Priest helps Chanhassen parish heal in wake of arrest

| November 16, 2010 | 3 Comments

Father Paul Kammen

When Father Paul Kammen, parochial administrator at St. Hubert in Chanhassen, learned about the arrest Nov. 4 of then-pastor Father Michael Krenik on charges of indecent exposure to an undercover police officer, Father Kammen’s initial reaction was confusion, disbelief and anger, he said.

“But I believe that problems have to be confronted, and wishing problems away doesn’t make them disappear,” the 33-year-old priest wrote on his blog. “So I tried my best to make the most of a rough situation.”

In a Nov. 8 post titled “Moving forward together” at http://fatherpaulkammen.wordpress.com, Father Kammen wrote about how he broke the difficult news to his congregation and the support he received from parishioners and staff members in the wake of the alleged incident. He also posted a text of the homily he gave at all Masses that weekend.

“It’s OK to question God. It’s OK to have doubts — even Jesus did,” Father Kammen said in his homily. “But Jesus knew that he was not abandoned by the Father, and my hope is that we know that as well. Take the time you need to talk about this with your families and friends. Take the time to bring it to prayer, and know that healing is a process that can take a long time.

“The one thing that I can say to you with certainty is that we will get through this because that’s what we do,” Father Kammen added. “When we hurt, we come together and help one another through the storm. We don’t ignore something or hope it magically goes away. We face it, we deal with it, and we help one another heal.”

Show of support

That weekend, many parishioners expressed to Father Kammen their support, he wrote in his blog. There were “no angry e-mails, no ‘I’m leaving the parish,’ none of that — just support. And I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me because that’s what people do at this parish — they help one another.”

Long-time parishioner Bernie Gaytko, who attended the 8:30 a.m. Mass Nov. 7, said the congregation gave Father Kammen a standing ovation after the homily.

Father Kammen’s message that “one man is not the church, we are the church,” really stuck with Gaytko, he said.

He also was impressed with the professional manner in which Father Kammen and staff members dealt with the situation at the parish school, where Gaytko’s grandson is a student.

In an interview with The Catholic ­Spirit, Father Kammen said that he in­formed students of Father Krenik’s departure from the parish in an age-appropriate manner; answered students’ questions along with Father Peter Laird, archdiocesan vicar general; and held a prayer service with the children.

“For such a young man, Father Paul is just handling the situation like an old pro,” Gaytko said.

Father Krenik, 53, was arrested around 1:20 p.m. in a park near Eustis Street and North Mississippi River Boulevard in St. Paul, police said. He was taken into custody on charges of “indecent exposure-lewd conduct” and released, according to a police report.

On Nov. 5, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said in a written statement that Father Krenik had “voluntarily resigned” as pastor and would be restricted from all public ministry until the case was resolved. Archdiocesan officials said they were unaware of any previous misconduct involving Father Kre­nik.

Father Kammen has been assigned the position of pastoral administrator at St. Hubert. He said he would be meeting further with staff and archdiocesan officials regarding this transitional time. Father Kevin Magner will assist at St. Hubert during the interim, he added.

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