Missing Priest's Family Wants Him Home

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
December 10, 2003

The family of a missing priest wants the Rev. Fernando Manzo to know that whatever he did or did not do, they love him and want him to come home.

Manzo's sister, 34-year-old Tucson resident Stacy Portillo, is hoping her brother just wanted to get away and is safely staying somewhere. Yet she also fears that her brother may be in some kind of trouble since his clothes and car were left behind at San Felipe de Jesus Parish in Nogales, Ariz., where he has been pastor since 2001.

Manzo, 47, has been missing since last week, when Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas placed him on administrative leave because of an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor that was reported to the Pima County Attorney's Office by a man now in his 30s.

The case is still under investigation and has been taken over by the Tucson Police Department, which has not made any arrests or issued any charges against Manzo.

"This is a very emotional time for us right now," said Portillo. Her brother, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, is from a family of nine children, she said.

Portillo said no one has found her brother's wallet, so he apparently took it with him. She said Manzo moved to the United States when he was 11 and went to high school in Ajo, where he played football and dated briefly. But he was clear about his intentions to become a priest by the time he graduated, she said. He attended St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, Calif.

While there is a possibility Manzo went to Mexico because the family has relatives there, Portillo is unsure. She said her brother, who had recently baptized Portillo's son, has not made contact with any family members on either side of the border.

Manzo had recently returned to the ministry after taking a leave to undergo treatment for alcohol abuse.

Portillo stressed that her brother is not considered a fugitive since he has not been arrested. But she has briefly considered that he might try to hurt himself.

"His faith has always been so strong, and in our faith hurting yourself is not something you do. I just don't know what is going through his mind right now. Not knowing is the scariest."


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