Maui Church Discusses Priest

Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, HI)
May 24, 2002

LAHAINA, Maui - Feelings of anger, frustration and sadness were expressed last night as more than 200 Maria Lanakila Church parishioners met with church officials behind closed doors to discuss the removal of their pastor, the Rev. Frank Bukoski III, who is accused of sexual misconduct with a minor in Honolulu more than 20 years ago.

"We're a family without a father right now," said parishioner John Pope.

The meeting was held by the Rev. Gary Secor, chairman of the Diocesan Standing Committee for Sexual Misconduct, the panel that recommended to Honolulu Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo that the priest be removed from the parish pending evaluation and treatment.

The mood was somber for the parishioners, who were among the first to hear the news of Bukoski's removal, announced to church leaders on Saturday and in Masses on Sunday.

It comes as Catholics across the country confront a growing number of sexual misconduct complaints against priests.

But many of the Lahaina parishioners said they refuse to give up on their pastor, a man described as a hardworking and dedicated churchman who often used humor in the pulpit.

The Very Rev. Clyde Guerreiro, provincial of the Sacred Hearts order in Hawaii, said he was impressed by the overwhelming support expressed for Bukoski.

"They want him back and they want him back quickly," Guerreiro said after the meeting.

Although it isn't his decision to make, he said that support expressed at the meeting could help Bukoski get reinstated to his parish, if the evalution comes out in his favor.

Many parishioners were signing petitions for reinstatement and wearing buttons in support of Bukoski.

Parishioner Steve Lawless expressed his frustration outside the meeting, saying that even if the priest is proven not guilty, he believes Bukoski will never be allowed to come back.

"That's a real sad, and very huge, loss for those of us who loved him," Lawless said.

Pope said the meeting was the start of a healing that must take place in the community.

Both men came with their sons, each of them an altar boy who spoke on behalf of Bukoski.

"Father Joe's a great guy, and I wish he can come back soon. We all love him," said Jack Pope, 12.

Reporters were not allowed in the meeting, but parishioners spoke as they left.

During his four years as pastor at Maria Lanakila, Bukoski reached out to different segments of the West Maui community. It was not uncommon to hear choirs singing in Hawaiian, Tongan, Filipino and Spanish, or to see Hawaiian and Tongan dancers employed in Masses.

Parishioners said they will hold a candlelight vigil at the church on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in a show of support for Bukoski.

"He has truly won the hearts of many in this small town of Lahaina," said Patrick J. Guth, the church's pastoral council chairman.

As pastor of Maria Lanakila, Bukoski also oversaw the operation of a mission in Kapalua and Sacred Hearts School in Lahaina.

Bukoski, 49, remains under the supervision of Guerreiro at the order's Kaneohe living quarters and offices. He is scheduled to be interviewed by psychiatrists and psychologists June 12 in Seattle.

The Kauai-born priest arrived at Maria Lanakila after having served as the elected head of Hawaii's Sacred Hearts order and judicial vicar of the Honolulu Diocese.

No details about the alleged misconduct have been released. Bukoski was an associate pastor at St. Patrick's Church in Kaimuki from 1979 to 1985, his first assignment after his 1979 ordination.

Bukoski, a 1974 graduate of Chaminade University, left St. Patrick's to become superior of Sacred Hearts Center in Kaneohe and later worked in the diocese canon law office. After obtaining a license to practice church law, he was named the judicial vicar of the Honolulu Diocese.

In 1990, he was elected provincial head of the Order of Sacred Hearts, serving two three-year terms, during which he oversaw the local beatification ceremonies of Father Damien and led a Hawaii delegation to the festivities in Belgium.

CORRECTION - Published 25.05.2002

The Rev. Joseph Bukoski has been removed from his Lahaina parish because of an allegation of sexual abuse involving a minor 20 years ago. His name was incorrect in a story on Page B1 yesterday because of a reporter's error.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.