All posts by teresap

Diocese of St. Petersburg Statement Regarding Lawsuit

The Diocese of St. Petersburg is aware of a lawsuit that has been filed alleging sexual abuse of a minor by Robert D. Huneke. This former priest originally served in the Diocese of Rockville Center and was transferred to the Diocese of St. Petersburg in 1979 with a letter of recommendation from his bishop and at that time the Diocese was unaware of any prior misconduct with minors. He was assigned to Christ the King Parish in Tampa in 1979.  In 1982, Huneke was removed from ministry in the Diocese of St. Petersburg after an allegation that he abused a child while in the Diocese of Rockville Center. At the time of his removal, the Diocese had received no complaints relating to the ministry of Huneke while he served in this Diocese.  Huneke died in 2002. Bishop Thomas Larkin, who is mentioned in the lawsuit, died in 2006.

On July 16, 2018, the Diocese received news of an allegation that Huneke had abused a minor during the time he served at Christ the King between 1979 and 1982. The individual was referred to the Victim Assistance Coordinator and advised to report the incident to law enforcement if he believed a crime was committed. The Diocese also reported the allegation to the state attorney in accordance with our Policy for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults.  We respect the victim’s decision to litigate and the Diocese will respond to the victim’s attorney once we are served with the lawsuit.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg stands with victims of sexual abuse and we recognize the courage it requires to speak out about their betrayal and hurt. Our hearts continue to go out to the victims of priests and others who have betrayed their trust.  We have consistently provided counseling, pastoral care, prayer and other support to victims to assist with their healing. We have established policies that include a zero tolerance for sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, a lay Review Board to assess all reported allegations against clergy and mandatory Safe Environment training for everyone who works or volunteers with minors and vulnerable adults. Since 1992, the Diocese of St. Petersburg has completed fingerprint background screenings on 59,000 priests, deacons, lay employees and volunteers entrusted with the care, responsibility and/or supervision of minors or vulnerable adults, as well as contractor and vendors working in close proximity to these persons.

Do you know where the candidates stand? Be Informed!

Casting your vote responsibly requires you to be informed. That’s why each election cycle, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) conducts the Candidate Questionnaire Project in an effort to assist Catholics and the broader community with the obligation to become informed voters. The FCCB invites all 2018 U.S. Congressional, Florida gubernatorial and Florida legislative candidates on the ballot in the Primary and General Elections to share their positions on ten public policy issues concerning human life and dignity, and the common good. Candidates are offered the opportunity to state their positions as well as provide brief comments on each question.

The Primary Election will be held on Tuesday, November 6. Before you cast your ballot, take the time to see where your candidates stand.

For Candidate Response Summaries, click here for English and here for Spanish.
To find more information about other candidates and responses, click here.

To view parish bulletin announcements in English, click here OR Spanish, click here.

Early voting begins in some Florida counties as early as Monday, October 22.

For information about early voting times and places in your area, check with your county Supervisor of Elections.

Candidate positions on issues are gathered for informational purposes only and are not used for endorsement of any candidate or political party.

National Study on Catholic Campus Ministry Calls for Innovative Growth, Cooperation and On-Going Formation

On October 8,  the Feast Day of Blessed John Henry Newman, patron of Catholic Campus Ministry in the United States, the USCCB Secretariat of Catholic Education issued a report highlighting the key findings from the National Study on Catholic Campus Ministry. The Secretariat commissioned the study seeking to advance Catholic identity in higher education and to rejuvenate the vision of Catholic campus ministry nationally.

The national study considered the contemporary context for campus ministry as well as the formation and professional development of those who minister on campus. The report offers valuable insights into the landscape of Catholic campus ministry and the formation of those who serve as campus ministers or missionaries on campus. Key findings call for innovative growth, steadfast cooperation and on-going formation to enhance the efficacy of Catholic campus ministry, as explained in the report by Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona, Chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education.

Based on the data gathered, the report offers practical suggestions to develop and enhance Catholic campus ministry. According to Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and Episcopal Liaison for the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, “the Church must be intentional and campus ministry must be accountable in every way possible to enrich the character and formation of the whole community; taking into account the ethnic, social and spiritual diversity of each campus and its surrounding community.” He goes on to say, “Our ministry must center on people, for we are forming men and women to be people that reflect Christ to each other and to the world.”

The study had a 56% response rate among the 1,911 campus ministers across the country. The report and other support data can be found on the Secretariat of Catholic Education website: 



Letter From Bishop Gregory Parkes Regarding the Florida Attorney General’s Investigation of Institutional Sex Abuse

October 4, 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Today, as a result of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, the Florida Attorney General announced an investigation into how the Catholic dioceses of Florida have handled allegations of sexual abuse of minors in the past.

I welcome this investigation and want to assure the public that the Diocese of St. Petersburg has been and continues to be proactive in its efforts to keep children safe, which should be a priority for everyone.  We seek to ensure the safety of all children and to ensure that all perpetrators of abuse are removed from ministry.

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.

Here are helpful facts about actions we are taking to keep children safe:

  • I have met with the Statewide Prosecutor to pledge our cooperation. I explained the Diocese of St. Petersburg’s policies that have been in place since 1996 for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults and strengthened in 2002 upon the adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
  • We have established policies that include a zero tolerance for sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults; mandatory national fingerprint background screening; a lay Review Board to assess all reported allegations against clergy; and mandatory safe environment training for everyone who works or volunteers with minors and vulnerable adults.
  • Many preventive measures have been put in place to protect youth and vulnerable adults. Since 1992, the Diocese of St. Petersburg has completed fingerprint background screenings on 59,000 priests, deacons, lay employees and volunteers entrusted with the care, responsibility and/or supervision of minors or vulnerable adults, as well as contractor and vendors working in close proximity to these persons
  • We consistently pray for all victims of all abuse.
  • We consistently urge anyone who has been abused or is aware of abuse to call law enforcement and the Florida Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873. We also urge anyone abused by Church personnel (clergy, a church employee or volunteer) or a contractor/vendor, to call the Diocese of St. Petersburg’s Victim Assistance Minister, John Lambert, LCSW. He can be reached by phone at 1-866-407-4505 or by email at  He is available to coordinate pastoral care and offer assistance.
  • We are transparent. The names of our diocesan clergy who have had credible allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor raised against them are published on the diocesan webpage under the Safe Environment Program Office: We also created the following webpage for parishioners with Frequently Asked Questions in September of 2018:

As we continue to work through this difficult and painful period in our Church’s history, be assured of my continued prayers. Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Gregory L. Parkes
Bishop of St. Petersburg

PDF Version of Letter English

PDF Version of Letter Spanish

National Vocation Awareness Week Encourages Young People to Encounter Christ’s Call

The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, November 4-10. This annual event is a special time for parishes in the U.S. to foster a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life.

Pope Francis, in his message for the 2018 World Day of Vocations, emphasized that it is at the loving initiative of God, and by His personal encounter with each of us, that one is called. “Even amid these troubled times, the mystery of the Incarnation reminds us that God continually comes to encounter us. He is God-with-us, who walks along the often dusty paths of our lives. He knows our anxious longing for love and he calls us to joy. In the diversity and the uniqueness of each and every vocation, personal and ecclesial, there is a need to listen, discern and live this word that calls to us from on high and, while enabling us to develop our talents, makes us instruments of salvation in the world and guides us to full happiness.”
National Vocation Awareness Week, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, is designed to help promote vocation awareness and to encourage young people to ask the question: “To what vocation in life is God calling me?” Parish and school communities across the nation are encouraged to include, during the first week in November, special activities that focus on vocation awareness and provide opportunities for prayerful discernment.

Contemporary society is all too often saturated by constant activity and noise, so it is important this week to encourage young discerners to take time for silent, contemplative prayer. Results of studies conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), notes that 72% of those ordained to the Priesthood or solemnly professed within the last year cited participation in Eucharistic Adoration as a prayer experience that proved influential in their discernment. Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations echoes this finding, stating: “Quiet reflection and prayer are essential elements for vocational discernment. It is in the interior depths of our heart where we hear the voice of Christ, where he speaks to us, and where he reveals his will for our lives.”
Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration. It was later moved to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. The USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively in this effort.

More information and resources for National Vocation Awareness Week, including a prayer card, suggested prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at:

Delegates Encounter Christ and Seek to Share Christ

Twenty-four delegates from the Diocese of St. Petersburg participated in the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry on September 20-23, at Grapevine, Texas. Together with 3,000 delegates, leaders, religious brothers and sisters, deacons, priests and bishops of the United States, our delegates worked to identify strategies to serve the growing Hispanic/Latino community so that the Church can respond to their needs and help them to fully participate in the life of the Church and to courageously live the Gospel as missionary disciples. The delegates will continue working by reflecting about their experiences and what they learned during the Fifth Encuentro process and contribute in the planning and implementation of the vision of our diocese of “Courageously Living the Gospel.

2018 V Encuentro

Below is a statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops about the V (Fifth) Encuentro. 

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, Archbishop of San Antonio and chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement today following the close of the V National Encuentro that took place September 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.


Archbishop García-Siller’s full statement follows:


Brothers and Sisters,


What a wonderful Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry we had in Grapevine, Texas, September 20-23! For us bishops it was both humbling and awe-inspiring to witness and participate in this grace-filled event that culminated a process of several years.  Four days of prayer, sharing, listening, and learning revealed a people of God alive in the love of Jesus. The process now continues with the charge to take back to our communities and dioceses what we experienced at the National V Encuentro. 


Build “a culture of encounter that rekindles hope.” With this call, Pope Francis welcomed the nearly 3,200 people from more than 160 dioceses and over 200 Catholic organizations from around the country to the V Encuentro. Following the Holy Father’s video message, his Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, invited us to go forth out of our comfort zone and become leaven of communion. We, the delegates to the V Encuentro, bishops and people together, gratefully take this charge back to our communities filled with a missionary spirit.


The V Encuentro process, and specially the national gathering, will go down in history as a special moment of grace for the Church in the United States in these turbulent and difficult times. As Cardenal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops aptly put it in his welcoming remarks: “Amidst this darkness, the Encuentro is a light that shines and illuminates the way forward. The enthusiasm, the passion, the love, and the joy of the Encuentro process is a means of grace, a gift to us as we rebuild the Church.”

A special highlight of the National V Encuentro was the participation of hundreds of young adults who brought us hope with their enthusiasm and courage, witness of faith and commitment to the Church.  As the process of Encuentro continues, may we welcome their energy, their gifts and talents for the service of the entire Church.


This mountaintop experience of God’s Providence, of the love of Christ for his Church, impels us and we are now readier to be the Church Christ wants us to be.  Thousands of faithful have returned home to share their experience with those whose voices they represented and with everyone unable to attend. In this way, the Holy Spirit will multiply the graces of renewal and conversion.


I am grateful to all who made this V Encuentro possible, from the pastors and parish coordinators to the diocesan and regional teams. I am grateful for all the national organizations and sponsors that accompanied and supported us thus far.  And I am grateful to my brother bishops who have accompanied their people in this process locally and at the National V Encuentro. I ask for your continued support and prayers as the process of the V Encuentro enters now a new phase of implementation.


Coming together across cultures and geographic regions, the Body of Christ draws strength from the diverse gifts of its individual members.  In fidelity to Christ and in communion with the successor of Peter, open to the impulses of the Spirit and under the merciful gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, let us use that strength to share the hope of the Gospel with all who are in need of God’s love and mercy.




October is Respect Life Month

The annual Respect Life Program is a year-round, nationwide effort to help Catholics understand, value, and become engaged with building a culture that cherishes every human life.

Although sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Respect Life Program is essentially comprised of the efforts of leaders throughout the Church like you—parish priests, staff, and volunteers; teachers and school administrators; diocesan leaders; and so many others.

The U.S. bishops produce materials each October to assist you in your efforts. Instead of acting as stand-alone resources, they are designed to be brought to life as tools in your hands—build off or adapt them to fit your specific needs!

October 2018 Respect Life Reflection

In 1531, when the indigenous peoples of Mexico were subjugated and the practice of human sacrifice was still a recent memory, the Mother of God appeared to St. Juan Diego as a pregnant native woman, now known as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

She sent him with miraculous flowers in his cloak to tell the bishop to build a church where people could receive her Son and her loving, tender care. When St. Juan Diego opened the cloak before the bishop, an image of Our Lady was revealed that remains to this day. The chapel was quickly built, millions embraced Christianity, and the Church increased its protection of the indigenous peoples.

By embracing the mission entrusted to him, St. Juan Diego helped bring Christ’s transforming love to cultures gripped by oppression and death.

Today, we again see the dignity of human life disregarded. Unborn children are destroyed through abortion, and ill people are encouraged and assisted to take their own lives. How do we respond?

The essence of our identity is that we are created in God’s image and likeness and loved by Him. Nothing can diminish the priceless worth of any human life. Every person is cherished.

God creates every person for eternal union with Himself and continually invites us to embrace a loving relationship with Him. Every person is chosen.

We are called to be messengers of God’s love, treating one another as cherished and chosen by Him. In doing so, we help build a culture that respects all human life. Every person is sent.

Like St. Juan Diego, let us embrace our daily mission to help others encounter God’s transforming, life-giving love.

Additional Respect Life resources are available here.

Five ways for parishes and schools to observe Respect Life Month.

Bulletin cover, social media graphics, web banner and other images available here.

Prayer for Respect for Life


Reprinted (excerpted) from Respect Life Program, copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved.


Deans Start Dreaming of a Catholic Impact Initiative

In order to foster new paths of collaboration that can create a stronger, more relevant and connected Church, Courageously Living the Gospel calls for nine Catholic Impact Initiatives that will change lives in our communities.

These new initiatives are a goal of the new mutually shared vision that will be led by the nine vicars forane (deans) of the Diocese of the St. Petersburg. The deans are appointed to serve as liaisons between the bishop and a group of priests in a certain geographic area of the diocese known as a vicariate (deanery). In many ways, they are the bishop’s representatives for coordinating regional collaboration.

On September 17, the deans and Bishop Gregory Parkes attended a training facilitated by Barbara Eckert of the Catholic Leadership Institute, to help the deans understand their role in this ambitious goal.  She outlined a plan of action for evaluating ideas, assembling a team for support and developing a strategic plan.

“This initiative should be based on what is on the hearts of people and what will shine the light of faith brighter in your community,” said Eckert. “This is an opportunity to dream about what else can be done to make an impact in your community,” she added.

The deans are being asked to form a small Initiative Leadership Team that can scan the environment, listen to a broad group of stakeholders and make a recommendation on a deanery-wide initiative that will meet a community need.

The deans are asked to have an idea in place by March of 2019.

“I encourage you to look at the statistics to understand the needs and also listen to the people and what they would be open to supporting,” said Eckert.  “Make sure what you’re doing is something people are passionate about.” Each parish in a deanery will be asked to support the initiative that is chosen.

Bishop Gregory Parkes said that although this Catholic Impact Initiative is a new area of responsibility for the deans, it’s very much in line with canon law, which states that a duty of a dean or vicar forane is “promoting and coordinating common pastoral activity in the deanery.”

The deans seemed to be open to this challenge and hopeful that their efforts will bear fruit.

“I like that we have a process in place to move forward,” said Father Thomas Anastasia, Vicar Forane for the Southwest Deanery and Pastor of St. Matthew Parish, Largo.

“I hope that, despite the challenges, this Catholic Impact Initiative will help invigorate and encourage people even more,” said Father Len Piotrowski, Vicar Forane for the Central Deanery and Pastor of Espiritu Santo Parish in Safety Harbor.

Monsignor Robert Morris, Vicar General for the Diocese of St. Petersburg also attended the training. He said, “My hope is that we can use resources wisely to come together for a common mission.”

An interview with Bishop Parkes on the Catholic Impact Initiative is available here.

The deans and deaneries of the Diocese of St. Petersburg are listed below. Also, click here to learn more about deaneries and view a deanery map.

Northern Deanery
Very Rev. James B. Johnson, VF
St. Scholastica Parish, Lecanto

West Central Deanery
Very Rev. Richard Jankowski, VF
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, Spring Hill

East Central Deanery
Very Rev. Krzysztof Gazdowicz, VF
Sacred Heart Parish, Dade City

North Central Deanery
Very Rev. C. Timothy Corcoran, JD, VF
St. Mary Parish, Tampa

Central Deanery
Very Rev. Leonard Piotrowski, VF
Espiritu Santo Parish, Safety Harbor

South Central Deanery
Very Rev. Leonard Plazewski, VF
Christ the King Parish, Tampa

Southeast Deanery
Very Rev. John F. McEvoy, VF
St. Anne Parish, Ruskin

Southwest Deanery
Very Rev. Thomas Anastasia, VF
St. Matthew Parish, Largo

Southern Deanery
Very Rev. John J.  Blum, VF
St. John Vianney Parish, St. Pete Beach


Parish Training Begins for Courageously Living the Gospel

The first of five parish training days for the implementation of Courageously Living the Gospel was held on Sept. 15 at St. Stephen Parish in Riverview.

“It is you who will bring this vision to life in our diocese,” Bishop Gregory Parkes told the 50 parish leaders and clergy who attended during opening remarks.

“You’re in our parishes where we meet our people face to face, where we encounter them and where we hope that they will encounter the presence and love of Jesus Christ. Each one of you will play an important role in the implementation of this vision. Thank you for accepting the invitation of your pastor,” added Bishop Parkes.

The training session was facilitated by two learning leaders of the Catholic Leadership Institute: Jim Luisi and Tricia Cellucci. (Learn more about the implementation process here.)

“As a baptized Catholic there is a place for you in this mission and mutually shared vision. This is an opportunity for each person to renew their faith and to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ,” said Cellucci.

“Our goal today is to deepen your understanding of the vision that has been spelled out and the goals so that your parish and its ministries can be fruitfully aligned with them,” she added.

During the training, parish teams learned about the four steps for fruitful planning and implementation.

“So often plans are written and people don’t know how to roll them out,” said Cellucci. “We are going to get you started on how you can implement strategies for the parish goals.”

The goals and priorities of Courageously Living the Gospel are rooted in the idea of being missionary disciples so that we can speak more openly about our faith and the role Jesus Christ plays in our everyday lives. To live out the vision, people will invite others to have a relationship with Jesus and to accompany them on their faith journey as Jesus did.

“There’s always an opportunity to grow in our relationship with Jesus. Wherever we are on that journey Jesus is going to take our hand and he’s going to continue to walk with us. If we fall back, he’s still going to take our hand and he’s going to walk forward with us,” said Cellucci.

Regarding the nine goals of the vision, five of them are specific to diocesan offices or ministries, one is specific to deans and deaneries and three goals are specific to each parish.

  1. One hundred percent of parishes will establish and/or enhance youth ministry opportunities by July 1, 2020.
  2. Every parish will equip parishioners as Missionary Disciples who are inspired to invite and accompany others by Pentecost 2020.
  3. All parishes will enhance or establish family ministries to respond to the diverse needs of families by Pentecost 2020.

Maria Flores of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission attended the training with her pastor, Father Gilberto Quintero and 10 other parish leaders.

“I am so grateful to our diocese and our bishop for being supportive and open-minded to our community. As we prepare for the vision, we see lots of great ideas for growth. We need to be open-minded to our community, especially our younger community. It’s sad that we don’t currently have a youth group. That’s a great vision for our mission. This is a great goal that I would love to see for our community,” said Flores.

Local pastors worked with parish leaders at the training and started to formulate plans.

“I thought it was hopeful. It helped us to focus our attention. It’s good to see the bishop has set a direction for us and this falls much in line with our parish plans. It helps us to set timelines for our parish plan which we didn’t have. I like the goals. Having the goals set for us already was a big help for us,” said Father Steve Dumais, SDB, pastor, Mary Help of Christians Parish in Tampa.

“Prioritizing the goals and setting the goal leadership team makes it easier for me. I don’t have to be the one to do it all. I just asked six people to join the leadership committee and they all said yes. It gives me hope,” added Father Dumais.


Students Surprise Bishop at School Mass

More than 100 students and staff of Morning Star Catholic School in Tampa surprised Bishop Gregory Parkes with a strong show of support for the new diocesan vision,  Courageously Living Gospel.

On September 19, Bishop Parkes arrived at the school to celebrate their 60th anniversary Mass and found them all wearing  matching blue t-shirts with a call to action related to the vision: “Be courageous and strong.” This text is from 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.”

2018 Morning Star School - Tampa's 60th Anniversary

Parishes and schools throughout the diocese have been promoting the new mutually shared vision of the diocese through videos, posters, bulletin announcements, banners and t-shirts.

Morning Star Catholic School is celebrating its 60th anniversary of serving students with learning disabilities and other related difficulties to succeed at their optimal level while creating readiness for growth, service and sharing God’s love in the global community.

“Morning Star School is an environment where each student’s uniqueness is valued,” said Eileen Odom, principal. “Our school provides a nurturing, supportive setting that provides opportunities for students to grow spiritually, academically, socially, emotionally, and physically.”

The school has received numerous awards, classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards and iPads and students grow herbs and vegetables in the “Unity Garden.”