St. Philomena Parishioners Stand by Father Paul

By Rose Quinn
Daily Times
March 10, 2011

[with video]

LANSDOWNE — The more she thought about it, the more Lisa Milano realized that many people, including herself, turn to the church in their darkest hours — to pray.

"Now this is their darkest hour and they need us to pray," Milano said following an evening Ash Wednesday service at St. Philomena Church.

Milano was reacting to news that her pastor at the church, the Rev. Paul Castellani, was placed on administrative leave while allegations of sexual abuse were investigated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Speaking from the altar during the brief church service marking the beginning of the Lenten season, the Rev. Jason Kulczynski, a resident priest, said he had the "unfortunate responsibility" to share a letter from Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, announcing the move.

Kulczynski went on to tell the about 50 people gathered in the church that 21 priests have been placed on administrative leave and among those was Fr. Castellani, "your pastor."

He explained the move did not signal any judgment or final determination against the priests, but that they must refrain from the ministry for the duration of the investigation. He urged parishioners to visit the Archdioceses of Philadelphia website for more information.

He also asked the churchgoers to pray for all those involved, including the victims of sexual abuse.

Kulczynski said he would be overseeing the parish until another administrator was assigned. He expected all scheduled services to continue.

Kulczynski spoke briefly about sin, and its impact on one's personal relationship with God. "Sin does not change the Lord's invitation to share in the light," he reminded.

After the service, Kulczynski stood at the back of the church. He greeted and shook hands with nearly everyone in attendance.

For Leeann Hill, Castellani was the reason she joined the parish a few months ago.

"It's not going to shake my faith, absolutely not," she said. "All trials are about strengthening."

She described Castellani as a caring, compassionate minister.

"To me, he was good and kind," she said. "He is awesome."

She was accompanied by her husband, Sarge Hill, who also said the situation would not shake his faith. He expressed support that the Archdiocese was investigating allegations, but was hopeful the allegations against Castellani are unfounded.

"I think it is tragic. I think it is a horrible situation," he said.

Leeann Hill said above all, she would pray for the victims.

In his most recent "From the Pastor's Desk" message published in the weekly bulletin, Castellani reminded his members that "Lent is an opportunity for us to stop for a few minutes and to think how God has worked in our lives, and continues to do so, even when things do not go as we have planned or expected."


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