Pastor's Removal Stuns Flock
An Evaluation of the Rev. Stephen M. Garrity Will See Whether He Misused His Influence in Sexual Relationships 25 Years Ago

By Yonat Shimron
News & Observer
April 30, 2007

Durham - The removal of the Rev. Stephen M. Garrity as pastor of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church couldn't have come at a worse time.

Just Saturday, a concrete floor had been poured at the site of the new $2.8 million sanctuary two miles from the church's current location on the campus of N.C. Central University. The 67-year-old Garrity was the force behind the construction and fundraising.

When he didn't show up for Mass on Sunday morning, members were shocked to hear he had been "recalled" by his religious order, the Jesuits. According to the order, Garrity confessed to sexual relations with five adults 25 years ago. One of those people contacted the Maryland province of the order, which whisked Garrity away before he had a chance to say goodbye.

The congregation he left behind put up a strong front.

"This church will survive," said Bob Cefalo, the vice chairman of the parish council. "There's no question about it."

A representative of Raleigh Diocese Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Msgr. Michael Shugrue, broke the news after 9 a.m. Mass. The diocese provided several representatives to help people sort through their emotions after the service.

Burbidge will join the church's 250 members for Mass next Sunday, and the Jesuits sent the Rev. Frank O'Connor, a retired priest who had served the church in the 1970s, to run the church temporarily.

In a statement, Burbidge said the Diocese of Raleigh received no complaints about Garrity before the one in Maryland. The alleged sexual affairs did not take place in North Carolina. All priests in the Catholic church take vows of celibacy.

Garrity, who became pastor of Holy Cross in 2001, was beloved by the parish, the diocese's only mostly black congregation. Many said he was a good pastor and a caring person and suggested they would be willing to forgive him.

"That was 25 years ago; don't you think he paid the price?" asked Brenda Roventini, who moved to the area from Washington a year ago. "This church is going through so many changes."

Garrity, who is not suspected of pedophilia or any criminal activity, will be evaluated at an undisclosed treatment center, said Kate Pipkin, a spokeswoman for the order, the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. She said the order will determine whether Garrity took advantage of people he was counseling or used his position of power inappropriately.

Before becoming a parish pastor, Garrity was known as a retreat leader who was schooled in the meditation exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order.

Staff writer Yonat Shimron can be reached at 829-4891 or


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