Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Vacation. I hope all of you will get a chance to get away on vacation this summer. All of us need a rest from our work, and summer is a great time to take that rest, especially for families—and priests. Working a 6 to 7 day week, basically “on-call” 24 hours, I find that if I don’t take a week’s vacation every 4 months (I get 4 weeks off a year) I soon begin to get a little cranky and weary of the daily chores. This year, my 4 months was up in May, but my vacation plans fell through. So I’ve been really needing to get away.
So I got away last week to Alaska. I went up to visit former parishioners, John and Geri Forbes, in Anchorage (they say “hi” to all their friends at St. Raymond’s), and they graciously showed me the sites. The Alaska Gulf coast area is breathtakingly beautiful–seems like most of it is a national park, with mountains, lakes, glaciers, and ocean. And wildlife. I saw lots of that, especially around the water: whales (orcas and humpbacks), harbor seals, sea lions, otters and birds (especially the colorful puffin). And fish. We spent two days fishing, one on a boat in the gulf and another wading in the mouths of rivers. I hadn’t been fishing in 40 years, but I had a blast. I kept praying to St. Peter, St. John and St. Raymond for help with the catch, and even asked the Lord Jesus which side of the boat I should cast my line, but I wound up not catching much (no salmon, but I did catch a 15lb rockfish). But the great thing about fishing is you don’t have to catch anything to have fun and relax. And that was the most important things for me—to relax.
Also, thanks be to the Good Lord and my guardian angel, we had excellent weather—sunny and highs around 70 every day. All in all, a very relaxing and refreshing getaway.
Now, back to work.
Which reminds me. I have to thank you all, and the Lord, that coming home from vacation is not a burden or a regret. I love coming home to St. Raymond’s.
Great News: Fr. Duesterhaus is back. It has been my sad experience that most times when a priest is accused of some wrongdoing, especially involving abuse of a child, he almost never returns to active duty in his diocese—even if he is cleared of all charges. Of course, if he is fairly tried and found guilty, so be it—let him be punished accordingly, especially if child sexual abuse is involved. But the problem is, once a priest is accused and temporarily removed from his duties during the investigation of the charges, his good name is often ruined forever—again, even if he’s finally cleared.
That should not be the case. It must not be the case. A priest gives his life for the Church—for you and me—and should be, 1) presumed innocent until proven guilty, and 2) restored to honor and respect when he is thoroughly investigated and cleared.
That being the case, I am truly overjoyed to welcome back to public ministry my good friend Fr. Michael Duesterhaus. In March 2018, Fr. Duesterhaus was placed on administrative leave after the Diocese of Arlington received what it deemed, preliminarily, to be a credible report of “child sexual abuse and other inappropriate conduct.” He has been prohibited from exercising public ministry since then.
However, on January 17 the Diocese was informed that the Stafford County Commonwealth Attorney was not pursuing criminal charges against Fr. Duesterhaus (this followed similar previous decisions in other jurisdictions). Subsequently, the Diocese also completed its own internal investigation of all allegations, and this week it was announced that the Diocesan Review Board and the Bishop have concluded that the allegations were not credible.
And so Fr. Duesterhaus is cleared of all accusations, is no longer on administrative leave, and is back on duty, free to exercise public priestly ministry. He is currently completing graduate studies he had already begun, but will be helping out in parishes as he is available and needed.
Alleged victims must always be heard, and accused priests must be investigated. The innocent must be protected and the guilty must be punished. But the wrongly accused must be restored.
After he’d been acquitted of highly publicized criminal charges, one former presidential cabinet member asked: “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?” Fr. Duesterhaus never lost his reputation with me, and I wholeheartedly look forward to welcoming him back to public ministry, and hope you and your friends will welcome him back as well.
Altar Rail and Pulpit: Status Report. First of all, I have to thank so many of you who have contributed to the project. As of this writing we have just over $111,000 in pledges/donations. Thanks so much for your generosity.
Unfortunately, I have to report some news that is not so good, and quite embarrassing to me, personally. Originally I estimated the total cost of the project to be about $75,000, based on figures I had received from the designer. But I misunderstood what he was pricing to me, and so much so that I grossly underestimated the cost. Right now I’m projecting a final cost of $134,000. That may come down or go up (a bit), depending on various factors, including the cost of the type of marble we choose to go with. I will continue to update you as the numbers get more solid.
I’m sorry I got this estimate so wrong—as a numbers guy, I should have had a better handle on this. The bottom line is that we are on a good pace to raise the funds for the project, but we still need more donations. If we raise more than is needed, I will be in touch with every donor to see how they would like to proceed—offering refunds if they like. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’ve already done that once. Thanks for your patience with me. And your generosity.
Email Addresses. When we need to send word around to the parish on important matters we like to send a mass email to everyone. If you haven’t received any emails from the parish in the last few months, please send an email with the parish office (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know—maybe we have the wrong address for you.
Victoria Bliss. Please keep parishioner, Tori Bliss (daughter of John and Glenn), in your prayers these next two weeks as she completes her long walk across the country with Crossroads, bearing a strong pro-life witness to the folks along her route. We are expecting her and some of her co-walkers to be here to speak at St. Raymond’s at the Sunday Masses on August 10-11. God bless and keep her!
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles