- Candace Neff Director
News & Press Releases
In an effort to provide those who visit this site with up-to-date information regarding events or stories of interest happening within the diocese, the Secretariat for Communications researches and prepares articles and news releases.
Access to the most recent news is available under "News Headlines" on the home page. Copies of old stories are available by accessing the Archives at the end of the News and Press Release section.
Statement regarding Fr. Matthew Cowan
The Diocese of Gaylord has become aware of a group that describes itself as an activist group of Catholics which held a press conference today and circulated materials regarding a personnel issue involving two diocesan priests That group did not notify the Diocese about the press conference, nor did it send the Diocese the news release. In response to media inquiries, the Diocese of Gaylord released the following statement:
On August 21, 2018, Fr. Matthew Cowan, a priest of the Diocese of Gaylord, presented an allegation of sexual misconduct against Fr. Dennis Stilwell, another priest of our diocese. The incidents were alleged to have occurred in 2015. The allegations did NOT involve a minor. Consistent with diocesan practice, Fr. Cowan’s complaint was reported to civil authorities prior to commencement of an independent and methodical investigation of his allegation. Fr. Cowan was also encouraged to contact local law enforcement if he desired.
Following the independent investigation, the Diocesan Review Board (which is also an independent body composed primarily of laity from throughout the diocese) met and concluded that the allegation did not reach the level of credible and substantiated sexual misconduct.
After being informed of the Review Board’s conclusion, Fr. Cowan offered additional information he thought supported his complaint. The investigation was reopened and that investigation is ongoing. The Review Board will meet to evaluate the additional information.
On January 7, 2019, Bishop Steven Raica placed Fr. Cowan on Administrative Leave and his permission for public ministry was withdrawn. Bishop Raica’s decision was NOT based on Fr. Cowan’s allegations. The bishop’s administrative decision involves what should be a private and confidential issue between a bishop and one of his priests. Bishop Raica makes any such decisions only after prayerful consideration of all of the information or concerns he may have (which may include both public and confidential information) in accordance with Church Law.
Fr. Cowan had been serving as Parochial Vicar for the parishes of St. Stephen in Lake City, St. Theresa in Manton, St. Ann in Cadillac and St. Edward in Harrietta.
Fr. Michael Janowski remains as Pastor of the four parishes. Bishop Raica has appointed Msgr. Frank Murphy, a senior priest of the diocese (former Pastor to all four parishes there and previous Vicar General of the Diocese of Gaylord) to assist Fr. Janowski in providing pastoral and sacramental care. Msgr. Murphy is well known in the community having served there for many years prior to his retirement in 2017.
Fr. Dennis Stilwell is currently Pastor at St. Francis Xavier in Petoskey.
The diocese does not intend to make any further comment about this matter at this time.
Bishop Raica and the Diocese of Gaylord remain committed to continuing our efforts to prevent sexual abuse of any person by those representing the Church in our diocese, to report and respond to allegations of sexual misconduct, and to bring about healing where abuse has occurred. For more information about what the diocese is doing to protect children and for helpful resources and information about how to make a report, click here.