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  Priest's Arrest Shocks Parishioners || Santa Ana Congregation Reacts with Disbelief to Allegation That the Rev. Gerardo Jarencio Tanilong Molested a 15-Year-Old Girl

By Fermin Leal
Orange County Register
July 16, 2003

SANTA ANA Parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe-Delhi know "Padre Gerardito" as a loving, compassionate man who made himself available to anyone in need.

On one occasion, the Rev. Gerardo Jarencio Tanilong got out of bed at 2 a.m. to go to the home of a family he hardly knew to console them after they just lost a child.

Another time, he drove more than 100 miles through pounding rain to give last rites for a man he only met once.

"That's the type of a person he is," said parishioner Patricia Martinez. "He never thinks of himself, always others."

So when news spread that police arrested Tanilong, 71, on Monday on charges that he sexually molested a 15-year- old girl, many parishioners reacted with complete disbelief.

More than 200 of them packed an 8 a.m. Mass on Tuesday to offer prayers for someone they said is incapable of wrongdoing.

"The truth will come out," parishioner Mirna Mendoza said. "He is the last person anyone would ever suspect of doing something like this. This has to be some misunderstanding."

The unidentified teen and her parents went to officials of the Diocese of Orange on Sunday and reported that the teen had been molested the night before. Church officials brought the teen and her parents to the Anaheim Police Department the same day to report the allegations.

Tanilong, who also conducts baptism, first communions and weddings at the church, turned himself in to authorities Monday and was booked on suspicion of lewd conduct with a minor. Diocesan officials, who said Tanilong had never before been accused of misconduct, placed him on administrative leave.

The priest posted $50,000 bail early Tuesday and has moved in with family members, police said.

The District Attorney's Office will review the case before setting an arraignment.

Gloria Tuche, 46, of Orange said she can't believe Tanilong would molest anyone.

Tuche said she knew of Tanilong before she emigrated from the Philippines. He came from a family of priests and helped build a church in his hometown, she said.

"He's a genuine man and a good priest. He has always had a good heart," Tuche said. "His reputation has always been water; there's no mud in there."

Tanilong, born in the Philippines, was ordained in 1962. He moved to Orange County in 1986 and has served at Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Joachim, St. Boniface and St. Callistus parishes. He has served at Our Lady of Guadalupe-Delhi, a largely Spanish-speaking congregation in the Delhi neighborhood of Santa Ana, since 1999.

Maria Lopez, a housekeeper at the church who helped him pack his belongings Monday, prays for Tanilong to return.

"He seemed very calm before he left," Lopez said. "When I asked where he was going, he told me he had to take care of a few things and would be back soon."

 
 

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