FREELAND (WJRT) (3/6/2018) - The Most Rev. Joseph Cistone brought a message of solidarity and healing to parishioners at St. Agnes Parish in Freeland last weekend.
The Rev. Robert DeLand, who pastored the parish, was arrested Feb. 25 and charged with multiple sex crimes involving males. Since then, dozens of other people have stepped forward to make similar accusations.
“I can only imagine the deep hurt and betrayal that you must feel,” Cistone said.
Cistone, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, removed DeLand from public ministry while court proceedings continue.
“I am deeply distressed and brokenhearted over these allegations,” Cistone told the church. “Most especially, my thoughts, prayers and empathy go out to anyone who may have been victimized. We know that the trauma runs deep and long not only for the victims but for their family and loved ones as well. We stand ready to assist them.”
Cistone, who's condition was severely weakened by lung cancer treatments, encouraged any victims to talk with police and promised the church would cooperate fully with law enforcement.
With the Catholic church experiencing a severe shortage of men entering the priesthood, St. Agnes Parish will go without a priest for a while. Lay leaders will be appointed to continue the church's ministry.
“We are doing our best to appoint a parish administrator and sacramental ministry for weekend Masses and other parish liturgies in a timely manner," Cistone said.
He encouraged parishioners to remain strong in their faith and never lose trust in God even though people serving him can betray them.