|Indicted Mesa Priest Starts New Ministry
By Christina Vanoverbeke
East Valley Tribune
November 22, 2007
Dale Fushek, the former pastor of Mesa's St. Timothy's Catholic Community, who was indicted on sexually-related misdemeanor charges in November 2005, was back before a congregation Thursday for the first time in three years.
Dale Fushek, the former pastor of Mesa's St. Timothy's Catholic Community who was indicted on sexually related misdemeanor charges in November 2005, was back before a congregation Thursday for the first time in three years.
Although he sent out no invitations, instead letting supporters spread news of his return, more than 550 people attended the first service of the nondenominational Praise and Worship Center at the downtown Mesa Marriott hotel.
Mesa resident Elizabeth Culverson trembled with tears while she lingered in line to hug Fushek after the service. She said she had waited a long time to hear him preach again and felt blessed to be in the audience.
"God gave us a great gift today," she said.
Fushek, who is resigning from the priesthood, is awaiting a hearing by the Arizona Supreme Court to determine whether he has a legal right to a jury trial for seven charges filed against him.
He faces one count of assault, five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count of indecent exposure. He is accused of engaging in sexually related discussions with teenagers during confessions and exposing himself to teens as he got into his hot tub.
Fushek has said he is innocent of all charges.
Known as "Monsignor Dale" at St. Timothy's, where he served as pastor for 20 years, Fushek co-founded the national Life Teen program and served as vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.
On Thanksgiving Day, he said he was happy to be back before a group of worshippers.
"I feel alive again," he said after the two-hour service Thursday morning. "This was inspiring and beautiful. I thought there was a really good spirit among the people here."
Pam Davis of Mesa said she thought having the first service take place on Thanksgiving was appropriate.
"It's called 'Praise and Worship,' and how could you not on Thanksgiving?" she said, adding that the service will complement her regular church attendance.
Fushek said he started the center not as competition to the church but as a place where people can come to worship between regular services.
"This is not a church. It is not intended to draw people away from their denominations," he said.
The Praise and Worship Center will meet periodically, to start, Fushek said, but he hopes to raise enough money and interest to meet every week starting next year.
The next service is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 23 at the Mesa Convention Center, 200 N. Centennial Way.
Former priest Mark Dippre, who is running the center with Fushek, said they are hoping to offer an alternate place of worship that is more accepting than some churches in the East Valley.
People in attendance at the first service waited in long lines to personally thank Fushek for starting the center.
As the service ended Thursday, the people in the audience raised their voices to sing "Blessed Be Your Name."
Fushek joined in, his arms raised toward the ceiling, his eyes closed tight.
"Happy Thanksgiving. I love you," he said, in closing. "I thank you so much, and it won't be three more years until I see you again. I hope to see you every week soon."
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