A Roman Catholic priest in charge of two local parishes has been placed on leave after a church review board determined an allegation of sexual misconduct involving a minor was substantive, the Archdiocese of Detroit announced Sunday.
The Rev. James Wysocki, 62, announced during a Sunday Mass at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Marine City he had been relieved of his duties. He didn’t elaborate, parishioners said.
Wysocki had been pastor of the church on South Water Street since 1992 and had served as administrator at St. Mark Catholic Church on Harsens Island since 1997. Ordained in 1967, he later was appointed pastor at St. Mary Queen of Creation Catholic Church in New Baltimore.
The priest also is “restricted from any public ministry,” the archdiocese said in a statement. He was placed on leave effective Saturday, but the archdiocese didn’t make the announcement until Sunday.
Church officials said the allegation was brought to their attention several years ago, but the archdiocese initially didn’t have enough information to proceed with action. Details of the accusation haven’t been made public.
“In the spring of 2002, the information involving Fr. Wysocki was shared with civil authorities, who chose, because of the passage of time, not to investigate the allegation further,” the archdiocese statement said. “Subsequently, the Archdiocesan Review Board commissioned an investigation.”
In April, the church officials agreed to provide prosecutors in the six-county archdiocese with reports of alleged sexual abuse or sexual misconduct dating back 15 years. Officials weren’t able to seek charges in many cases because of statute of limitations issues.
Reaction from some of Wysocki’s parishioners Sunday included support and surprise.
“Father received a standing ovation this morning,” said Martha Kessel, a Marine City resident and member of Holy Cross for 59 years. “Father has a very sound support group.”
Tony Pizzo, 71, of China Township said he was “shocked and saddened” at learning of Wysocki’s removal.
“We had no idea that anything like this was coming,” Pizzo said.
The Rev. George Browne has been appointed temporary administrator of the Holy Cross and St. Mark parishes. He will be assisted on Harsens Island by the Rev. Sigismund Kowalczyk.
Wysocki is one of at least 32 Catholic priests in Michigan who have been removed, suspended or have left their duties since Jan. 1, 2002, amid allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct.
The Rev. Anthony J. “Tony” Conti resigned from All Saints Catholic Church in Memphis on May 5, after allegations of sexual misconduct.
Wysocki, who the archdiocese said has been cooperative, did not return a phone message left Sunday.