The shared pastor of St. Pius X Parish, Wauwatosa, and Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Milwaukee, was removed from public ministry last week while Wauwatosa police investigate an allegation made against the priest.
Wauwatosa police asked Salvatorian Fr. Robert Marsicek, who has been shared pastor at the parishes since 2008, to “please stay away from the school,” Wauwatosa Catholic, sponsored by St. Bernard and St. Pius X Parishes, according to Salvatorian Fr. Joe Rodrigues, U.S. Provincial Superior and National Vocations Director of the Society of the Divine Savior.
“Last week, a teacher observed behavior by Fr. Bob Marsicek that (she) thought was questionable. Because teachers are mandatory reporters under Wisconsin state law, the teacher acted appropriately in alerting the principal and the parish safe environment coordinator, and then by contacting the Wauwatosa Police Department,” he wrote in a letter to parishioners and school families, dated April 2. “The police began their investigation, which is still in process.”
The order will continue to cooperate with Wauwatosa police as it waits to hear from them, Fr. Rodrigues said.
The Wauwatosa Police Department didn’t return a voicemail message or email request for comment by presstime Tuesday.
Fr. Rodrigues cautioned parents and parishioners in his letter that Fr. Marsicek is “innocent until an investigation proves otherwise.”
“Only when the police complete their investigation and we have a determination about the allegation, will we know what will happen next,” he wrote, noting that the parishes and schools will continue to run “as normally as possible,” and that he will continue to keep everyone updated whenever information is available.
While police asked Fr. Marsicek to stay away from the school, they told him he could continue with his pastoral ministry during the Holy Week, according to Fr. Rodrigues, but the order had to follow its protocol. Salvatorian Fr. Peter Schuessler, first consultor/director of formation for the order, said that four Salvatorian priests and two diocesan permanent deacons covered the Triduum, and according to Fr. Rodrigues, about six Salvatorian priests will continue helping with the different Masses at the parishes in Fr. Marsicek’s absence.
“It’s our strict protocol that if anything of this nature occurs, we pull our men out of public ministry until the investigation has been completed,” Fr. Rodrigues said in a phone interview with your Catholic Herald, adding Fr. Marsicek “has not been accused, he has not been arrested….”
He said he’s been in communication with the archdiocese, because while Fr. Marsicek is a full member of the community, ordained Sept. 6, 1968, the Salvatorians minister under the auspices of the archdiocese.
In his letter, Fr. Rodrigues said Fr. Marsicek, who has served at St. Pius since 2001 according to the St. Pius X website and plans to retire in December, “is currently under supervision and living at a Salvatorian community outside the parish boundaries.”
Jerry Topczewski, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s chief of staff, said in an email to your Catholic Herald that the provincial has made arrangements for pastoral and sacramental coverage of the parish, and that the order followed the child safety policies.
“Policies in place regarding child safety have been followed and, once again, the Safe Environment programming initiated by the archdiocese, including training for parish/school personnel, have proven to work effectively,” Topczewski wrote.
Fr. Rodrigues said he and other Salvatorians filled in during Holy Week, announcing the news at the Masses and services.
He also said the order is working on a long-term plan since the length of the investigation is indefinite, and he wrote in his letter to parishioners and school families that he’s grateful for the various Salvatorian priests who are providing the sacramental, pastoral, spiritual and administrative needs of the parishes.
“No one knows how long the investigation will take, but we trust the police will take as much time as they need to do a thorough and complete job and ensure the rights of all involved are protected,” he wrote.
“We are grateful that we have such a professional staff at our parishes and school,” he wrote. “We are also grateful for the Safe Environment programming and policies that guide us when something like this happens. All the safeguards that are in place to protect our children have worked.”
Fr. Rodrigues encourages everyone to pray for those involved, and said he hopes the investigation will be resolved soon.
“Most of all, we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us,” he wrote. “We ask that you please keep all of those involved in this process in your prayers. The compassion, support and love we provide for each other, especially at difficult moments like these, are what define us as a genuine Catholic parish and school community.”