Liberty Twp. parish meeting postponed concerning suspended priest

Rev. Geoff Drew of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Liberty Twp. Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

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Rev. Geoff Drew of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Liberty Twp. Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

A meeting scheduled for Monday between officials of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and parishioners of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Liberty Twp. to discuss the situation concerning their former pastor, the Rev. Geoff Drew, was postponed late Friday due to new developments.

Drew, who served as St. Maximilian Kolbe's pastor for nine years, was transferred last year to serve as pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Green Twp. in Hamilton County. Archbishop Dennis Schnurr suspended Drew on July 23 after being accused "of behavior that violates the Archdiocese's child protection decree," according to our news partner WCPO.

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In the letter obtained by this news organization, the Rev. Jim Riehle, St. Maximilian Kolbe’s current pastor, said “As of this afternoon, further developments have come to light that make us unable to share with you the most complete and accurate account of this whole situation. Local authorities are conducting further investigations. We do not know what these investigations may reveal. When possible, the archdiocese will hold a forum on this matter at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish. We will also continue to share with you as much as we can and as accurately as we can.

“This terrible time continues to shake us all. I know you have so many questions. I know many of you are justifiably angry. I will do my best to answer your questions and to help you in any way I can,” Riehle said in his letter.

Officials from Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary School also issued a letter Friday to its family and friends. In the letter obtained by this news organization, Principal Aideen Briggs and Board President Michael McNamara, said during Drew’s tenure at at St. Maximilian Kolbe he celebrated Mass several times a year and participated in reconciliation services at the school. The letter also emphasized that Drew did not have a formal role at the school and was not a staff member.

School officials urged anyone to contact the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office with any knowledge or if they should learn of any criminal activity regarding Drew.

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Archdiocesan officials told St. Ignatius parishioners at a meeting last week that the allegations against Drew involved inappropriate texts exchanged with a male student at the school, according to WCPO.

WCPO reported that archdiocese officials at the meeting also said Drew had been under monitoring after "some concerns" surfaced during his time at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish, according to a St. Ignatius parishioner who attended the meeting. Officials did not share whether those concerns had been related to his relocation to St. Ignatius.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it had investigated Drew but only found his actions to be “inappropriate,” so no charges were filed, according to WCPO.

Kevin Vance, principal of St. Ignatius of Loyola School told parents last week that school officials were never told that Drew was supposed to be monitored and kept away from children, according to WCPO.

Schnurr said there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing against Drew, but the diocese is “committed to investigating fully any allegations, criminal or otherwise, that we receive,” according to the WCPO.

Schnurr announced Wednesday that Drew will not return to St. Ignatius. He also said that Drew will soon undergo a physical, psychological and spiritual assessment at an independent in-patient treatment facility, according to the archbishop's letter to the parish. The results of those assessments and recommendations will be considered in determining the next step in the investigation, according to WCPO.

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Drew is the second priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati who is under suspension. The Rev. Clarence Heis was placed on administrative leave pending investigation, according to WCPO. No other information was available on Heis' latest suspension.

Heis, who was assigned as archdiocesan director of health and hospital ministries, previously served at parishes in Coldwater, Mechanicsburg and North Lewisville.

After pleading no contest on a charge of public indecency and resisting arrest at a Dayton-area park in 2005, he was suspended from active ministry in 2006 for three years before being reinstated in 2009.

Administrative leave is the strongest action a diocesan bishop can take against a priest on his own, according to the archdiocesan website. Priests on administrative leave may not celebrate the sacraments publicly, engage in priestly ministry, or present themselves as priests in any way.


Text of postponement letter to parishioners of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church

Dear St. Max Parishioner,

Regretfully I must inform you that, due to circumstances beyond our control, Monday evening’s meeting about the situation regarding Fr. Geoff Drew must be postponed. The Archdiocese will not be holding the meeting on Monday.

As of this afternoon, further developments have come to light that make us unable to share with you the most complete and accurate account of this whole situation. Local authorities are conducting further investigations. We do not know what these investigations may reveal. When possible, the archdiocese will hold a forum on this matter at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish. We will also continue to share with you as much as we can and as accurately as we can.

This terrible time continues to shake us all. I know you have so many questions. I know many of you are justifiably angry. I will do my best to answer your questions and to help you in any way I can. The staff here at St. Max and at the archdiocese is working hard to do this as well.

Remember, if you know of, or learn of anything, suspicious or criminal regarding Father Drew, please report it to the local authorities and the archdiocese.

These are simple words, words that may not mean much to some, but at times like this I do not know what else to say. I am saddened. I am praying for you. I am praying for our children. I am confident that our Lord’s goodness and mercy will carry us through.

God bless,

Fr. Jim Riehle

Pastor, St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish

Letter sent to families and friends of Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary School

August 2, 2019

Dear Families and Friends,

We are sad to share that Fr. Geoff Drew, pastor of St. Ignatius, and former pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe, was placed on administrative leave for behavior that violated the Decree on Child Protection. He was the pastor at St. Maximilian Parish from 2009 – 2018, and during that time, he celebrated several masses each year, and participated in Reconciliation services at Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary School. Fr. Drew was not an MTCES staff or board member and had no formal role at the school.

Fr. Steve Angi, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, will hold a meeting at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church on Monday, August 5th at 7:00 p.m. to address the reasons for his leave of absence. The meeting will begin with prayer, and time will be provided to ask questions. We encourage you to attend.

If you know or learn of any criminal activity regarding Fr. Drew, please report it to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office at 513-887-3474.

Sadly,

Mrs. Aideen Briggs, Principal

Mr. Michael McNamara, Board President

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