Parishioners Shocked by Child Porn Charges against Priest
By Zachary T. Sampson and Gal Tziperman Lotan
August 5, 2012
|George Greenan, who attended Mass Saturday at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, said parishioners were surprised.|
Days after their priest was arrested in the church rectory for possession of child pornography, parishioners at Our Lady of Czestochowa in South Boston arrived for evening Mass on Saturday expressing shock.
Many said they were troubled by the charges against the Rev. Andrzej J. Urbaniak who had been well-liked and two people left the church in tears. Others said they maintained confidence in him.
“I liked him,” said George Greenan, a 69-year-old Savin Hill resident who serves as head usher on Saturdays. “A lot of people are upset about it — I’m upset about it — but it could happen at any church.”
Urbaniak was arrested Tuesday and charged with possessing and distributing child pornography. Authorities said he confessed to downloading and sharing pornographic pictures of children, most of whom appeared to be between the ages of 8 and 10.
At Urbaniak’s arraignment Wednesday, a prosecutor said the priest was downloading and sending sexual images of children when Boston police detectives entered the rectory to arrest him. Urbaniak pleaded not guilty.
Police said last week that no one had contacted investigators to report being personally victimized by Urbaniak, but the investigation remains ongoing. He is scheduled to return to court for a probable cause hearing Aug. 31.
Urbaniak emigrated from Poland 14 years ago and has been a priest at the South Boston church for four years. He belongs to an order of Franciscan priests with headquarters in Poland, but Our Lady of Czestochowa is a parish in the Archdiocese of Boston. The archdiocese suspended Urbaniak so he cannot minister or live in a rectory until the matter is resolved.
The archdiocese’s secretary for health and social services, the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, said the Saturday Mass.
As the Mass drew to a close, Hehir read a statement from Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley for the members of Our Lady of Czestochowa. O’Malley offered counseling for the parishioners from the archidocese’s Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach.
“In these circumstances it is understandable that parishioners, in particular parents and grandparents, will experience a range of emotions and concerns,” Hehir read .
O’Malley asked members of the church to pray for Urbaniak and said the archdiocese hopes to announce a temporary administrator for Our Lady of Czestochowa soon.
William Cwikielnik, 77, of Dorchester, one of about 30 parishioners who at the 4 p.m. English-language Mass on Saturday, said he was surprised when he heard the news of Urbaniak’s arrest last week.
Though he said he knew Urbaniak to be a generally nice guy, he did not question the charges and said it could be difficult to forgive the pastor as children were involved.
“If it was something else, maybe, but come on . . . ,” said Cwikielnik, who has attended Our Lady of Czestochowa, which caters largely to the city’s Polish community, on-and-off for about 50 years.
Greenan said the crowd was of typical size for a Saturday Mass, and many of the people were regular attendees. Some parishioners declined to speak as they entered the church on Dorchester Avenue, only offering brief words of support for the priest.
An elderly woman in an oatmeal-colored dress shook her head on the sidewalk outside Our Lady of Czestochowa.
“He was good priest,” she said with a thick Polish accent. “I don’t believe it.”
Helen Daniszewska, 88, of Dorchester, said she was baptized in the church, as were her brothers and sisters. She lit a candle for her former priest before the Mass. When Hehir asked parishioners to pray for someone they care for, she said she prayed for Urbaniak.
“Father Andrzej was a wonderful priest,” Daniszewska said. “If I saw him now, I would say, ‘Hello, Father.’”