An Ottawa pastor who was charged last week with sex offences against a teenage boy has received more than 100 emails of support from his followers, said a priest filling in for the accused man during Sunday morning mass.
Ottawa police charged Father Stephen Amesse, 56, on Thursday, with two counts each of sexual assault and sexual interference. They allege he sexually assaulted a then-14-year-old boy at a west end church in 2008.
Police said they had been investigating Amesse since they received the complaint in February.
The Archdiocese of Ottawa said he was suspended from the ministry immediately after the arrest.
On Sunday at St. Patrick’s church where Amesse is a pastor, the congregation was united in disbelief.
Father Geoffrey Kerslake told a packed St. Patrick’s church Amesse received 128 emails by Friday morning and all but one were “positive.”
Kerslake said he was “sad” to be there under the circumstances, but led parishioners through prayer.
“It’s tough for everyone. It’s tough for this young man, it’s tough for Father Steve, it’s tough for you,” Kerslake told the congregation. “Shock is probably the universal emotion.”
The court released Amesse Thursday afternoon on a $5,000 bond. Part of his release conditions prohibit him from contacting the complainant and his family and from being in a position of trust with anyone under the age of 16.
Amesse is due back in court in January.
Theresa, a parishioner who would not give her full name, said she has been going to St. Patrick’s church for 35 years and could not believe the news on Thursday.
“I was total shock, disbelief, sadness,” said Theresa, after attending Sunday mass. “He’s been so good for the community. He’s always been an active contributor to the church.”
According to her, Amesse had been helping with the recent restoration work being done on the church and he had a good rapport with parishioners.
“It’s just sad,” she said.