Allegations against Polish Pastor Stun Parishioners
By Marie Szaniszlo
October 3, 2001
Outwardly, the only sign that anything was wrong yesterday at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in South Boston was the pastor's absence - that and the silence that followed virtually every mention of his name.
As head of one of New England's oldest Polish Catholic churches, the Rev. Andrzej Sujka had sometimes clashed with the parish council in a kind of tug-of-war between the old country and the new.
But nothing had prepared anyone for the announcement archdiocesan officials made at Sunday's Mass: After nearly two decades in the parish, Sujka had resigned in the wake of allegations the 51-year-old priest molested a parishioner when he was a minor.
"It's a shame," said one man who has lived in the parish for 28 years. "The older generation in particular is stunned."
As head of one of the few remaining Polish churches in the Archdiocese of Boston, Sujka had developed a reputation as an administrator, not as a people person, several parishioners said.
Born in Poland himself, he often went "head to head" with the parish council, resisting calls for more Polish Masses and activities catering to recent immigrants, said Mary Zaleski, a former parishioner who works at a local deli.
At least twice over the past decade, some even circulated petitions seeking his ouster, according to one parishioner, but neither of those efforts had anything to do with suspicions of sexual abuse.
"Father (Sujka) wanted to do things more the way they're done in America, but nothing was ever whispered or insinuated" about molestation, said Zaleski, whose son was an altar server at the church more than a decade ago.
Many in this close-knit parish of roughly 1,200 families feel equally reluctant to condemn Sujka because little is known so far about the specifics of the allegations.
"I would think someone might be looking for some revenge," said Trudy Laslie, who has lived in the parish since 1962. "It's slander until it's proven."
Several parishioners praised the archdiocese, however, for relieving Sujka of his duties as a precaution and referring his accuser to the police.
"That's the way it should be done," said a man who did not want to be identified. "There's no question they did the right thing."
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