GARY — A third priest of 10 listed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary as being a child molester spent part of his career in Michigan CIty, The News-Dispatch has learned.
The list was released Tuesday, part of Bishop Donald Hying’s response to allegations against a Pennsylvania-based priest who taught at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond in the 1960s.
Two of the surviving priests on that list were Richard Emerson, former pastor of Notre Dame Catholic Church and School in Michigan City, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in La Porte; and Terrence Chase, former pastor of Queen of All Saints Church and School in Michigan City.
A third, the late Julian Jercha, served at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church as assistant pastor.
Jercha, who died in June 1987, served at St. Stan’s from Sept. 16, 1962 until May 12, 1963.
The Diocese said there were three “credible allegations” of child abuse against Jercha, but did not specify when or at which parish they occurred.
Jercha started his pastoral career in 1956 at St. Stanislaus Parish in East Chicago. He later served as pastor or assistant pastor at churches in Valparaiso, Hebron and Cedar Lake.
The Diocese said only that he was among 10 priests “found guilty of credible actions of sexual molestation of minors.”
Emerson was ordained in 1978 and laicized – removed from the priesthood – in 2006. He was pastor at Notre Dame from July 2003 to December 2004, resigning as the apparent result of sexual abuse allegations.
Throughout his priesthood, Emerson was the subject of what the diocese calls four credible accusations.
Two of those occurred in Florida, including a “giving inappropriate attention” to two teenage boys; and molesting another boy between the ages of 11-18. Both victims filed lawsuits.
In 2004, Gary Bishop Dale Melczek recommended Emerson be removed from the priesthood in a letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI. Melczek wrote that several priests and lay people had expressed concerns about Emerson having inappropriate relationships with minor boys since 1992.
In one instance in 2004, three women from St. Thomas More Parish in Munster accused Emerson of engaging in inappropriate conduct with a boy. And in 2008, a 16-year-old boy from St. Thomas More accused the former priest of abusing him in White County, where Emerson had a home.
In addition to Notre Dame and St. Thomas More, Emerson served at St. Joseph’s in La Porte, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Hammond, Hoosier Boys’ Town of Indiana (now Campagna Academy) in Schererville, and Assumption in East Chicago.
Chase was known as “Father Terry” when he served as pastor at Queens from 2003-10.
The sole accusation against him stems from a 1991 incident when he was associate pastor at St. Patrick Church in Chesterton. He was placed on administrative leave after the complaint was filed in 2010, and released a statement denying the allegation.
It appears no criminal charges were filed against Jercha, Chase or Emerson in relation to allegations in Indiana.
In his statement, Bishop Hying wrote: “Our local Church shares in the universal sadness and anger regarding the recent reports of sexual abuse by clergy. While we continue to pray for all abuse victims, we also resolutely commit ourselves to zealous vigilance to ensure the protection of all our children, youth and vulnerable adults. …
“The crimes and sins of priest perpetrators and the bishops who covered up their wrongdoing continue to cast horrible shadows of pain, suffering and distrust, both in the lives which have been shattered by the abuse as well as all members in the Church. We pray that this painful process of shedding light on these horrible crimes will produce greater accountability, transparency and vigilance in all levels of the Church.”
-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”:
n Joseph Buczyna: 1 credible allegation; died Jan. 12, 1976
n Terrence Chase: 1 credible allegation; removed from public ministry and laicized Jan. 4, 2016
n Richard Emerson: 4 credible allegations; laicized July 30, 2006
n Don Grass: 1 credible allegation; removed from public ministry in 2004 and no longer allowed to present himself as a priest; died July 2, 2010
n Julian Jercha: 3 credible allegations; died June 27, 1987
n Louis Jeziorski: 3 credible allegations; died April 6, 1973
n George Kavungal, CMI: 6 credible allegations; last known to be in India; removed from public ministry
n Ambrose McGinnity: 6 credible allegations; removed from public ministry in 1993; died Feb. 27, 2000
n Stanley Staniszewski: 2 credible allegations; left diocese Oct. 20, 1983; removed from public ministry and died April 2, 2016
n Stephen Varga: 1 credible allegation; laicized 1970; died July 12, 2006