Accused Priest Spent Many Years In County
A former Catholic priest accused Tuesday of sexually assaulting an altar boy more than a decade ago spent nearly a dozen years of his ordained life in Luzerne County, and about half of that time ministering to the aged and infirm.
William Jeffery Paulish began sexually abusing the boy, now 29, shortly after Paulish was transferred from St. Cecilia’s Church in Exeter to St. Mary of Assumption Church in Old Forge in October 2010, according to a lawsuit filed in Lackawanna County Court.
The alleged abuse continued until May 2011, the lawsuit states. The Diocese of Scranton is also named as a defendant.
Paulish, 61, served just seven months in residence at St. Cecelia’s before he was transferred to St. Mary’s, but it was his second stint at the parish. He previously served there as assistant pastor for a six-month stretch in 1992. From that initial term at St. Cecelia’s, he was sent to Church of the Most Precious Blood in Hazleton, where he was assistant pastor from June 1992 to July 1993.
Paulish had been reassigned 14 times during his 25 years as a priest, according to his diocesan profile, with his longest stretch of ministry being from January 1994 to July 2000 as chaplain at Little Flower Manor and St. Therese Residence in Wilkes-Barre. He was sent there after serving six months as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Peckville.
Little Flower Manor, located on South Meade Street, opened in 1975 to provide long-term care and skilled nursing services to those in need. It’s owned and operated by the Diocese of Scranton.
While he was chaplain there, Paulish wrote a nearly full-page column titled “A Clergyman’s Reflection on Human Life, It’s Later Years” for the Pittston Sunday Dispatch that focused on respect for the elderly and preparing for death by leading a good life. Two years later, in January 2000, he concelebrated the facility’s 25th anniversary Mass with then-Bishop James Timlin.
John Howells, executive director at Little Flower, said chaplains are not facility employees, so he has no records on Paulish’s time there.
According to newspaper archives, Paulish had also served as temporary administrator at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Nanticoke during at least part of his time as Little Flower chaplain, although his biographical information from the diocese does not reflect that assignment.
In addition to his parish duties while serving as an assistant pastor, Paulish was active in the community at various points during his ministry, according to newspaper archives.
Paulish, who was ordained in September 1988, served as coordinator of a Vacation Bible School at Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Wilkes-Barre in 1987 while still a seminarian.
While at St. Cecelia’s and Most Precious Blood, he served as a trustee on the Scranton Counseling Center’s board of directors.
In 1992, he sat on an advisory board for the Catholic Television parenting education series, “Putting Children and Families First.”
A 1994 article in the Hazleton Standard Speaker about Paulish speaking for a Men of Malvern breakfast notes that he offered “retreats, parish missions, days of reconciliation and presentations of Eastern Christian Spirituality and Sacred Iconography.” It also notes that he was granted the right to celebrate Liturgy in the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite.
His final assignment in Luzerne County was as administrator at St. Elizabeth Church in Bear Creek Twp. from July 2008 until he took a leave of absence in July 2011. His final assignment as a priest was at Prince of Peace Parish in Old Forge from July 2013 to September 2013, when he was caught having oral sex with a 15-year-old boy in a car.
Paulish was sentenced to eight to 23 months in prison for that assault. He was permanently removed from ministry and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance, according to the diocese.
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