Diocese Says Counselor Available at Mass after Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse
By Michael Kransz
February 28, 2018
A counselor will be present for each Mass this weekend at the Freeland church whose priest was recently accused of sexually assaulting a man and a teen.
"She's just there to listen, and if she can offer any help she will," said Chris Pham, a spokesperson with the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.
The counselor, Sister Janet Fulgenzi, is a clinical psychologist and the diocese's victim assistance and safe environment coordinator. Masses this weekend are at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Fulgenzi and other counselors heard concerns and offered support to parishioners Tuesday evening, Feb. 27, at St. Agnes Church.
The meeting Tuesday came a day after the church's priest, 71-year-old Rev. Robert DeLand Jr., was charged with three felonies related his alleged sexual assault of a 21-year-old man and a 17-year-old male in his Saginaw Township condominium.
Pham said the meeting was a listening session in which parishioners could voice their concerns to a diocese representative and encourage one another. He said "a lot of people" attended.
Fulgenzi stayed behind after the meeting, offering to talk with anyone. Pham said no one brought allegations of sexual abuse to Fulgenzi.
Since DeLand's arrest, nearly half a dozen people have told investigators stories of alleged sexual abuse, attempted or otherwise, at the hands of DeLand, Tittabawassee Township police said.
Some of the new allegations date back nearly three decades, and all of them involve people who were minors at the time and accessed through DeLand's role as a priest, Tittabawassee Township Detective Brian Berg said.
The diocese, Pham said, is unaware of any past accusations against DeLand.
"To the best of our knowledge, Father DeLand has not been subject to disciplinary action or accusations of priestly misconduct," Pham said.
DeLand was placed on administrative leave after he was charged. Pham said the diocese will conduct an internal investigation following the conclusion of DeLand's criminal case.
DeLand, known to some as "Father Bob," held a variety of positions at numerous parishes and Catholic schools in the Saginaw and Bay City areas since he was ordained in 1973, according to Pham.
His tenure at St. Agnes in Freeland began in July 2011. Before that, Pham said, he served as pastor at St. James Parish in Bay City from July 2005 until July 2011. During that time, he was chaplain of All Saints High School.
DeLand's arrest, and subsequent charges of sexual assault, came after Tittabawassee and Saginaw townships finished their months-long investigations into allegations of sex crimes involving alcohol, drugs and underage boys.
Authorities allege he attempted to engage in unwanted sexual contact with a 21-year-old man and sexually touched a 17-year-old boy causing injury, according to the felony complaint.
Some of the alleged instances took place at DeLand's Mallard Cove condominium, and others in DeLand's residence in the church rectory, Berg said.
Although the cases were separate, they were similar in DeLand's alleged predatory tactics, said Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Gaertner.
"There was a number of grooming techniques that were used to befriend the victim, to prey on the victim's weaknesses and to lure the victim to the residence on Mallard Cove," Gaertner said Monday. "That was quite similar to the same techniques used in the case where he was arrested last night."
DeLand was released on GPS tether. His next court appearance is March 12 for a pre-examination conference.
DeLand's lawyer, Alan Crawford, could not be reached for comment.
Anyone with information about DeLand is asked to call Tittabawassee Township police at 989-695-9623 or Saginaw Township police at 989-791-7226.
Berg, who is also reachable by email at email@example.com, urged those who filed complaints against DeLand in the past to contact him.