Monsignor's Status Stuns Parishioners

By Susie P. Gonzalez
San Antonio Express-News [Texas]
October 13, 1997

Monsignor John Flynn, whose name has been synonymous with the phenomenal growth of St. Matthew Catholic Church, has been asked to leave the North Side parish until allegations by "an adult woman" can be clarified.

A number of stunned worshipers gasped aloud as news of the priest's status was delivered in a three- paragraph letter from Archbishop Patrick Flores. It was read in lieu of a homily during the seven Masses that were held at the church Saturday and Sunday.

"I must inform you that, based on an allegation from an adult woman of events that occurred many years ago, I have asked Monsignor John Flynn to leave St. Matthew's parish until further clarification and information is obtained," Flores said in his letter, which was dated Friday.

Without elaborating, Flores said an investigation of the incident already had begun.

"In response to our promise to the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, both Catholics and the general public, the Archdiocese has in place a policy relating to these kinds of matters and a commitment to follow that policy whenever an occasion arises to actuate that process. Under my leadership, that process is now taking place," the letter read.

Flores plans to meet with members of the parish at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"I do ask that you remember and entrust to God in prayer all those persons who are in any way involved in this matter," Flores said. "Out of respect for and fairness to all concerned, I am not able at this time to issue any further statement."

The archbishop appointed the Rev. James Galvin, parochial vicar at St. Matthew's, as temporary administrator of the parish.

Galvin declined to elaborate on the archbishop's statement or to say where Flynn is.

Parishioners at the largest church in the 23-county Archdiocese of San Antonio were taken off guard by the announcement and listened attentively as the Rev. Don Shepanski read the archbishop's letter at the 12:30 p.m. Mass.

"I'm supposed to read this and walk away, but I can't," Shepanski said from the pulpit, explaining that he has helped at the parish for eight years.

"Over the years, I've seen a great many things happen in this parish," he said. "Now we will see who in St. Matthew's steps up to the plate. Now we will see how great St. Matthew's parish really is."

After the Mass, church members rushed to Flynn's defense.

"He has all our support and prayers," said Gilbert Aldrete Jr., organist and director of the bilingual choir.

"I just can't believe it," said Susan Mossberger, a member of St. Matthew's for two years.

Flynn recently helped her obtain an annulment, a process that normally is an emotionally draining experience, but Mossberger said he displayed such sensitivity and compassion through the ordeal that she was able to remain calm.

"He was so helpful and so sympathetic," she said.

"I'm shocked," said Kimberly Jonas. "It's unfortunate."

"He's done a lot for the parish," said Edward B. Fernandez.

Flynn, who was ordained in Ireland in 1952, was named pastor of St. Matthew's in 1981 when the church had 1,800 families.

During his tenure, the church has grown to more than 5,700 families, and a school for elementary and middle school students has been built.


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