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Statement Regarding Jesuit Priests Who Have Been Credibly Accused of Abusing Minors

On December 7, 2018, the U.S. Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) released a list of names of Jesuits with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. They announced that no Jesuit with a credible accusation currently serves in public ministry.

Of those Jesuits listed in the report from the Jesuit Province, four of them previously served in parishes in the Diocese of St. Petersburg.  Their names are listed below.  All four of them are deceased. We have notified the pastors of these parishes so that they can inform their congregations.

Rev. Edward DeRussy, S.J. served as Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa from 1990 to 1991.  Father DeRussy also served at St. Joseph Parish, Zephyrhills (1991-1997) and St. Benedict Parish, Crystal River.  He died in 2001.

Rev. Thomas Hidding, S.J. served as Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa from 1993 to 1997.  He was removed from ministry in 2002 and died in 2005.

Rev. Austin Park, S.J. served as Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa from 1970 to 1976.  He died in 2013.

Rev. Norman Rogge, S.J. served as Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa from 1960 to 1972 and again from 1973 to 1979.  He died in 2009.

For questions about priests who served at Jesuit High School, please contact Father Richard Hermes, S.J., President of Jesuit High School.

For questions about the list of credibly accused Jesuit priests, please contact Fr. Ronald Mercier, S.J., Provincial Superior of the Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province.

Any parishioner who is aware of abuse is urged to report the crime to local law enforcement.  Parishioners can also contact the Diocese of St. Petersburg Victim Assistance Minister at (866) 407-4505 for pastoral support.

We continue to pray for all people whose lives have been wounded by crimes of abuse.  We denounce all forms of sexual abuse by any person or any institution as a reprehensible crime and believe that perpetrators should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.


New Program Helps Families at Espiritu Santo Parish

Espiritu Santo Parish in Safety Harbor has started offering Family Counseling as part of their effort to align with the diocesan vision of Courageously Living the Gospel.

This counseling is intended to provide spiritual and emotional healing for families experiencing difficulties within family and marital relationships, including the trauma of divorce.

The parish is also offering spiritual direction to families, which is a process of walking with or accompanying those who are discerning God’s direction in their life.

“The desire for spiritual direction grows out of one’s desire for a deeper relationship with God,” said Father Len Piotrowski, pastor, Espiritu Santo Parish.

That journey of spiritual direction occurs within the context of confidential, one-on-one sessions, every 4-6 weeks. A spiritual director typically receives three years of training to learn how to listen without judgment and to become proficient in guiding a person through the spiritual dynamics of seeing God in all things, especially in their life.

Spiritual direction is different than counseling, which is a therapeutic relationship. As such, counseling focuses primarily on the problem areas of one’s life and seeks to bring a healthy resolution to those issues.

The parish is making these services available and affordable to the parish community.

“Generally, we ask that one consider a donation to the parish or a specific ministry of the parish for receiving the service of spiritual direction. However, if that would place an undue burden on the individual, arrangements can be made to waive the donation,” said Father Len.

The counseling ministry will be conducted by Dr. Lori Puterbaugh, who will have office hours at the parish office on Mondays and Tuesdays. Dr. Lori is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and Marriage & Family Therapist, with over 20 years’ experience working with individuals, couples and families on issues related to marriage, divorce and problems children and teens experience.  Dr. Lori makes her services available on a sliding scale fee.

Christmas Commercial Sends a Message of Welcome

The sacred purpose of the mission of the Diocese of St. Petersburg calls us to proclaim the Good News and invite all people to encounter the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

 One way the Diocese of St. Petersburg is living out that call is through a :30 second Christmas commercial that has been produced featuring Bishop Gregory Parkes that airs December 10-24. The commercial (below) invites people to “pray with us and encounter God’s healing presence.”

Come Home for Christmas to a Catholic Church from Diocese of St. Petersburg on Vimeo.

The commercial is airing on Bay News 9, Fox News and NewsChannel 8 in all five counties of the Diocese. A radio version is airing on Spirit FM 90.5 and Peace Be With You Radio 102.1 FM in Pinellas Park. A version with Spanish subtitles will air on WAPA and CNN Español. The commercial will also be advertised on Facebook and YouTube.

The commercial directs people to visit a webpage to learn more: or (for the Spanish version).

“Joseph and Mary were searching for warmth and shelter on that holy night when our Savior, Jesus Christ was born. I believe we’re all searching for something – or to be specific – someone – our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope this commercial helps people to feel welcome to come home for Christmas to a Catholic Church,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes.

Since Christmas is a time to welcome new and returning people, the Diocese is reminding parishes about best practices in hospitality by sharing this link. 

National Conference in Tampa Fires Up Youth Ministers

Thousands of people from across the United States who work with young people gathered for the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM) from December 6 – 8 at the Tampa Convention Center.  The conference was planned in part by the Diocese of St. Petersburg Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, headed by Ryan Phelan.

The Conference inspired, educated and strengthened youth ministers so they can they return to their parishes better prepared to serve young people. This mission aligns well with the Diocesan vision of Courageously Living the Gospel which asks 100 percent of parishes to establish or enhance youth ministry by July 1, 2020.

Youth ministers from the Diocese of St. Petersburg participated in the conference and they learned more about the Church’s perspective on youth ministry and acquired new skills.

“It was incredible,” said Nora Bourke, assistant youth minister at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish. “We kept hearing about the need to encounter and accompany the youth and the importance of providing simple experiences that invite young people to encounter Christ.”

The conference helped her to reflect on the simple encounter of Jesus with the woman at the well.

“Through that conversation, Jesus revealed his true identity and the woman was transformed and she told others of her experience,” said Bourke. “Courageously Living the Gospel encourages us to follow more closely this example of Jesus.”

In October, bishops and youth delegates from around the world met in Rome for the Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. Some of the Synod’s participants led a panel at the NCCYM to discuss the results.

All panelists agreed with Synod recommendations that the need to accompany, recognize, and listen to young people is key. Bishop Frank Caggiano, Diocese of Bridgeport, talked about the disciples and their journey to Emmaus. Jesus walked with the disciples, even though they did not recognize him and were walking down the road in the wrong direction. Jesus did not judge them but accompanied the disciples on their journey until the Word of God caused a burning in their hearts and they went in the direction that Jesus needed them to go. Jesus’ accompaniment is an example for all.

After the keynote panel discussion, there was a special luncheon for diocesan leaders featuring further comments on the Synod from Father João Chagas, Leader of the Youth Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. He emphasized the importance of accompanying young people on their journey. Father Chagas stressed that we need to listen to young people – to help address all of the energy in their hearts. Intergenerational dialogue is also key – the young people have the energy and enthusiasm and the elderly have the wisdom to help them harness that energy. Lastly, he spoke on the importance of being authentic and building relationships to have dialogues and conversations.

Three other goals of Courageously Living the Gospel relating to youth and young adult ministry, include:

  1. In support of enhancing youth ministry opportunities, the Diocese will hire three diocesan regional Associate Directors of Youth and Young Adult Ministry by July 1, 2019.
  2. The Diocese will establish a new Catholic elementary school (location to be determined) to open for the 2021-2022 school year.
  3. Student participation will increase by 1,000% (4,000 individuals) at established campus ministry communities and new Catholic student communities will be created for all local colleges and universities in the Diocese by Easter of 2021.

(photos courtesy of NCCYM)




Our Diocese has a Pro-Life, Pro-Women’s Healthcare Clinic

Guiding Star Tampa is a leader in transforming women’s healthcare. Their holistic and compassionate approach to medicine is also in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church and the center has recently received a letter of support from Bishop Gregory Parkes.

The non-profit ministry, located in Tampa, was founded nearly ten years ago by Catholics from St. Timothy, Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Peter the Apostle and St. Mark the Evangelist parishes.  It has grown to be a true community healthcare clinic being financially supported by not only Catholic parishioners but by other church members from Idlewild Baptist, Grace Family Church, BayHope and others.

“We believe that in some ways the medical field’s current approach to women’s health has drifted from the Hippocratic Oath and, in certain practices, departed from being medicine that truly helps women.  Thus, the PWHC Consortium aims at a recovery of women’s health, by committing to life-affirming medicine,” said Ana Hidalgo Stooks, Executive Director, a parishioner of St. Timothy in Lutz.

“Women deserve to be able to go to a practice that focuses on providing natural, holistic medical care that supports the body and does not suppress it, that provides education and also healing from past emotional wounds,” she added.

The Center is staffed by a dedicated group of medical professionals, including Tammy Taylor, a nurse practitioner/certified nurse midwife who is the mother of 12.

“It’s wonderful to be able to have a medical practice that is built on the foundations of our faith,” said Taylor who is also a St. Timothy parishioner.

The Center does not prescribe contraception or any synthetic hormones. The staff seeks to provide natural options that are safe for all women ages 9 to 99.

“It is so important that parents bring their teen daughters to our clinic right at the onset of puberty so that they hear a message that is in line with Christian family values,” said Stooks.

Part of their mission is to also serve women who are uninsured.  So far in 2018, they provided free cervical cancer screening, HIV, Chlamydia/Gonococcus, Cholesterol screening, metabolic panel and lipid panel testing to more than 400 women. These women also received a free physical and other bloodwork.

Another key program offered is the abortion pill reversal protocol (APR). Last year, they helped 14 women who had regretted taking the abortion pill to reverse the process that would have resulted in the death of their babies. Taylor is one of a small number of medical practitioners in our diocese who has been trained in the medical protocol.  She is the only medical provider who is handling requests from both Hillsborough and Pasco Counties.

Guiding Star Tampa is a member of the consortium of Pro Women’s Healthcare Centers (PWHC) across the nation which seeks to partner with women to provide comprehensive and high-quality medical services and social services that empower women to care for their health.  There are currently seven certified PWHC centers across the country with over five additional centers in the certification process.

The following insurance plans are currently accepted:  Aetna, Aetna Meritain, Cigna, United HealthCare, Ambetter, Florida Medicaid, Sunshine Health, Magellan, Multiplan, Staywell, PHCS, PHCS Savility, Tricare (non-participating provider), Liberty Healthshare, Medi-Share, Samaritan Ministries and Solidarity HealthShare.

For more information, visit or listen to an interview here.



Migrant Caravan: How you can Learn More and Act in the U.S

What is the “migrant caravan,” and why are people traveling in a “caravan”?
The “migrant caravan” originated in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on October 13th. Many of the individuals and families were later joined by others from Guatemala and El Salvador. Many traveling in the caravan are fleeing pervasive violence and persecution in their home countries and see the caravan as a means to help ensure their safety while they are seeking protection in the form of asylum.

People fleeing Central America and traveling through Mexico are frequent victims of crime and violence at the hands of criminal groups and corrupt officials. They face assault, robbery, kidnapping, rape, or even murder, particularly if they attempt the journey alone or without a highly paid smuggler. Traveling as a large group can be seen as a way to help guard3 individuals and families against these dangers — as there is “safety in numbers.”

Who are the people traveling in the caravan, and why are they leaving their homes?
The group includes many families, including some with young children and pregnant women. The majority are from Honduras; others come from Guatemala and El Salvador. Individuals and families traveling in the caravan are leaving for a variety of reasons, including gang violence; corruption; domestic violence; lack of economic opportunity; and desire to reunify with family already in the U.S.

It’s been estimated that approximately 7,000 people are in the caravan. Is that accurate? Is that a record number of people coming to the border?
While the original caravan was once comprised of an estimated 7,000 individuals, it has since gotten much smaller. Some of the people traveling in the caravan choosing to voluntarily return to their homes or seek asylum in Mexico.6 Even at its height, the number of people traveling in the caravan was not overwhelmingly large when one considers the number of arrivals the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regularly processes. From the Fiscal Year, 2013 – 2018,7 for example, yearly apprehension rates by CBP averaged nearly 499,000, with monthly arrival rate ranging up to nearly 69,000 people in May of 2016.

What are these individuals seeking?
Many traveling as part of the caravan are hoping to find safety and protection in the U.S. They will likely attempt to claim asylum when reaching the U.S./Mexico border.

How does the asylum process work?
● Through our longstanding asylum laws, the U.S. has committed that it will not return people to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened.

  • Under U.S. law, people have a right to seek asylum at the official ports of entry or anywhere in the U.S. Because asylum is intended to save lives and protect people from persecution, our law specifically permits people to seek asylum even if they did not enter through a port of entry.
  • People have a right to affirmatively claim asylum or to claim asylum in order to defend themselves from deportation to a country where they would be in danger.
  • People who are granted asylum have been found to have experienced or had a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their religion, nationality, race, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. They have documented this persecution to a U.S. immigration judge or government official.

What does the Catholic Church teach about immigration?
The Catholic Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their borders, but it also believes that those fleeing violence and persecution should be protected. Individuals have a right to claim refugee/asylum status without incarceration and to have their claims fully considered by a competent authority. To learn more about the Catholic principles of migration, see our backgrounder here.

Four Ways You Can Help These Individuals and Families

  • Pray. Find a prayer for immigrant families here.
  • Learn More. Learn more about root causes of migration here.9 Read the statement10 by USCCB, CCUSA, and CRS urging all people of good will to speak and act with compassion towards those migrating north and seeking refuge from violence and poverty.
  • Give. Catholic agencies along the border need your help! Please donate to Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
  • Volunteer & Serve Immigrant Families at the Border and in Family Detention. Consider volunteering with one of the Catholic Respite Centers on the Border such as Annunciation House11 in El Paso, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley,12 or Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona.13 You can also volunteer with the CARA Pro Bono Project14 to help stop family detention.

Prayer Vigil to End the Death Penalty to be held on December 12 & 13

Prior to the Scheduled Execution of Jose Antonio Jimenez

Jose Antonio Jimenez is scheduled to be executed by the State of Florida on Thursday, December 13, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. for the murder of Phyllis Minas. Prior to Jimenez’s scheduled execution, Catholic faithful and members of the community plan to gather to pray for the victim and aggressor, and their families, for our society, which continues to impose violence in return for violence, and for an end to the use of the death penalty.

When:               Wednesday, December 12, 4:00 PM, followed by Evening Prayer and Benediction

Where:             St. Vincent de Paul Parish, 4843 Mile Stretch Drive, Holiday

Prayers will also be broadcast on Thursday, December 13 at 5:50 p.m. on WBVM Spirit FM 90.5 (online at

Additional Information:

Earlier this year, Pope Francis further defined Church teaching on the death penalty.

“The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” reads the amended text of paragraph 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with the addition that the Church “works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

Catholics believe that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, and the dignity bestowed on them by the Creator cannot be extinguished, even by grave sin, such that all persons from conception until natural death possess inalienable dignity and value that points to their origin as sons and daughters of God.

“Our parish has a long tradition of gathering in prayer before every execution signed by the Governor of Florida to offer intercessions for the State, the accused, the victim, and family members. A loss of life creates suffering in the hearts of all who experience the death of a loved one. And, all of us are but One in the love of God who brings us to life,” said Father Bill Fickel, pastor, St. Vincent de Paul Parish.

For questions about the Prayer Vigil, please contact Sabrina Schultz, Director of Life Ministry for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, at 727-344‐1611, ext. 5325 or by email:


Meegan Wright Named New Executive Director of the Catholic Foundation

The Diocese of St. Petersburg announced on November 28th that Meegan Wright has been appointed to serve as Executive Director of the Catholic Foundation.

These new responsibilities will be in addition to Meegan’s current role as Executive Director of the Office of Stewardship and Development, which oversees the Annual Pastoral Appeal and various campaigns and collections which fund the ministries of the Diocese of St. Petersburg and help parishes to thrive.

Meegan recently served in two major leadership positions in the Diocese, serving as co-chair of the Family Faith Fest Planning Committee and member of the Visioning Team that developed Courageously Living the Gospel.

“I have had the honor of working with Meegan over the past four years and I am confident that she will bring new energy, ideas and enthusiasm to the Foundation and our faith-filled mission,” said Frank Murphy, Secretary for Administration.

Meegan started full-time employment with the Diocese of St. Petersburg in 2014 but she has worked for the past 20 years in Catholic stewardship and development in dioceses across the United States. She is a lifelong Catholic and has been a parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Jude for 10 years. She is a graduate of Florida State University.

The Catholic Foundation supports the work of Christ in the Diocese of St. Petersburg by securing gifts, providing donor services and managing financial resources to benefit people assisted by all parish and Diocesan ministries.

O Come Let Us ADORE Him!

On Monday, December 10 from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM, you are invited to take a break from your hectic schedule and rest in the Lord during an evening of Eucharistic Adoration with Bishop Gregory Parkes. This special Advent ADORE event at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle will feature contemporary and traditional Advent and Christmas music.

ADORE is a time of adoration, prayer, praise, and worship intended for all of the faithful within the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

Encounter Christ in the Eucharist during this precious time of Adoration as we spiritually prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of our Lord!

Music Ministers for the Advent ADORE will be the Cathedral’s very own contemporary band, Cathedral United! The talented members of Cathedral United bless the Cathedral Parish with their dedication, zeal, and faithfulness every week.

What:             Advent ADORE, an Evening of Eucharistic Adoration

When:              Monday, December 10, 2018

Where:            Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, 5815 5th Avenue North, St. Petersburg


Saturday, December 8 is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and a Holy Day of Obligation

In anticipation that she was to bear the Son of God, Mary was preserved from the time of her conception from Original Sin. We call this the Immaculate Conception. No sin would touch her, so that she would be a fitting and worthy vessel of the Son of God. The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the virginal conception and birth of Christ, but rather to Mary’s being conceived without inheriting Original Sin.

In the course of time, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception became more precisely enunciated, as its truth—long supported by the universal popular devotion of the faithful—was better understood by deepening theological inquiry. In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed this dogma infallibly: that is, in his role as a supreme teacher of the Church, he declared that this doctrine is divinely revealed and must be accepted with faith by the entire Church.

(Source: USCCB)