A local church at which a former pastor now indicted for allegedly raping an altar boy worked is continuing a series of parishioner meetings to help deal with the emotional aftermath of the news, officials said.
St. Maximilian Kolbe in Liberty Twp. is also offering members a “short, yet powerful book” in the wake of a sex abuse scandal involving former Pastor Geoff Drew.
The first of a series of meetings at the Butler County church was held last week, and they will continue through mid-October.
The current pastor, Father Jim Riehle, is establishing a series of Discussion and Holy Hour for Healing sessions.
In a message to parishioners, Riehle wrote the book “addresses so much of the struggle, the pain, and the anger surrounding the evil of sexual abuse and the stain this has left on our church.”
“I know that one book is not going to ‘solve’ the crisis or answer everyone’s questions. Nor is this book some sort of defense against the terrible evil done by some priests and bishops,” he wrote.
The first of the church meetings was held Wednesday evening.
Officials at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church did not respond to messages seeking comments about the meetings.
Jennifer Schack, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, said, “I can’t speak to any parish initiative that St. Max is undertaking.”
The church has one of the largest congregations among all the Archdiocese’s churches located in 19-county area of Southwest and West Central Ohio.
Former Pastor Drew was indicted on Aug. 19 in Hamilton County on nine counts of raping a boy while Drew worked as a music director at a Hamilton County church three decades ago. Drew was pastor at St. Max from 2009-18.
Investigations into Drew’s past behavior — including being ordered into counseling by Archdiocese — came to light when drew was suspended by the Archdiocese in July 23.
The book, “Letter to a Suffering Church” by Bishop Robert Barron, directly addresses the issues currently facing the church, wrote Riehle.
Riehle said he’s “encouraging” parishioners read the book “because I believe it addresses important and difficult topics” and hopes it will spark a conversation.
He also hopes the book at the ensuing discussions will be “a small, first step towards the peace and healing and change that we all desire.”
“The idea for these gatherings is mostly to come together, to ask the tough questions, to talk through things together, to hear from others,” he said. “It will also be a much-needed time to pray together.”
The remaining “Discussion and Holy Hour for Healing” sessions include:
• 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3 (childcare available)
• 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8
• 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12
• 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13 (childcare available).
People who attend are asked to register online at the church’s website at: www.https://saint-max.org/.
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