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Three more priests in LP County were pedophiles

September 5, 2018

GARY — At least six of the 10 former priests named as confirmed pedophiles last week by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary served at churches in Michigan City or La Porte.

According to the obituary for Don C. Grass, he was the pastor of Queen of All Saints in Michigan City at some point during his priesthood, though no dates were specified.

Other parishes at which he served included St. Mary of the Lake in Miller, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Valparaiso, Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary, Holy Name in Cedar Lake, and St. Mary in Crown Point.

The diocese stated Grass was found guilty of one credible allegation of child molestation.

According to old news reports, in 2003, then Monsignor Grass, 67 at the time, was the first priest to be removed from the ministry by the Diocese of Gary after he admitted sexually abusing a “minor” girl 30 years earlier. The abuse allegedly took place when Grass was assistant pastor at Holy Angels in the late 1960s.

Grass was removed from public ministry in 2004 and no longer allowed to present himself as a priest, according to the diocese. He died on July 2, 2010.

Ambrose T. McGinnity served as an assistant pastor at both St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church and School in Michigan City and St. Peter Catholic Church in La Porte during his priesthood. However, the exact years he was at either are unclear.

According to the diocese, McGinnity was found guilty of six credible allegations of sexual molestation against minors, although the circumstances that led to those allegations were not reported. The dates of the alleged incidents, dates they were reported, and parishes for which he worked at the time also are unknown.

McGinnity’s obituary says he retired from the clergy in 1993, but the diocesan list simply states he was removed from public ministry that year. He died at age 82 on Feb. 27, 2000; and The Most Rev. Dale J. Melczek, then-bishop of the Gary Diocese, concelebrated his funeral.

Throughout his time in the clergy — a span of more than 40 years, McGinnity also was assistant pastor at St. Bridget Church and School in Hobart, St. Francis Xavier Church and School in Lake Station, and Holy Rosary in Gary; and pastor at St. Mary’s in Kouts (1964-66), St. John the Evangelist in St. John, and St. Helen in Hebron.

Additionally, McGinnity served as a lieutenant chaplain in the U.S. Navy (1949-54), and chaplain for the Knights of Columbus Council 1561 in Winimac and American Legion Post 131 in Knox.

Joseph Buczyna, also on the diocese’s list, was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Church and School in La Porte in 1967, and retired from the priesthood and his position there in 1972. The school closed in 1969.

The only notes provided by the diocese on Buczyna are that he was accused in one credible allegation of child molestation, and that he died on Jan. 12, 1976.

Other former priests on the diocese’s list of child molesters who served locally include Richard Emerson, former pastor of Notre Dame Church and School in Michigan City and St. Joseph’s Church and School in La Porte; Terrence Chase, former pastor of Queen of All Saints in Michigan City and St. Patrick Church and School in Chesterton; and Julian Jercha, former assistant pastor at St. Stanislaus Church and School in Michigan City.

The Most Rev. Donald J. Hying, bishop of the Gary Diocese, has issued a statement to diocesan parishes condemning sexual abuse at the hands of priests; and surmising “the vast majority” of cases occurred prior to 2002, when the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Youth “sought to create a safe environment for every child within a Catholic institution.”

Hying asks Catholics not to leave the Church, but to “do penance, fasting and praying in atonement for sin, both our own and that of others in the Church, especially those who perpetrated these evil deeds of abuse.”

And the bishop calls on Pope Francis to determine culpability and administer appropriate consequences to abusive priests and the bishops who facilitated their crimes.

Hying will offer a special Mass for the intention of healing victims of sexual abuse and the conversion of Catholics “to a life of greater holiness, rooted in the Lord” on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at Holy Angels, at 640 Tyler St. in Gary.

He suggests pastors within the diocese do the same at their respective parishes during September.

“The narratives are heartbreaking, overwhelming and almost unimaginable,” Hying writes. “We grieve for the victims and their families, who have suffered suicide, depression, broken relationships and nightmares because of what they experienced at the hands of an abusing priest. This horror is the antithesis of everything that Jesus Christ and the Church purport to be about.”

—From staff reports

Diocese names predator priests

The following former priests were named by the Diocese of Gary as having been “found guilty of credible actions of sexual molestation of minors.” At least five of them served at churches in La Porte County:

• Terrence Chase: Former pastor of Queen of All Saints in Michigan City, and St. Patrick Church and School in Chesterton; 1 credible allegation; removed from public ministry and laicized Jan. 4, 2016.

• Richard Emerson: Former pastor of Notre Dame Church and School in Michigan City, and St. Joseph’s Church and School in La Porte; 4 credible allegations; laicized July 30, 2006.

• Julian Jercha: Former assistant pastor at St. Stanislaus Church and School in Michigan City; 3 credible allegations; died June 27, 1987.

• Ambrose McGinnity: Former assistant pastor at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church and School in Michigan City, and St. Peter Catholic Church in La Porte; 6 credible allegations; removed from public ministry in 1993; died Feb. 27, 2000.

• Don Grass: Former pastor of Queen of All Saints in Michigan City; 1 credible allegation; removed from public ministry in 2004 and no longer allowed to present himself as a priest; died July 2, 2010.

• Joseph Buczyna: Former pastor of Sacred Heart Church and School in La Porte; 1 credible allegation; died Jan. 12, 1976.

• George Kavungal, CMI: 6 credible allegations; last known to be in India; removed from public ministry.

• Louis Jeziorski: 3 credible allegations; died April 6, 1973.

• Stanley Staniszewski: 2 credible allegations; left diocese Oct. 20, 1983; removed from public ministry and died April 2, 2016.

• Stephen Varga: 1 credible allegation; laicized 1970; died July 12, 2006.

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