In a statement he asked pastors to read at weekend Masses, Bishop Donald Kettler acknowledged the hurt people were feeling after the Feb. 13 arrest of Father Anthony Oelrich, 51, a priest of the diocese. He was arrested following a police investigation of alleged sexual misconduct involving an adult woman.
“This is a difficult time for our diocese and many people are experiencing a range of emotions,” he said in the message, dated Feb. 16. “Please know that your pastor and parish are there to support you. The diocese will keep you informed and updated to the best of its ability. I ask that you keep everyone affected by this situation in your prayers.”
Bishop Kettler said the diocese is cooperating with civil authorities. He has removed Father Oelrich as pastor of Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud and suspended his priestly faculties, meaning he cannot function or present himself as a priest, pending the outcome of the judicial process.
Father Oelrich is living at a residence in St. Cloud owned by the diocese while the legal process continues.
The Newman Center planned to hold two healing sessions: one for permanent members Feb. 20 and another for college students Feb. 22 “to share and process” recent events. A counselor from the St. Cloud State University counseling department was scheduled to attend to help facilitate the sessions.
The Cathedral of St. Mary in St. Cloud also planned to host a healing prayer service Feb. 21, after this edition of The Visitor went to press.
Father Oelrich was ordained to the priesthood June 6, 1992 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. He has served the following assignments: associate pastor, Sacred Heart in Sauk Rapids (1992-1995); co-administrator, St. Mary in Holdingford, St. Hedwig in Holdingford, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Opole, Immaculate Conception in St. Anna, and St. Columbkille in St. Wendel (1995); co-pastor of these same five parishes (1995-2001); graduate studies (2001-2005); director of continuing education for clergy (2005-); pastor, Holy Cross in Pearl Lake (2005-2007); pastor, Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Rockville (2006-2007); pastor, St. Augustine in St. Cloud (2007-2015); rector, St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud (2007-2015); leave of absence, St. Luke Institute, Silver Spring, Maryland (2014-2015); pastor, Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud (2007-2018).
Bishop Kettler said he encourages all victims of abuse to come forward.
Contact information for victim advocates and county officials to whom abuse can be reported is available online at: http://stcdio.org/about/safe-environment/how-to-report-abuse.