Woman who claims she was abused by Basilian priest now heads victim support network


October 19, 2020

By Adrian Ghobrial and Jessica Bruno

To this day, Brenda Brunelle can’t breathe when she tilts her head back in the shower to wash her hair. It’s the lifelong result of the sexual assault she claims she endured as a young girl at the hands of a Catholic priest.

Brunelle grew up in a devout Catholic family in Windsor. In the late 1970s, she went to St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic elementary school, and was an altar server at the church.

“My father sold tickets to have that Church built. We were pioneers of St. Vincent De Paul Church and we were proud of that,” she says.

As a 12-year-old, she alleges she caught the eye of associate pastor Father Michael Fallona.

Fr. Fallona is a member of the Basilian Fathers, an order of Catholic priests who to this day have a hand in operating schools in North America.

Brunelle claims it all started with Fr. Fallona paying too much attention to her at school. She says she felt uncomfortable about the way he over-praised her for small tasks and gave her long hugs.

“I know that he loved the smell of my hair and the color of it,” she tells CityNews. “He would stand behind me and fondle me. Smell my hair. Literally eating it, is how I would describe the experience.”

She alleges he would ask her to come to the church to help with chores. She says Fr. Fallona asked her to come change a lightbulb and claims that’s the first time the priest groped her.

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