Priest Who Adopted Haitians Is Forced to Resign

By Lisa M. Esquivel
The News-Sentinel
September 23, 1993

The Rev. Richard Stieglitz is a priest without a parish.

He was forced to resign as a pastor over the weekend because he wants to retain his adoption of four young men from Haiti. Bishop John M. D'Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend would not comment yesterday on Stieglitz's resignation as pastor of Queen of Angels Catholic Church, saying the matter was confidential. But he released a statement that was read to the parishioners Sunday.

It said: "At my request, Father Richard Stieglitz has resigned as pastor of Queen of Angels Parish, Fort Wayne, effective Sunday, Sept. 19, 1993.

"The reason for this request is because of a significant difference between Father Stieglitz and myself concerning the legal adoption of four young men." D'Arcy ended his statement by announcing his appointment of Monsignor J. William Lester as temporary administrator of the parish, and he thanked Stieglitz for his years of service.

"I'm still a priest in good standing with the diocese," Stieglitz said yesterday.

His resignation means that he no longer is assigned to a church, but he still retains his holy orders, which allows him to fill in at churches in the diocese if he is asked, he said. At this point, he is uncertain of his future, but he definitely would like to return as a pastor, he said.

Stieglitz felt compelled to resign when D'Arcy requested it, he said.

For some time he has had difficulty with D'Arcy because he legally adopted four young Haitian men in September 1992.

Stieglitz is the legal father of Jacques Calixte, 24, Marc-Elie Dugue, 23, Pierre Gustave Kerlegrand, 22, and Marc Calixte, 21. Another man, Reynold Joseph, who had earlier lived in the rectory with Stieglitz and three of the other men, has since married a Fort Wayne woman and is living on his own, Stieglitz said, sounding like a proud father.

Stieglitz had met four of the young men while visiting his parish's sister church in Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince. He arranged for them to come to the United States to live with him while they studied.

During an interview with The News-Sentinel in March 1991, the young men talked about how hard it was to get an education in Haiti because the schools would shut down for months at a time. To get a university education, a potential student had to know someone in the field they wished to study who would put in a good word for them to school administrators.

The Roman Catholic Church does not have any rules that forbid priests from adopting children, Stieglitz said. And he is not the first priest to do so.

Stieglitz moved the young men out of the rectory in January. They either went to live in their school dormitories or to a home where Stieglitz now expects to live. A new diocesan policy went into effect in November that forbids long-term, overnight guests in the rectories unless they are family, clergy or housekeepers, Stieglitz said.

"In the eyes of the courts (the men) were immediate family," he said. In the eyes of the diocese they were not, he said.

In January, he told his congregation that the boys had moved out and that he had legally adopted them. He received a standing ovation that he saw as a sign of support from most of his 2,000-member congregation.

He feels that for more than three years he has successfully devoted his time to both the young men and his parish, although all priests can't share their time easily.

"Every priest has to make choices," he said. "If you emphasize a soup kitchen, you work less with hospital visits . . ."

And Stieglitz's work with young Haitian men has not stopped with his adopted sons.

The young men have now been joined in Fort Wayne by Marc Calixte's younger brother, Alain , 15, a freshman at Bishop Dwenger, and Kerlegrand's younger brother, Jonas, 21, who is learning English.

"They all want to return with an education of use to Haiti," Stieglitz said.

Stieglitz said the dispute with D'Arcy has not shaken his faith.

"I think whenever there is a major event in your life you can go either way" in your faith, he said.

Stieglitz said his faith has been strengthened .


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