assured the parishioners that in the course of the investigation of cases of alleged sexual abuse, the Church works diligently to discover the truth. He stated that “our concern for the safety and welfare of children must always be primary.”
The bishop informed the parishioners that the Congregation of Holy Cross, which received the allegation against Father Ryan, has been conducting the required investigation. He shared with the parishioners that when Father O’Hara presented the allegations to Father Ryan, “he immediately and freely admitted the allegations made.”
The bishop shared the following message he received from Father O’Hara on June 20: “Like many of your parishioners we were saddened by the allegations and then were shocked by the admission they were true. No one wants to believe someone as beloved as Father Ryan is capable of committing sexual abuse, but we all must face what now is fact, and move toward comforting and reconciling with the victim of the abuse who needs our pastoral support and prayers. Father Ryan is very remorseful and understands the actions taken by you and I are justified. He is in need of our prayers as well.”
At the Mass at St. Joseph Parish, Bishop Rhoades expressed his love and support for the people of the parish, stating: “You are in my heart in a special way for I know of no other parish in our diocese that has had to undergo such a difficult trial as you are undergoing.”
Bishop Rhoades encouraged the parishioners’ perseverance in faith and hope, trusting in the Lord “who knows how to wipe the tears from our eyes.”
He expressed confidence that through the suffering the parish community is enduring in union with the passion of Jesus, it will rise “with even greater faith, having embraced the cross with Jesus.” Bishop Rhoades said: “With God’s grace, we must resist the temptation to anger and despair, repel the devil’s desire for us to give up, to reject the cross, to succumb to bitterness. In the end, the cross is our hope. Christ is our hope, our only hope.”
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades quoted the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: “there is no area that cannot be touched by Christ’s power; there is no evil that cannot find a remedy in Him, no problem that is not resolved in Him.”
The bishop added that “in the midst of every adversity, even when the boat of the Church is ripped apart by storms, Jesus commands the waters. He stays in the boat of His Church and calms the storms. The same with our lives. We will not sink and drown if the Lord is with us. We must trust in Him, even in times of trial, following Him on the way of the cross.”
Bishop Rhoades announced that daily Masses would resume at St. Joseph Parish on June 25, with Father James Bromwich of the Sons of St. Philip Neri as celebrant. He expressed thanks to Father Bromwich and Msgr. Owen Campion also for celebrating weekend Masses. The bishop also expressed his gratitude to the parish secretary and business manager, Michelle Rupright, and all who are serving at the parish.
Through these weeks, Mary Glowaski, diocesan Secretary for Evangelization and Special Ministries and victim assistance coordinator, has been at the parish providing pastoral support and counsel. Bishop Rhoades expressed his gratitude to Glowaski and assured the parishioners of the diocese’s ongoing support.
Before giving the final blessing, Bishop Rhoades announced that after much thought, prayer, and counsel, he was appointing Father William Kummer as the new administrator of St. Joseph Parish, beginning on July 16. He prayed that St. Joseph, the parish patron and patron saint of the whole Church, would watch over the parishioners as he took loving care of Mary and Jesus.
Bishop Rhoades also sent a letter to the parishioners of St. Therese, Little Flower in South Bend expressing to parishioners there his affection and prayers during this difficult time. The letter was read at Masses there on June 22 and 23. Fred and Lisa Everett, the directors of the Diocese Office of Family Life were present after the Masses to offer pastoral support.
The bishop is asking the prayers of the faithful of the diocese for victims of sexual abuse, for the parishioners of St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel and St. Therese, Little Flower parishes, for Father Ryan, and for the diocese and the Congregation of Holy Cross and the fulfillment of the commitment to the protection of children and young people from sexual abuse.
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