It is not easy for me to write about what we, as a parish community, are going through in the context of the sentencing of Fr. Doug on Wednesday, August 4. Of course the sentencing date was known to all of us in May when Fr. Doug pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree theft for misusing the parish money for his own personal use. Yet the sentencing itself brings about mixed feelings.
On the one hand there is the sadness and compassion I, many of our staff, and many more of our parishioners feel towards our longtime pastor Fr. Doug who has to suffer this unfortunate consequence for his culpable actions. In my first Sunday homily after taking over the stewardship of St. Matthias in November 2018, I had said this, referring to Fr. Doug: “No human being can be defined by one mistake – no matter how big it may be.” I wish to repeat the same now that he is sentenced. Even as we accept the legal system for justice, we need to be more conscious of God’s will for us at this time, the call to be compassionate in our judgments and to offer forgiveness. The sinfulness in all of us should make us say, “If not for the grace of God, there go I.” Are we humble enough to have this attitude?
On the other hand, this brings us all a sense of closure and we need to move forward in our healing and growth as a parish community that has gone through this awful crisis of betrayal of trust. The way the investigation lingered for about three years has made the wound in our collective psyche take longer to heal. Now is the time for us to make a concerted effort to put this sad saga behind us and move forward with a renewed sense of hope for the revitalization of our parish. I am grateful to you for the constant support you have been giving me as you are aware of the many mechanisms I have put in place to prevent any such incidents in the future. Our excellent Finance Council has total access to carefully review all our financial matters and they have already communicated to you multiple times our financial health. Besides, our Bishop Checchio has put another mechanism in place (NAVEX Global EthicsPoint) for the whole diocese empowering anyone to alert the Diocese if any impropriety in a parish is suspected. I’m sure you already read about this anonymous hotline on our website and on other media. I wish to thank Bishop Checchio for his constant concern for St. Matthias and the guidance we received from the Diocesan leadership especially from Chancellor Kearns, Very Rev. Fr. Tim Christy the Vicar General, Msgr. John Fell, Tara Smith, the Communications Director and others.
As I continue to keep my promise of accountability, transparency, honesty and communication on all parish matters, especially on finance, I wish to continue my focus on our spiritual healing and growth. In this regard, may I suggest you to re-visit the series I had written two years ago, titled, “Healing Our Parish” which is on our website: https://www.stmatthias.net/series-on-healing-our-parish . That will be an invaluable help for us to ground ourselves in God’s grace and strength.
I humbly ask you to pray for me to lead this Community with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I humbly ask you to reach out to me directly – or to Msgr Seamus Brennan – with ideas for moving our parish forward or for sharing concerns you may have about our parish.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal