Priest's Whereabouts a Mystery to Church

By Suzanne Hoholik
San Antonio Express-News
July 9, 1998

Officials from the Archdiocese of San Antonio still don't know where Father Jose Luis Sandoval is, and they aren't spending much time looking either.

Sandoval, 58, the former pastor of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, was accused last month of sexually assaulting a former altar boy. After learning of the allegation June 8, the priest abandoned his parish and disappeared.

"We have not heard anything. I don't have any idea where he may be," said Monsignor Lawrence Stuebben, general vicar and director of administration for the archdiocese.

A 33-year-old man came forward with allegations that Sandoval molested him 22 years ago when he was an altar boy at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church. Stuebben said the archdiocese has no phone number to contact Sandoval's parents in Mexico, and other relatives living in San Antonio haven't provided one.

"I don't know where to start looking," Stuebben said. "There is a niece that is in that parish, but she doesn't have any more information than we have - or that she's willing to share with us."

The 600-family parish remains without a pastor. A different priest travels to the West Side church each weekend to celebrate Mass.

Sister Adele Massaro, pastoral assistant, handles day-to-day operations at the church. She's waiting for orders on what to do next.

"Everything is on hold. We're just waiting for someone to tell us what to do," she said. "His things are just sitting there exactly the way he left them."

Lifelong parishioner Elvira Gomez never saw eye-to-eye with Sandoval on the operation of the church, but hopes a new priest is assigned soon.

"We hope that Archbishop (Patrick) Flores, when he sends another priest to our church, he sends someone who will bring us together," Gomez said.

Stuebben said there is no rush to permanently replace Sandoval.

"I think we will continue at this temporary situation at least for a while," Stuebben said.

Massaro said she's planning "listening sessions" to help parishioners deal with Sandoval's departure.

"It's a gathering of the people who want to get their feelings out of their system," she said. "It's still in the planning stages. We want to gather of some of the church leaders and try to learn how to do this."


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