Priest Resigns under Suspicion State Police Investigating Financial Irregularities in Mattawan, Marcellus

Kalamazoo Gazette [Michigan]
August 3, 2004

The local Roman Catholic diocese has accepted the resignation of the Rev. Bogdon Werra, an area priest who has been under investigation for alleged financial irregularities at churches he served in Mattawan and Marcellus.

The priest's resignation, as well as word that the case is now in the hands of the Michigan State Police, was announced in a letter read during weekend services at St. John Bosco Parish in Mattawan and St. Margaret Mary Mission in Marcellus.

Asked how much money is involved in the case, Michigan State Police Detective Mike Spring said, "a pretty good-size amount."

Werra, 49, has served in the local diocese since 1996. He was born and ordained in Poland. Although he is still in the area, the Kalamazoo Gazette was unable to reach him for comment.

The letter announcing Werra's resignation was written by the Rev. James Murray, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo, and read by the Rev. Massimiliano Camporese.

The initial announcement of financial irregularities was made in another letter written by Murray and read at church services in early July by the Rev. Michael Hazard, vicar-general of the diocese.

"I think the people are anxious to move forward," said Camporese, whom Murray has named parochial administrator of the two congregations until a permanent replacement for Werra can be found.

"These are very good, very faithful communities. They are keeping this in perspective and praying a lot," Camporese said in an interview Monday.

Until being assigned to the two churches, the recently ordained Camporese was stationed at St. Monica Parish in Kalamazoo. A member of the parish council at St. John Bosco said parishioners know very little about the situation, which came to the attention of diocesan officials several weeks ago.

"I don't think anyone in the parish really knows what's going on," said the parish-council member, who didn't want his name used.

Spring, who works out of the Paw Paw state-police post, said he hopes to conclude his investigation by the end of the week. Even though both Cass and Van Buren counties are involved in his investigation, Spring said he will submit his findings to the Van Buren County Prosecutor's Office.

"That's where the church in Mattawan is located, and that's where all of the paperwork for the churches gets done," Spring said.

Officials at the diocese declined to discuss specifics of the case, but their own investigation provided enough evidence to "turn it over to the civil authorities," said Brent King, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo.

"It is out of our hands," King said. "Many questions still beg to be answered. The bishop asks people to be patient and understanding" as the investigation continues.

Werra was born in Chojnice, Poland. He was ordained in 1981 in Pelplin, Poland. As pastor, he shuttled between the churches in Mattawan and Marcellus for weekend services and other events.

Even though he has resigned as pastor, King said, "I don't think this would be something where his faculties to serve as a priest would be involved." 388-8412


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