“Priest charged after allegedly raping man” & related articles

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 Up North Live

21 February 2017

Sylvestre Obwaka was charged Tuesday with first degree criminal sexual misconduct using force causing personal injury and third degree sexual misconduct using force.

ROGERS CITY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU)– A Roman Catholic priest accused of sexual misconduct has been charged.

Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka was charged Tuesday with first degree criminal sexual misconduct using force causing personal injury and third degree sexual misconduct using force. If convicted, Obwaka faces up to life in prison. The incident allegedly happened Feb. 1 while a 28-year-old man was staying at Obwaka’s house in Rogers City.

According to the Michigan State Police, the 28-year-old man alleges that Obwaka sexually assaulted him while he was sleeping.

Members of St. Ignatius Parish were in court to support Obwaka and said they are shocked to hear the allegations against their pastor.

“I can’t believe it,” said Dawn McMahon, a member of the church. “We go to his bible study, and I mean this is not the man we know. There is no way, and I’m an ex-school teacher so I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly and there is now way I believe the allegations.”

“We are shocked and deeply saddened by this situation,” stated Candace Neff, diocesan Director of Communications in a news release. “There is a great deal of hurt and confusion right now. We are focused on providing pastoral support to all those affected and are working closely with St. Ignatius parishioners as they continue their ministries both within their parish and in the wider community,” she said.

“I am heartbroken over the events that have unfolded in recent days,” Bishop Raica said in a news release. “Our faith calls us to ensure the dignity of each human person is upheld in every circumstance. We must respond with compassion when anyone is harmed. We must also remember that in our system of justice, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” he noted. “It is very early in this process and while the matter is in the civil courts we will need to wait patiently for the outcome.”

“These are difficult days,” Bishop Raica concluded. “In these moments, we must turn to Christ who always walks with us and accompanies us in our pain. I ask for your prayers for all those affected by this situation.”

Radio station WHSB says Bishop Steven Raica discussed the matter Sunday night with members of St. Ignatius Church in Rogers City.

Obwaka, a native of Kenya, has been pastor at St. Ignatius since July 2013. He’s been a priest since 2010.

Obwaka is currently held behind bars without a bond pending further court proceedings.

Obwaka is scheduled to be back in court for a pretrial Feb. 28.

Read the full statement from the Diocese of Gaylord below:

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Diocese of Gaylord  Michigan website

Statement Regarding Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka

02/21/2017

This morning Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka, former Pastor of St. Ignatius Parish in Rogers City, Michigan, was arraigned on charges of criminal sexual conduct.  This matter does not involve a minor, but is an issue between two individual adults and not against the Diocese of Gaylord. Local civil authorities are conducting the investigation and the diocese has pledged its full cooperation.

Following Rev. Obwaka’s arrest on Saturday, Bishop Steven J. Raica placed him on an administrative leave pending resolution of the case. During this time, Rev. Obwaka is also prohibited from exercising any public ministry.

Rev. Obwaka, 44, is a native of Kenya and is a permanent legal resident of the United States.  He was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Gaylord in 2004 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2010. Following his ordination he was assigned as Parochial Vicar to the Catholic Community of Manistee (now known as Divine Mercy parish), and in 2013 was appointed Pastor of St. Ignatius Parish in Rogers City.

“We are shocked and deeply saddened by this situation,” stated Candace Neff, diocesan Director of Communications. “There is a great deal of hurt and confusion right now. We are focused on providing pastoral support to all those affected and are working closely with St. Ignatius parishioners as they continue their ministries both within their parish and in the wider community,” she said.

To that end, Bishop Raica and a team from the Diocese of Gaylord met with parish leadership and parishioners on Sunday to pray with them, share information and to listen to concerns in order to begin to chart a path forward. At that time the bishop announced he had appointed Rev. Joseph Muszkiewicz, who also serves as Pastor to All Saints Parish in Alpena and Vicar for the region, as temporary administrator for St. Ignatius parish. Rev. Muszkiewicz, in collaboration with parish staff and leadership, will oversee the day-to-day operations of the parish for the immediate future.

“I am heartbroken over the events that have unfolded in recent days,” Bishop Raica said. “Our faith calls us to ensure the dignity of each human person is upheld in every circumstance. We must respond with compassion when anyone is harmed. We must also remember that in our system of justice, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” he noted. “It is very early in this process and while the matter is in the civil courts we will need to wait patiently for the outcome.”

“These are difficult days,” Bishop Raica concluded. “In these moments, we must turn to Christ who always walks with us and accompanies us in our pain. I ask for your prayers for all those affected by this situation.”

In order to maintain the integrity of the investigation and to protect the rights of everyone involved, neither the Diocese of Gaylord nor leadership of St. Ignatius Parish will be making any further comments regarding this case at this time.

The Diocese of Gaylord has policies in place to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct and encourages anyone who has been a victim of abuse by clergy or church leader, recently or even if it is in the distance past, to report the matter to civil authorities or to the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator Larry LaCross at 989.705.9010.

The Diocese of Gaylord encompasses the 21 most northern counties of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Within its territory are 75 parishes and 18 Catholic schools.

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Rogers City Priest Formally Charged for Sex Crimes, Parishioners React

9&10 News  Northern Michigan

Posted: Feb 21, 2017 6:00 PM EST Updated: Feb 21, 2017 6:33 PM EST

“This is nothing that ever would have thought because he never gave any indication of this at all,” St. Ignatius Church parishioner Dawn McMahon said.

Parishioners at a Presque Isle County church in shock Tuesday after learning their priest was arrested for sex crimes.

Tuesday the church leader was formally charged.

Troopers say the victim is a man.

Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka was the priest at St. Ignatius Church in Rogers City.

He was arraigned on first and third degree sex crimes.

The Diocese of Gaylord suspended him while the case works its way through court.

9 & 10’s Blayke Roznowski and photojournalist Noah Jurik have more details on the case along with reaction from members of the church.

Tuesday in a Rogers City courtroom Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka from St. Ignatius Church was charged with two different sex crimes.

Members of the church found out about it on Sunday, but they say they’re still stunned.

“Last Friday our troopers received a complaint from a resident of Rogers City basically alleging that he had been sexually assaulted,” Michigan State Police Sgt. Joe Richards said. “He informed the troopers that that suspect was a priest at the catholic church in Rogers City.”

“Still can’t believe, cannot,” Dawn said. “We go to his bible study and this is not the man we know.” “There is no way I believe the allegations.”

Investigators say the victim came forward Friday.

The man says he stayed at Obwaka’s home on Feb.1.

He accused the priest of sexually assaulting him in his sleep.

Dawn and Tom McMahon are Parishioners.

They say the entire parish is stunned over the accusations.

“He’s the best priest I’ve ever known,” Dawn said. “He was nothing but kindness and acceptance.”

Obwaka is a native of Kenya, but a permanent legal resident of the United States.

He is being held without bond because the Presque Isle County prosecutor believes he is a flight risk.

The McMahons say the whole church is standing behind him.

“I hope everybody stays in prayer and for not only Father, but anybody that was hurt in this situation and hope for the best outcome for everybody,” Tom said. “That’s the most important thing is a good and fair and truthful outcome.”

Obwaka is scheduled to be back in court next week.

 

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Northern Michigan Priest charged after allegedly Raping a Man

MI News   Michigna News

ROGERS CITY, MI – Roman Catholic Priest Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka, 44-years-old, is accused of sexual misconduct after he allegedly raped a man.

Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka was charged on Tuesday, February 21st, 2017, with first degree criminal sexual misconduct using force causing personal injury and third degree sexual misconduct using force

The incident allegedly occurred on February 1st, 2017, while a 28-year-old man was staying at Obwaka’s house in Rogers City.

According to the Michigan State Police, the 28-year-old man alleges that Obwaka sexually assaulted him while he was sleeping.

The victim was interviewed where Troopers documented the allegations. They later obtained a search warrant on February 18th and collected possible evidence from Obwaka’s residence that same day. Obwaka was then arrested and lodged in Presque Isle County Jail where he is being held without bond.

Obwaka who is from Kenya, was ordained as a priest in 2010, and has been pastor at St. Ignatius Church in Rogers City since July of 2013.

Bishop Steven J. Raica placed Obwaka on administrative leave pending the outcome of the case. Raica saying, “I am heartbroken over the events that have unfolded in recent days. We must also remember that in our system of justice, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Reverend Joseph Muszkiewicz, who serves as Pastor to All Saints Parish in Alpena and Vicar for the region, has been assigned as temporary administrator for the St. Ignatius parish.

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Northern Michigan priest charged with sexual assault

Fox 17

ROGERS CITY, Mich. (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest in northern Michigan has been charged with sexually assaulting a man.

The Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka appeared in court Tuesday in Presque Isle County and was returned to jail without bond. He’s charged with first-degree and third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Obwaka is pastor of St. Ignatius Church in Rogers City, 60 miles southeast of the Mackinac Bridge. Catholic Bishop Steven Raica told church members Sunday that Obwaka denies the allegations.

Obwaka, a native of Kenya, has been pastor at St. Ignatius since July 2013. He’s been a priest since 2010.

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LSUS Shrevport (Louisiana State University)

Liberal ArtcsGraduates

Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka

Quick Facts

Name: Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka

Graduation Year: 2004

Degree:

MS in Human Services Administration + Grant Writing (now the MS in Nonprofit Administration)

What I do now: Pastor of St. Ignatius Parish and School in the Catholic Diocese of Gaylord in Michigan. I go by my first name because I’ve found it is easier for people to call me Fr. Sylvestre rather than Fr. Obwaka!

My work/job consists of: The day-to-day running of the Parish, administering Sacraments, School Counselor and Educator in matters of faith, serving on various church committees, assisting in community projects and fundraisers.

Path to my current career position (how I got from the past to the present): I grew up in Kenya. I obtained my BA in Philosophy from St. Augustine Major Seminary in Kenya, which is an affiliate of Urbaniana University in Rome. I came to the USA as a religious brother with a hope of studying to become a priest one day. But, I also wanted to pursue further studies in administrating a nonprofit organization (NPO).

How I got to LSUS (or why I chose LSUS): I wanted a school that would fulfil my dreams of running a nonprofit. Since I was residing in Shreveport at the time, the moment became opportune at LSUS.

Fond memories of LSUS: The day I met Chancellor Vincent Marsala in his office and introduced myself; when, as a graduate assistant, we applied for grants for the City of Shreveport to upgrade the Allendale neighborhoods, and wrote a grant on behalf of Shreveport Symphony Orchestra.

LSUS faculty who helped me: Dr. Norman Dolch, former Executive Director of the LSUS Institute for Human Services & Public Policy

How LSUS helped me succeed: The knowledge gained in the classes I took on how to run NPOs gave me insight into running a Catholic Parish.

Advice to college-bound students: “Focus”! This is what kept me going even after losing my dad in the final year of my studies. I stayed focused on the big dream.

Advice to someone who wants to enter my field: You must have a goal in life before choosing your field of study.

Tips on choosing a major or career: Choose what motivates you and you will excel in it! Pick a major that corresponds with your dream and career field.

My toughest professional challenge: In the day-to-day running of a parish, you meet people who are suffering so much. You wish to uplift their living standards, but are limited with resources to assist. Yet, one thing I always give them is hope.

My toughest personal challenge: A priest spends much of his time attending to the needs of other people. It is easy to forget oneself and be fully swallowed into the lives of other people; there is a need for self-discipline and a life of prayer.

Successes (honors, awards, etc.) in my life: After graduating from LSUS, I joined Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin and graduated with a Master of Divinity in 2009.

I’ve learned this from life: No matter what one goes through, if you pray and work hard, you will always achieve your goals. 

What I’d be doing if I had all the time in the world: Serving the people more and making an impact in the lives of others through service.

6 Responses to “Priest charged after allegedly raping man” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    Guilty or not remains to be seen, but thank goodness for a prosecutor who had the common sense to realize that Father Sylvestre Obwaka could be a flight risk and is keeping him in jail .

    Notice that I tacked on an “article” from Louisiana State University – sort of an explanation of how Obwaka worked his way across the sea from his native Kenya and eventually landed as a priest in the Diocese of Gaylord in Norther Michigan.

    • JoeB says:

      Every time I read a story like this it amazes me how the accused has supporters that fully believe in their innocence….. but that is how most sexual abusers operate (not just clergy). Be a good person on the outside, only reveal your true self to your intended victim, this way you have people on your side professing your innocence.

  2. Alfred Onyango Otieno says:

    As a young boy I was with rev fr sylvester obwaka in minor seminary back in Kenya 1993 and fr was one of the kindest people I have ever met, my prayers for him, the parish he was serving and the alleged victim

  3. John Franklin says:

    One would think that if they took his passport(s) he could be released on bond with restrictions?

  4. Aty Aloo says:

    I grew up with this guy and I am not at all shocked at all this. He has different faces and the only relief is that he was apprehended in America. I pray for justice and for every person he has hurt may God give you healing.

    • Ruth Farrell says:

      To Aty Aloo,

      Unfortunately Obwaka was found not guilty July 20, 2017, in Michigan court. It is horrific. A second rape victim (from 2003 in Kenya) wanted to testify by video against Obwaka. Judge wouldn’t allow video testimony and jurors weren’t informed of 2nd victim. If you have ANY information on Obwaka and his horrific crimes, PLEASE reply to me or contact prosecuting attorney of Presque Isle County in Michigan with information. Did he have victims who were minors in addition to adult victims? Your help is needed in stopping his atrocities and destroying lives. He is not only a parish priest at St Ignatius, butais also over it’s school. Please help protect the children and any other possible victims from further abuse. All information you provide is greatly appreciated and could help save lives.

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