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  Vicar Takes Leave over Web Contacts Edison Clergyman, Minor Had 'Inappropriate' Link

By Jonathan Tamari
Home News Tribune (East Brunswick, NJ)
May 22, 2003

EDISON: An assistant priest at St. Matthew the Apostle Church is taking a voluntary leave of absence because of "inappropriate communications" over the Internet between him and a minor, the Diocese of Metuchen said yesterday.

George Farrell, a 42-year-old parochial vicar at the church, was among the diocese clergy the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office recently investigated and chose not to charge, but the office referred his case to the state Division of Youth and Family Services, said Ronald Rak, the diocese's general secretary.

"There are no criminal charges related to this," Rak said yesterday. "We will await the results of any investigation."

Farrell also has served at other local churches and schools in Edison, Piscataway, New Brunswick and Sayreville since 1987. He is the associate director fo the Metuchen chapter of the National Pastoral Musicians.

The leave began Monday for Farrell, described by some as a caring man with a passion for music who has been at St. Matthew since 1998.

"I have known him pretty well and always held him in pretty high regard," said Tom Blatz, a member of the Parish Council at St. Matthew. "He's been a wonderful priest."

Farrell's communications with the unidentified minor came over the Internet, and there was no physical contact between them, Rak said. The minor was neither a member of the church nor a pupil at St. Matthew's K-8 school, he said. He would not provide any further details about the minor.

The church planned to inform its members of the leave this weekend, but word leaked to the media first. Diocese of Metuchen Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski drafted a letter to parishioners explaining the situation.

"I share your sorrow at this development. I hope you will agree with me, however, that the importance of protecting our children must always be our first priority and that every allegation that a minor may have been harmed must be reported and investigated by the proper authorities," Bootkoski wrote. "It is difficult to foresee how long it will take before this matter is concluded."

The accusations against Farrell were part of a number of allegations the diocese turned over to the Prosecutor's Office last year, Rak said.

Earlier this week, the Prosecutor's Office said it did not plan to press charges related to those reports.

First Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure, who announced the end of the probe Monday, could not be reached for comment last night.

Joan Gage, president of the St. Matthew Legion of Mary evening group, said Farrell loved music.

"He has just made the music come alive at St. Matthew," she said. "We all love how he loves to sing and praise God through song."

Farrell led weekly Masses at the JFK Hartwyck at Edison Estates nursing home that drew between 80 and 100 residents, Gage said. She said she will pray for a quick resolution for Gage and any victims, and that Farrell returns to the church soon.

"He's so inspiring to everyone of all ages, and the youth in our church absolutely adore him," Gage said. "He's just so alive and exciting, and whatever he's doing he does it with such feeling. He makes everything fun and wonderful."

Farrell began teaching religion at St. Pius X Regional High School in Piscataway in 1987, and became a campus minister at St. Peter the Apostle High School in New Brunswick in 1990, according to a biography on the St. Matthew Web site.

He was an organist at Edison's Guardian Angel Church and became director of music at Our Lady of Victories Church in Sayreville in 1991. He was appointed parochial vicar, an assistant position, at St. Matthew on Jan. 8, 1998.

 
 

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