Diocese Of Wichita Priest Assignments 2015

A priest charged Tuesday with stealing nearly $151,000 from the Catholic Diocese of Wichita and two small southeast Kansas churches to finance his gambling habit told the diocese last year that he had misused parish funds.

The Rev. Thomas H. Leland, 48, is accused of one federal count of bank fraud for taking unauthorized reimbursements, salary advances and overpayments and too much money for conducting church services between 2012 and 2014 while he was the parish priest at St. Francis in St. Paul and at St. Ambrose in Erie, according to a charging document filed in U.S. District Court.

Diocesan spokeswoman Amy Pavlacka, in an e-mailed response to questions, said Leland “self-reported” misusing the money in March 2014.

She said he was “immediately removed” from his position and sent to a six-month residential treatment program, which he completed.

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Leland “has not, nor will he, return to ministry,” Pavlacka said in the e-mail.

Leland was assigned to St. Francis Parish and St. Ambrose Parish in 2010. Both are in Neosho County in southeast Kansas.

According to the federal charging document, Leland was the only priest for the churches at the time and had the sole signature authority on the parishes’ checking accounts.

He is accused of:

▪ Taking overpayments of stipends for conducting Mass, totaling $2,063.

▪ Taking advances and overpayments of $138,200 on his salary.

▪ Taking unauthorized reimbursements of personal expenses worth $10,656.

Jim Cross, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, wouldn’t say whether Leland gambled online or in person at a casino or other establishment.

The estimated loss to the diocese is $150,919.

Leland is scheduled for an initial appearance and arraignment at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 23 before Magistrate Judge Gwynne Birzer in Wichita.

Pavlacka, in an e-mail, described Leland as a “very caring priest” who was “very loved by those in the parishes he served.”

The diocese on Wednesday said it had no contact information for Leland. He had no defense attorney listed in court records.

The diocese, in response to questions about the criminal charge, issued a statement saying the allegations against Leland “reflect a difficult time for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. Our priorities throughout have been to assist and secure the financial well-being of St. Francis and St. Ambrose Catholic parishes, which we have done, and to help Fr. Leland navigate this difficult time with justice and mercy.

“Both Catholic parishes have turned the page and are thriving under the leadership of their new pastor, Father David Michael Htun.”

Pavlacka said Bishop Carl Kemme, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, spoke with both parishes in December “to communicate what he could at that time.”

Leland has served as an associate pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas in Wichita and as pastor at St. Paul in Lyons, Holy Name in Bushton, Holy Trinity in Little River, at St. Anne in Wichita, at St. Francis in St. Paul and at St. Ambrose in Erie, Pavlacka said.

He also served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army for three years, she said.

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, the Vatican announced Pope Francis' appointment of Fr. Shawn McKnight as the next bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and Msgr. Mark Spalding as the new leader of the Diocese of Nashville.

In a Nov. 21 statement coinciding with the Vatican announcement, Fr. Michael Johnston, who until now has served as Apostolic Administrator for the Nashville diocese, voiced his gratitude to both Pope Francis for the appointment, and to Msgr. Spalding himself for his “generosity” in accepting the role.

Johnston described Spalding as “a man filled with enthusiasm and excitement” for his new responsibilities, and someone who has “a strong work ethic, a deep love for the Lord and his people, and a great desire to lead and serve.”

“He has already expressed such a keen interest in learning about the Diocese of Nashville, in listening to our needs and our hopes and dreams, and then discerning the direction the Holy Spirit wishes to take us,” Johnston said. “With God’s gift to him of this spirit of service and willingness to lead us, we are truly blessed.”

Spalding, 52, who until now has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General and pastor of Holy Trinity parish and Holy Name parish, was born Jan. 13, 1965, in Lebanon, Ky.

After graduating from Bethlehem High School Bardstown, he entered St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and was ordained a priest Aug. 3, 1991, in the St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral of Bardstown.

Before his ordination, he studied from 1987-1991 at the American University in Louvain, Belgium, where he obtained a master's degree in religious studies and a licentiate in canon law.  

Since then, he has served at a number of parish assignments, including associate pastor at St. Joseph and chaplain at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, associate pastor at St. Augustine in Lebanon, Ky., associate pastor at St. Margaret Mary in Louisville and pastor of Immaculate Conception in LaGrange.

Since 2011 he has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General. His ordination and installation as Bishop of Nashville will take place Feb. 2, 2018, at Sagrado Corazon in the Catholic Pastoral Center on McGavock Pike.

In his comments on Msgr. Spalding's appointment, Johnston said Louisville would be losing a “fine priest,” but offered his assurance that the bishop-elect would be “loved and cared for” as he begins his new role.

Fr. McKnight, who was born in Wichita, Kan. In 1968, got a degree in biochemistry from the University of Dallas before entering seminary in 1990.

He carried out his seminary studies at the Pontifical “Josephinum” College in Columbus, Ohio, and was ordained a priest May 28, 1994, for the Diocese of Wichita.

The bishop-elect then obtained a licentiate and doctorate degree in sacramental theology from the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome and published several articles on relevant pastoral and sacramental themes, finishing his studies in 2001.

After his ordination, he served the diocese in various pastoral, teaching and diocesan roles, the most recent being pastor of the Church of the Magdalen Parish in Wichita.

From 2000-2005, McKnight served as Director of diocesan Divine Worship and was a diocesan consultant and a member of the Presbyteral Council. From 2005-2010 he was a faculty member at Saint Meinrad Seminary working in the formation of permanent deacons.

After, from 2010-2015, the bishop-elect served as Executive Director of the USCCB's Office for Clergy and Consecrated Life. In 2015, he was assigned to the Church of the Magdalen parish, where he has served until now.

Tags:Catholic News, Pope Francis, Bishop Appointments

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