Father Stephen Jeselnick
Diocese of Baltimore/Erie
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
Faculties Revoked: 2014
- 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 and worked in multiple parishes in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Diocese of Erie. According to Bishop Accountability, in 2018, he was named publicly as accused in the PA Grand Jury report. The report revealed that the Diocese of Erie’s internal files do not reference 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 homes by Jeselnick. 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’ families 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 occurred in both the victim’s home and 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 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 and those made by their sister that he was a guest in their home with Deacon Tome.
Fr. Jeselnick was listed on the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Credibly Accused of Sexual Abuse of Minors list. In April 2023, Maryland’s Attorney General released a report alleging 156 Catholic clergy members sexually abused at least 600 children over six decades. The report lists the names of the abusers, including Father Jeselnick.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Archdiocese of Baltimore in Maryland. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Maryland, contact our office today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help. Contact us at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today.