- Candace Neff Director
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Statement Regarding Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka
On March 14, a preliminary examination took place in the 89th District Court in Presque Isle County regarding the case against Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka, who had been serving as Pastor of St. Ignatius Parish in Rogers City, Michigan. During that proceeding, the alleged victim was identified as also a priest of the Diocese of Gaylord. Local civil authorities are conducting the investigation and the diocese is continuing to cooperate with them.
“These days have been incredibly difficult,” said Candace Neff, Director of Communications for the 21-county diocese. “We are continuing to do our best to provide care to everyone affected while the civil process moves forward.”
The Diocese of Gaylord has long been steadfastly committed to encouraging and supporting the right of anyone who may be a victim of a crime -- regardless of who they are or their vocation – to report the matter to civil authorities in order for it to be investigated and adjudicated in that arena. We maintain this position regardless of who the alleged perpetrator might be. It takes incredible courage for alleged victims in these kinds of matters to come forward and we will stand with them as they exercise that right.
At the same time, it is very important to remember that in our system of justice, anyone who is accused of a crime -- regardless of who they are or their vocation – is to be presumed innocent unless or until found guilty. We remain committed to that prerequisite of our society as well.
In all situations, it is critical to respect the rights and dignity of both the accuser and accused, as well as everyone else who is affected.
“This has been one of the most heartbreaking situations I have ever had to deal with,” stated Diocese of Gaylord Bishop Steven J. Raica. “There is a great deal of pain and confusion among people. I am very grateful for the assistance we have received from many sources as we strive to address the challenges presented as best we can.
“We are navigating rough waters right now,” the bishop noted. “But we also know that Jesus is in the boat with us and ultimately he will calm the seas. As Catholic Christians, we believe there is more than this moment of turmoil, this suffering. We remain unwavering in our faith with our faces turned toward Christ, knowing that we are walking toward the Resurrection,” Bishop Raica added. “We sincerely appreciate all those who are lifting their prayers with ours during this most difficult time.”
The Diocese of Gaylord encourages anyone who has been a victim of abuse by clergy or church leader, recently or even if it is in the distance past, to report the matter to civil authorities or to the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator Larry LaCross at 989.705.9010.