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Families unsatisfied with bishop's remarks

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River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The families of Dan O'Connell and James Ellison were not satisfied with Bishop Raphael Fliss' statement or his answers at a parishwide meeting held at St. Patrick's Church on Sunday afternoon. They were also disappointed that Fr. Peter Szleszinski was not at the meeting.

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Janet O'Connell, Dan O'Connell's mother, said the bishop provided nothing new in his answers. "We are committed to seeing the church make changes and reforms that will ensure that pedophilia and what happened as a result of it never happen again," said O'Connell. "It is the only way to make something good come from this, and we will keep at this until that happens."

Tom O'Connell said he was disappointed with Fliss' remarks and that he got "no real answers" and likely wouldn't ever get them. He said he was sorry the questioning, which involved about 40 questions from the more than 500 submitted, was cut off. "I think he should have agreed to stay until midnight if that's how long it took, but it's a start."

Ellison's mother, Sally, had a similar reaction. "We support the five-point program for change that the O'Connells have put forth. We didn't hear any real answers today, but we are committed to getting them. I believe James' death had a purpose, that God wants something good to come from it, and that is what we will continue to work for."

Hudson attorney Sam Cari was one of 14 elders who have spent the last several months conducting listening sessions with parish members and who organized the Sunday meeting with parishioners and Fliss. He said the meeting went as well as could be expected, but believed Szleszinski's absence changed things and left lots of questions unanswered.

"Overall it has been a good process and has begun the healing process. Different people are at different places with it. As elders we've been spending more time discussing it. Others haven't had that opportunity. But hopefully there will be follow-up on the questions raised here tonight and those that didn't get asked or answered."

Cari said the diversity in the Hudson community is reflected in the diversity of the parish, which has sometimes led to division and hostility. Said Cari, "We have to learn how to listen and to respect each other's viewpoints."

Cari said current pastor Fr. John Parr is a critical part of the healing process at St. Patrick's, a sentiment that was echoed by almost everyone present at the meeting. When one question asked Fliss to guarantee that Parr would remain at the church, the audience rose to its feet and applauded for several minutes.

Parr responded by saying his parish has endured a terrible loss and that theirs is a faith he can touch and feel. "You are remarkable people of good will, generosity and faith. I am the fortunate one."

Meg Heaton can be reached at mheaton@rivertowns.net.

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