Summerlin church weeps over loss of pastor, theft case

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church members learned Sunday that their pastor — who admitted stealing $650,000 from the parish — will not be back.

The parishioners wept.

"I hope you can all understand why Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe can no longer be pastor," said a letter from Bishop Joseph Pepe to the congregation at Sunday Mass. Many had begged for their leader’s return amid the months-long federal investigation into fraud allegations they hoped were false.

The outpouring of emotion came not from feelings of betrayal, but for the suffering of their priest, they said.

"I feel hurt for him. That’s where my tears come from," said Gloria Devlin, who has attended the church since before its chapel was built in the early ’90s. "It’s not hurt or betrayal or anything for me. It’s for him. All these tears and anguish are for him. Something desperate had to have driven him to this. I’ll pray for him every day."

McAuliffe pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to three counts of mail fraud in connection to stealing from several parish funds, including the church mission, gift shop and votive candles, from 2002 to 2010. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. He also agreed to pay $650,000 in restitution. His sentencing hearing was set for Jan. 6.

BISHOP ASKS FOR PRAYER

Pepe’s letter, the first detailed explanation to worshippers since the FBI started investigating in late May, asked that they support and pray for the monsignor while relying on their faith to find forgiveness. The church will dedicate its holy hour to prayers for McAuliffe at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Pepe, who read the letter himself at morning Mass, straightforwardly outlined the pastor’s guilty plea and explained that new procedures would help prevent future financial theft in the church.

McAuliffe, 58, had been a pastor at the Summerlin church since 1997 and was second only to the bishop in the Las Vegas Diocese. The priest is credited with leading the parish of about 7,000 families to become one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in Nevada, building its school and heading charitable outreach programs and ministries.

Even with McAuliffe’s admitted wrongdoings, many reeled in disbelief Sunday. His name still topped the church bulletin as head pastor.

"This man’s life and soul was this church," said Patricia Ehrenberg, who has been an active member of the parish for nearly 20 years. "How can you look at everything we have here and believe he stole from the church? I just can’t believe it."

Others said that before McAuliffe pleaded guilty, they were convinced the allegations were a misunderstanding that would quickly be resolved.

"I’m believing it more now that we’ve heard a letter from Bishop Pepe, but it’s still hard to believe," Devlin said. "We still love him very much."

While Pepe’s letter conceded that parishioners likely felt "deeply hurt and even betrayed," members instead expressed sadness and worry for their beloved pastor.

"I feel very sorry for him," Ehrenberg said. "We need to pray for him."

CALLED A TEST OF FAITH

The members said they would be strong in their belief in God as they move forward. The standing-room-only crowd at Sunday’s noon Mass seemed to be a testament to that faith.

Interim Pastor James Jankowski, who read the letter on Pepe’s behalf at the after­noon services, said the congregation had "remarkable resilience."

"Your faith has been stellar," Jankow­ski said, noting that reading the letter was the hardest thing he has had to do. "I sincerely apologize for what Monsignor Kevin has done. It tarnishes the church. It tarnishes the priesthood. It can weaken our faith."

He said he hoped the incident served as a reminder that members could only put their full trust in God.

"I think we all have to remember regard­less of who we are or what we do, there is evil in the world. He may be a priest, but he’s human," said Mary Elizabeth Low, who has attended the parish for 10 years. "I think we’re a very large community and we’ll stand together. It’s not the priest, but the people that make the church. And who are we to judge?"

She said while she thinks the situation could be a large test of faith for some, she is hopeful the church will move forward.

The Las Vegas Diocese has already worked past a previous incident when the Rev. William Kenny was reinstated as pastor of Christ the King Catholic Community. He had been relieved of his duties in 2007 when it came to light that a sealed lawsuit centered on allegations that Kenny spent more than $300,000 of a parishioner’s money.

PARISHIONERS WANT TO KNOW WHY

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said in an email last week that he couldn’t discuss what McAuliffe did with the money, or if he even knew the answer to that question.

"I would feel a sense of betrayal if we get the truth that it was taken for bad or personal gain, but I just know that’s not it," said Aldo Aguirre, a parishioner of more than a decade. "I do want the plain truth, though. If we ever find out, there will be a sense of closure on this very sad chapter for all of us parishioners at St. Elizabeth’s."

Some parishioners worried that McAuliffe’s thin frame pointed to a medical condition for which he used the money. Others questioned whether he took funds to help someone else in need. They said the priest drove an old beat-up Cadillac and donned worn-out boots, shrugging off the possibility he stole for personal gain. They felt the vast amount of time he spent at the church ruled out lavish vacations or a gambling addiction.

While parishioners were firm in their belief the money wasn’t used for evil, it’s a question they want answered: Where did it all go?

"There’s an incredible sense of sadness and loss for not having our great leader here," Aguirre said, wiping away tears before they could fall to his cheeks. "Forgiveness is what we do. We’ll forgive him, but the question is still there: Why?"

Contact reporter Jessica Fryman at jfryman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0264.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Man killed during road-rage incident
Las Vegas police are looking for two men involved in the shooting death of a man outside a 7-Eleven story at Bonanza Road and Maryland Parkway on Nov. 12, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local
North Las Vegas Water Meters
Randy DeVaul shows off the new water meters that the city is installing.
Project 150 Thanksgiving 2018
About 100 volunteers for Project 150 box Thanksgiving meals for high school students and their families in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Three Square’s Maurice Johnson Talks About Food Waste
Three Square’s director of operations Maurice Johnson talks about food waste.
Parade preparation nears completion
Downtown Summerlin prepares for its annual holiday parade.
Clark County Wetlands promotes 2019 Wetland Walker Program
This year the park will be celebrating the Northern Flicker. The program is designed to teach about that bird, and encourage people to visit the Wetlands and walk the same distance the bird migrates each year.
Poet’s Walk Henderson introduces storytelling
Residents enjoy a storytelling activity.
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County educators debate alternative grading systems
Spring Valley High School principal Tam Larnerd, Spring Valley High School IB coordinator Tony Gebbia and retired high school teacher Joyce O'Day discuss alternative grading systems. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Grandparents on the fire that killed three family members
Charles and Doris Smith talk about the night an apartment fire took the lives of three of their family members. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like