Pelotte Leaving Gallup, Maikowski Going to Page

By Gallup Independent
Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola

November 5, 2008

GALLUP — After more than a year of startling news developments and changes in local church leadership, more changes are on the way for Catholics in the Diocese of Gallup.

When contacted on Monday, officials with the diocese confirmed that former Gallup Bishop Donald E. Pelotte is preparing to move out of Gallup this week. According to sources within the diocese, the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D.C. had issued instructions that Pelotte move out of his Gallup residence and out of Gallup, an action which many believe is a step toward the appointment of a new bishop for the Gallup Diocese.

Lee Lamb, communications director for the diocese, said Pelotte is currently in the process of packing and moving from his Gallup residence. “He indicated to us that for now, he is moving to his condo in Florida,” Lamb said in an e-mailed response. “However, Bishop Pelotte does not anticipate living in Florida full-time.”

The Independent had asked if Pelotte was returning to his Lauderdale-By-The-Sea condominium in Florida, moving in with his twin brother in Texas, who is also a Catholic priest, or moving back with members of his religious order, the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.

Pelotte’s retirement from the Diocese of Gallup was triggered by a July 2007 incident, when he was discovered seriously injured in his home. After nearly two months of hospitalization, Pelotte returned to Gallup. However, he soon made national headlines after placing a confused 911 call and reporting gentle little intruders had entered his home. Pelotte was granted a one-year medical leave of absence last December, followed by a permanent retirement in April 2008. This summer, during a television news program that investigated the circumstances of Pelotte’s injuries, the former bishop said he planned to return to Gallup to continue his ministry to Native American people.

Lamb said he had no knowledge of the reported order by the Apostolic Nuncio. “To my understanding, conversations between the papal nuncio and any bishop are usually held in confidence,” Lamb said. “I don’t know that any contact between Bishop Pelotte and the nuncio has happened recently.”As to the former bishop’s soon-to-be-vacated house, Lamb offered the following information: “Deacon Timoteo Lujan informed me today that, when Bishop Pelotte is out of the house in the next week or so, the diocese will begin to prepare the house for the next bishop. Although, any decision about the house is up to the next bishop. He could, like Bishop Olmsted does in Phoenix, decide to live in the rectory. This is all more than tentative and speculative at this point in the process of the Pope naming a bishop to our diocese.”

The process of selecting a bishop usually takes six months to a year, Lamb added, and because there are other vacant dioceses in the country, Lamb believes that fact could impact the local timeline. “I haven’t seen any information that would tell us to expect the appointment of a bishop any time soon,” he said.

In other perhaps more surprising news, Lamb confirmed another report that has been circulating the diocese in recent weeks. Bishop Thomas Olmsted, the current apostolic administrator for the diocese, has appointed Father Thomas Maikowski to become the administrator of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Page, Ariz.

Maikowski, the diocese’s former director of education and the former principal at St. Francis Elementary in Gallup, has been the subject of his own share of shocking news headlines and Catholic Internet blog discussions.

Maikowski had very close — and from all appearances — very strange relationships with a former seminary student from the Archdiocese of Denver and an elderly woman who was once a cloistered Carmelite nun. According to a 2004 Gallup Police report, the three lived, worked, and traveled together until local authorities charged Derek Kolb, the former seminary student, with the attempted murder of Margaret Mary Liebst, the elderly former nun. Kolb admitted to police he had tried to poison Liebst and tamper with her insulin in a bizarre attempt to gain more attention from Maikowski. In a plea agreement, the local district attorney’s office reduced the attempted murder charge to just harassment after Maikowski and Liebst expressed reluctance to prosecute Kolb.

Maikowski, a controversial figure among local Catholics and fellow priests, resigned from his prominent positions in the diocese and began working as a military chaplain at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.

Kolb also relocated to Albuquerque, and in 2005 officials with the Diocese of Gallup announced Kolb had threatened to return to Gallup to kill Bishop Pelotte. No criminal charges were ever filed in that incident as Kolb’s attorney managed to delay several probation revocation hearings until the matter was dropped.

According to Lamb, Maikowski’s appointment in Page begins on Dec. 1. “There hasn’t been a regular priest in this community for several years, and Bishop Olmsted felt that it is very important for the Sacraments to be provided to the community on a regular basis,” he said.

Reporter Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola can be contacted at (505) 863-6811 ext. 218 or


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