St. Joseph parishioners gather to light candles, write notes and pray

| June 25, 2015 | 0 Comments
David McSherry, center, lights a candle at St. Joseph in West St. Paul with three of his children: Isabella, left, Teresa and Francesca. At right is Cord Dorcey. All are parishioners of St. Joseph. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

David McSherry, center, lights a candle at St. Joseph in West St. Paul with three of his children: Isabella, left, Teresa and Francesca. Also lighting a candle is Betty Hall. At right is Cord Dorcey. All are parishioners of St. Joseph. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

A basket sat in the gathering space at St. Joseph in West St. Paul. It contained cards, many addressed to Bishop Lee Piché, who had been the pastor there from 1999 to 2005.

Even though it has been nearly 10 years since he left, many parishioners still care deeply about him. Thus, they gathered to pray for him, victims of sexual abuse and Archbishop John Nienstedt’s successor June 24 in the wake of both bishops’ June 15 resignations as leaders of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“He has a very close tie and his heart is with the parish,” said Father Leonard Andrie, associate priest at the parish who led the prayer service, of Bishop Piché. “The people still think about him and pray for him regularly.”

At the prayer service Father Andrie also encouraged the people to light candles and write notes to Bishop Piché, victims of clergy sexual abuse or their current pastor, who is serving as a military chaplain and asked his name not be printed for security reasons.

Parish staff planned to deliver the notes to the people to whom they were addressed.

Father Andrie stressed the importance of all four prayer intentions, but recognized the heavy hearts of parishioners who care about their former pastor.

He also encouraged parishioners to pray for reconciliation and healing in the local church, acknowledging their heavy hearts from clergy sex abuse cases that have risen in recent years. “There’s a tremendous amount of sadness over what’s happened,” Father Andrie said. “You can see it in their faces.”

In a statement released the day of his resignation, Bishop Piché wrote that “the people of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis need healing and hope. I was getting in the way of that, and so I had to resign.”

His resignation came 10 days after the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office filed criminal and civil charges against the archdiocese as a corporation alleging it failed to protect three boys who were sexually abused in 2008-2010 by Curtis Wehmeyer while he was pastor of Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul. No individuals were charged June 5. Wehmeyer was dismissed from the clerical state in March 2015.

Bishop Piché, 57, was ordained a bishop for St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2009. From 2001-2005, he oversaw Wehmeyer, then an assistant priest at St. Joseph.

The prayer service, which went from 7 to 8:30 p.m., featured eucharistic adoration. The theme was: “Say a prayer. Light a candle. Write a note.” Father Andrie began the evening by reading from Romans, where St. Paul wrote, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

While people like Mickey and Aggie Smith are grieved for people who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse, they also recall ways in which Bishop Piché ministered to them. For the Smiths, it was after the deaths of their children: Harry, who died in a car accident in 2002, and Carolyn, who died of a brain aneurysm in 2004.

“He was caring, he was concerned, he was comforting,” Aggie said. “He was just there.”

 

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