Seekonk Pastor Addresses Allegations
By Rob Margetta
Providence Journal-Bulletin (Rhode Island)
August 25, 2003
He implores parishioners to not let charges against the Rev. Hernando Herrera, a priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, weaken their faith.
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SEEKONK - The homilies spoken at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church this past Sunday were far from uplifting.
At the four weekend Masses, Mount Carmel's pastor, the Rev. George E. Harrison, read a letter from Fall River Bishop George W. Coleman that addressed the allegations of "inappropriate conduct with two minors" against the Rev. Hernando Herrera, a priest and youth minister at Mount Carmel since 1999.
According to diocesan spokesman John Kearns, Bishop Coleman learned of the allegations against Father Herrera on Aug. 15, and notified civil authorities soon after. The Fall River Diocese announced Thursday that Father Herrera was removed from all his church duties.
At the 10:45 Sunday Mass, Father Harrison read Bishop Coleman's letter before pews packed with parishioners, some of whom had young children with them.
"These matters weigh heavily on us and I know the terrible impact that they can have on youngsters involved and on the life of the parish," Bishop Coleman wrote. "I realize that Father Herrera has served as a high school chaplain and has been involved in youth activities in the diocese. It is important that we address this issue forthrightly."
Bishop Coleman's letter said the diocese made social workers available after Mount Carmel's weekend Masses for anyone wishing to discuss the allegations. He promised that the Diocesan Review Board will meet to assess Father Herrera's conduct after the civil authorities finish their investigation.
He closed his letter by asking parishioners to pray both for Father Herrera and for the alleged victims.
Father Harrison added his own thoughts about the allegations against Father Herrera after he read the letter.
"The facts surrounding the circumstances are unknown to us. For any of us to speculate, to judge, to assume would be inappropriate," he said.
The pastor called Father Herrera "a good man, a good priest ... a priest challenging us to grow in spirituality every day" and said the accused priest seemed "completely dedicated to his work at the church."
He said the parishioners should not allow the accusations against Father Herrera to weaken their faith.
"We will move through this dark and painful hour with the help and grace of God," he said.
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