Monday, June 10, 2002

Parishioners learn of allegations

By Jennifer Edwards,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        KETTERING — Parishioners at St. Albert the Great were not told before this weekend of Rev. Larry Strittmatter's past, said the Rev. James Manning, the parish pastor.

        Father Manning said on Sunday that Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk notified him “in confidence” when he became pastor of the Kettering parish 11 years ago — three years after Father Strittmatter had arrived there.

        But Father Manning said he could not remember whether the archbishop specifically told him not to tell parishioners.

        “I can't recall him saying, "Don't tell,'” Father Manning said as he sat on a bench outside the parish offices after Mass.

        Father Manning said he was told Father Strittmatter had been treated but was not to have contact with children.

        Father Strittmatter was placed in charge of worship matters such as organizing the service music and training lectors and ushers. He performed scores of Masses, weddings and baptisms and ministered to the sick.

        The parish never received any complaints about Father Strittmatter, who strictly adhered to the order that he not be alone with minors, Father Manning said.

        “He was meticulous,” Father Manning said. “He was so compliant. Being a military man, if he was given an order or mandate, he followed it to the letter.”

        He never worked with altar boys or girls, nor entered the church's school, St. Albert Grade School, which 600 students in grades K-8 attend, Father Manning noted.

        Father Strittmatter was known for his music selections for services and for his love of a rousing joke. His appreciation for a good joke was so great, parishioners compiled a book of jokes for him as a gift for his 40th anniversary as a priest.

        Father Manning also recalled Father Strittmatter's work last August, when the two raised $1 million to replace 35 stained glass windows in the church.

        Father Strittmatter, who served in the Navy 25 years as a chaplain, filled his parish office with Navy and war memorabilia, plaques and books.

        But his desktop was nearly bare Sunday, save a few items.

        Parishioners left plants, flowers, cards and letters for him at the church.

        Many parishioners were shocked, dismayed and tearful when they learned of the allegations.

        “They just kind of stayed in church and said, "Did we hear this right?'” Father Manning said. “They just sat in the pews. There was a lot of hugging.”

        He and Archbishop Pilarczyk spoke with parishioners as they left church, answering questions.

        Many parishioners Sunday spoke glowingly of Father Strittmatter, 69, stressing that the allegations should not overshadow the good work he did.

        “For at least 11 years, he said a lot of Masses, did a lot of weddings, had a lot of funerals and ministered to the sick and dying and it would be a shame if that all got lost because of the allegations,” said Tom Arquilla of Kettering.


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