Lewisburg Priest Loved His Parishioners

By Karen Blackledge
Daily Item
November 23, 2005

LEWISBURG — The Rev. Patrick Shannon loved his parishioners and would want them to persevere in faith, the Most Rev. Kevin Rhoades, bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese, said during a healing Mass Tuesday evening in Sacred Heart of Jesus Church.

The Rev. Shannon was recently removed as priest of Sacred Heart and of St. George's Mission in Mifflinburg after letters were received by the Harrisburg Diocese and the Oblates about an alleged sexual incident involving the priest and a juvenile about 32 years ago or when the priest would have been about 33.

"We need to pray for Father Shannon, his accuser and the Oblate superior," the Rev. Rhoades told a crowded church where many parishoners stood. "We need to support one another in faith, hope and charity."

Before the Mass, Jo Odronic of Lewisburg echoed the mood of many in the congregation about their priest of the past 12 years.

When the announcement came after Mass about two weeks ago of the Rev. Shannon's removal, she said "My heart went right to my throat and my whole body went stiff. I could feel my face drop and the rest of the day was ruined. I couldn't get a grip on myself. I felt we had lost a leader. I was a sheep without a shepherd. We didn't have a chance to say goodbye to him."

Another member said most of the parish was in disbelief about the allegation against the Rev. Shannon.

"We're very sad and I don't think we fathom it is really true. We have to deal with it and move on. Most people want to be supportive of him. Initially there was sorrow for him and now there is sorrow for us because we don't have him," said the woman, who didn't want to be identified.

A man, who is a member of St. Joseph's Church in Milton and attends Sacred Heart, said he was also in disbelief. "He's very well loved," he said of the Rev. Shannon.

The Rev. Rhoades told the congregation the last time he was at Sacred Heart was when he installed the Rev. Shannon and "I saw and heard how much he was loved."

"Like you I was deeply shocked and saddened when I learned of the allegation," he said.

In accordance with the charter to protect children and young people, he said the Rev. Shannon was removed as pastor following a preliminary investigation by the Oblates' superior who deemed the allegation to be credible.

He said this was a preliminary investigation by the Oblates, which continues to investigate. Canon laws protect the rights of the accused priest and if the accusation proves to be unfounded, every step will be taken to restore the good name of the priest, he said.

The Rev. Shannon is now being supported by his fellow Oblates, he said.

"There is not much more information than that since I learned of his removal," he said.

He spoke of efforts to reassign a new pastor, saying it was very difficult.

"You will be getting a priest," he said.

He said he sent out a notice to see if any priests want to be reassigned. A meeting of the personnel committee will be held Dec. 3.

"The Oblates told me they are not sending anyone. There might be another religious community interested," he said.

He said he was grateful for priests helping out including the Rev. William Weary, dean of the Northern Deanery and priest of St. Joseph Church in Danville, the Rev. Thomas Scala of St. Joseph Church in Milton and the Rev. Martin Moran, Bucknell University chaplain.

Bishop Rhoades told the congregation to stay close to the Lord Jesus "in the midst of these difficult days.

"The church has had a difficult time with scandals of clergy sexual abuse."

When the devastating news broke a few years ago, bishops took strong measures to adopt the charter protecting children and young people, he said.

Church officials, citing privacy issues on both sides, have refused to say if the juvenile in the incident involving the Rev. Shannon was a boy or a girl, how old the juvenile was other than the victim was under 18 and have refused to comment on where the alleged offense occurred. They said that one incident was believed to have occurred. They earlier said the Rev. Shannon admitted to the incident but the next day church officials said that wasn't true.

The Rev. Shannon, who is a member of the Oblates, was removed from his positions in Lewisburg and Mifflinburg and assigned to Child's, Md., Oblates Retirement Community.

The Rev. Shannon, 65, will be spending the rest of his days in the retirement community and is not serving in a public ministry capacity, church officials said.

With the alleged incident occurring more than 30 years ago, the statute of limitations has expired for any criminal charges to be filed, officials said.

The Oblates of St. Francis deSales is a religious order that staffs positions within the diocese and in dioceses up and down the East Coast.


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