Priest's Case Will Be Topic at Churches
Pastors of Parishes Where Yurgel Served Will Address His Arrest

By Tim Funk
Charlotte Observer
April 4, 2008

Pastors at St. Matthew and Our Lady of Consolation Catholic churches will speak to their congregations this weekend about the priest accused of having sex in Charlotte with a 14-year-old boy in 1999.

The Rev. Robert Yurgel, 43, who was taken into custody in New Jersey on Wednesday, spent time at both Charlotte parishes 1997-99. His alleged victim was a member at St. Matthew, where Yurgel helped start a youth ministry in 1997.

Monsignor John McSweeney, pastor of St. Matthew in the Ballantyne area, plans to address the case at all Masses. He'll offer what Diocese of Charlotte spokesman David Hains called a "healing message."

At Our Lady of Consolation, located north of uptown, the Rev. Jude Duffy, the church's pastor, will also address the arrest and its fallout.

Hains said Duffy knows Yurgel. Both are members of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars, an out-of-town order of priests that helps the diocese with priest shortages by staffing some parishes.

Meanwhile, other Charlotte Catholics who knew Yurgel expressed shock Thursday at the allegations against a priest -- "Father Bob" -- they remember as a nice guy and dynamic preacher.

"It floored me," said Jason Kohler, now 26, one of the teens in 1997 who joined St. Matthew's youth group. "I never got a bad feeling about him. Not once."

Kohler, who works at Wachovia, said Yurgel seemed to connect with teens. He loved the New York Yankees, kept up with people via computer instant messaging, and paraded around the church during his sermons for high schoolers.

Antionette Usher, operations and facilities director at St. Matthew, also knew Yurgel. But most current members didn't.

"As a very young, rapidly growing parish, most of our folks are here three to five years," she said. "So the bulk of our parishioners don't have any idea who Father Yurgel is."


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