Fr. Stephen Jeselnick – Diocese of Erie

| Jan 28, 2019 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Father Stephen Jeselnick

Diocese of Erie

Ordained: 1977

Appointed Military Chaplain: 1983

Leave of Absence: 1985

Petition for incardination into Diocese of Colorado Springs denied: 1985

Assignment in Archdiocese of the Military: 1987-2010

Retired: 2010

Faculties Revoked: 2014

Assigned as follows:

  • 1976: Our Lady of the Americas (Conneaut, PA)
  • 1977: Venango Christian High School and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Oil City, PA)
  • 1978: St. Brigid and Campus Minister, Allegheny College
  • 1980: St. Michael (Greenville, PA)
  • 1980: Defender of the Bond/Advocate for the Tribunal
  • 1982: St. Mary’s (Littleton, CO)
  • 1982: Shrine of St. Anne (Arvada, CO)
  • 1986: Residence at Ecclesia Center (Erie, PA)
  • 1986: St. Catherine (DuBois, PA)
  • 1986: Chaplain, DuBois Medical Center (DuBois, PA)
  • 1986: St. Dominic (Sigel, PA) and Corsica, PA
  • 1987: Archdiocese of the Military
  • 1997: Veterans Administration Hospital (Baltimore, MD)

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Fr. Stephen Jeselnick:

Fr. Stephen Jeselnick was ordained a priest in 1977, who served in multiple parishes in the Diocese of Erie. According to media reports, in 2018, he was named publicly as accused in the PA Grand Jury report. The report revealed the Diocese of Erie’s internal files make no reference to any allegations that Fr. Stephen Jeselnick sexually abused minor children.  However, they do reference sexual misconduct with two people over the age of 18. Neither allegation was reported to law enforcement due to the age of the victims.

Instead, the grand jury heard live  testimony from three family members – all brothers – who said they were sexually abused as children in their own home.  Each described fondling, oral copulation, and anal sex. The abuse occurred in the 1970s while Jeselnick was assigned to St. Brigid in Meadville.

According to the victims, Jeselnick befriended the victims’ family and often drank with the parents.  Once the parents fell asleep from intoxication, Jeselnick would sneak into the boys’ bedrooms and abuse them. Their mother worked at St. Bridgid and the boys sometimes went to work with her, which is how they became close to Jeselnick. The abuse took place in both the victim’s home as well as church grounds. The boys’ sister testified to her own abuse by John “Jack” Tome, who was then a seminarian/deacon at their parish, and said that Jeselnick and Tome often came by the house to drink with her parents.

Having said that the Diocese of Erie files contain no allegations of sexually abusing children, there are definite “red flags” that Jeselnick may have had a problematic career.  For example, his leave of absence for unstated reasons, his temporary ministry in another diocese, and his request to join the Archdiocese of Military as a chaplain are all common elements found in the assignment histories of many accused priests.  Of course, we cannot say with certainty that any of these events were for nefarious reasons without first seeing Jeselnick’s personnel files, which have never been made public. They would, however, be requested in any lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Erie.

In 2014, newly-appointed Bishop Persico received a letter from Jeselnick requesting a letter of suitability to remain in ministry. After reviewing Jeselnick’s file, which did not contain any allegations of abusing children, Persico denied this request.  The grand jury report notes that Persico also conducted an internet search of some type, the results of which did affect Persico’s decision, but exactly what he found online – or in Jeselnick’s files – that made Persico so certain that Jeselnick was unsuitable for ministry is unclear.  Instead of granting the request, Persico informed Jeselnick that his faculties were permanently revoked.

Jeselnick is 68-years-old and is believed to be residing in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  He remains a priest with no faculties to minister publicly. He denies the allegations made by the three brothers during the grand jury investigation, as well as those made by their sister that he was a guest in their home with Deacon Tome.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Erie. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Erie may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so please do not delay in reaching out to us.

Contact us at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today.