Monday, December 14, 2009


On November 8, 2009, another whistle-blowing employee who complained to the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo about financial irregularities at St. Teresa of Avila Church in South Buffalo is being removed from her post. Karen M. Krajewski, pastoral assistant at St. Teresa, confirmed that she was asked to leave by the current pastor, the Rev. James B. Cunningham.
Her dismissal follows the removals in August of the temporary administrator, Monsignor Fred R. Voorhes, and the business manager, Marc J. Pasquale.
Voorhes and Pasquale had urged the diocese to examine financial irregularities and questionable bookkeeping practices at the parish, and after Pasquale took his concerns to the Erie County District Attorney's Office in August, both men were removed.
District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III has since launched an investigation into parish finances but has declined to comment on the probe.
Krajewski, who concurred with Voorhes and Pasquale, initially was retained on staff as the parish operated under a temporary priest administrator, Monsignor W. Jerome Sullivan. In September, though, she sent a letter critical of the diocese's actions to Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the pope's representative in the United States, and to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.
"I knew it was coming. It's a new pastor, and he has a new way of doing things and it doesn't include me," Krajewski said.
Cunningham, appointed by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec last weekend, told Krajewski he planned to hire a deacon instead. Krajewski was not critical of the new pastor.
"You've got to give Father Cunningham some time and some space to figure out what he's doing," she said. "He's an extremely fine man. He's going to be easy to work with. Many of the people at St. Teresa's know him. I think he's going to be good for the parish."
But when asked if the diocese had a role in her dismissal, Krajewski responded that she didn't know if the move was Cunningham's "choice and only his choice."
Cunningham did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
A diocesan spokesman said he didn't think there was any connection between Krajewski's dismissal and the earlier moves by the diocese.
Officials from the chancery weren't involved in the most recent personnel change, said the spokesman, Kevin A. Keenan.
"We weren't aware of the decision by the pastor," Keenan said. "Pastors come in and they oftentimes evaluate their personnel needs and they act accordingly."
Krajewski, a retired school teacher, is scheduled to work at St. Teresa parish through Wednesday.
In her letter dated Sept. 21, she criticized Kmiec's decision to dismiss Voorhes and Pasquale, saying the pair had worked tirelessly to turn a difficult merger between St. Teresa and St. John the Evangelist into a success.
"Parishioners ask daily for Msgr. Voorhes (sic) return — they are hurt, stunned and disgusted with this situation," Krajewski wrote.
Diocesan officials have maintained that the removals of Voorhes and Pasquale had nothing to do with the complaint to the diocese or the district attorney, although they've declined to elaborate, citing personnel issues.
Voorhes also has declined to comment, while Pasquale contends that he was fired for sticking up for parishioners and their pocketbooks.
Voorhes was appointed temporary administrator in the fall of 2008, after the previous pastor, the Rev. James T. Bartnik, suffered a stroke during a meeting in Kmiec's office.
Bartnik also had asked diocesan officials to examine whether there had been financial irregularities at the Seneca Street parish when it was overseen by a different priest and bookkeeper, the Rev. Robert M. Mock and Dawn M. Lustan.
The questionable practices included missing invoices, shredded documents, missing computer records and unexplained charges on a parish credit card, according to Pasquale and other sources. Mock, who now is an associate dean at Trocaire College, and Lustan, who works for the diocese, referred questions to Keenan.
"Something is amiss," said Krajewski, who was hired by Voorhes. "I said that when I came in last October. Within a week, I said something's wrong."
Krajewski said she notified the diocese's director of internal audit, Bruce Evert.
"Records just don't go missing," she said.
Cunningham informed Krajewski of her dismissal on the same day she completed a two-hour interview with forensic accountant Timothy McPoland, who was hired by the DA's office to determine if any embezzlement occurred at St. Teresa.
McPoland also interviewed Evert at the parish, Krajewski said.
The appointment of Cunningham has eased tensions at St. Teresa, said Kathy Frawley, a member of the parish council.
On Nov. 1, Cunningham and Voorhes concelebrated at a Mass, which was followed by a reception for Voorhes.
Nonetheless, some parishioners remain concerned about the issues raised by Voorhes, Pasquale and others — and the diocese's reaction.
"Really nothing has been resolved. It's all being investigated and people still have questions," Frawley said. "(For) a lot of people there's still that cloud. They feel bad about what happened to Father Voorhes and Marc."

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