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  Police Looking for Former Fargo Priest
Sayasaya Accused of Sexual Abuse

By Stephen J. Lee
Grand Forks Herald
February 19, 2002

International police are searching for a former Fargo Catholic priest who was accused of sexual crimes against young boys four years ago.

Dealing with the case of a former Drayton, N.D. priest who admitted last week to sexual misconduct with children, Bishop Samuel Aquila on Saturday told the Herald there was a second open case in the diocese of a priest abusing children.

On Monday, diocesan officials said the second priest was the Rev. Fernando Sayasaya, former associate pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish in West Fargo who lived in Fargo. Sayasaya's case was reported in the news media at the time.

VICTIMS COME FORWARD

In 1998, three boys, ages 11 to 16, told West Fargo police that Sayasaya had had sexual contact with them, said Sgt. Greg Warren, the detective who is investigating the case.

The incidents took place on church property, for the most part, in West Fargo and including Sayasaya's residence that was near St. Mary's Cathedral in downtown Fargo, Warren said.

Sayasaya was educated overseas, including his theological schooling, and came to America to be ordained a priest in Fargo in 1995 by Bishop James Sullivan, said the Rev. Greg Schlesselmann, vicar general of the diocese.

Sullivan remains bishop; Aquila was named last summer to be coadjutor bishop with Sullivan, taking over most of the duties and will succeed Sullivan when he retires.

Sayasaya was assigned to Blessed Sacrament in 1997.

In 1998, police learned that the oldest alleged victim, 16 at the time, had complained to a social services official about Sayasaya making sexual contact with him, Warren said. Two other boys, 11 and 14, later came forward with similar allegations. We jumped on it, Warren said. Church officials generally were cooperative, he said.

REMOVED OF DUTIES

Sayasaya was relieved of his duties immediately after the allegations came out and authorities were contacted,, Schlesselmann said.

Shortly after, Sayasaya was moved to the Blue Cloud Abbey in S.D., Warren said. Blue Cloud Abbey, near Marvin, S.D., not far from Sisseton, is a rest and retreat center for priests and others.

I don't know exactly why they moved him there, but the cat was out of the bag and they were pretty concerned and they told us where he was at, Warren said. But we were never able to talk with him.

Sayasaya went home to the Philippines, ostensibly for Christmas vacation in 1998 and never returned, Warren said.

His priestly faculties have been removed, Schlesselmann said; that means he remains a priest but can not perform any priestly functions, such as sacraments. Any further action by the church to change his status is pending the results of the investigation, Schlesselmann said.

NO CHARGES FILED

Although the Cass County State's Attorney's office has the case, no charges have been filed yet against Sayasaya, pending further investigation, especially getting a hold on the priest, Warren said. The allegations involve what would be felony charges.

Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, is involved in the investigation, Warren said.

The last word on Sayasaya's whereabouts was in 2000, when he was reportedly in the Philippines, Warren said. Right now, it's a guess, but he could still be there.

The case of Sayasaya, and that of the Rev. Charles Fischer, which came to light last week, are the only open cases of sexual misconduct by priests in the Fargo diocese, which covers eastern North Dakota, Schlesselmann said.

 
 

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