REESE — A Reese priest resigned in February, two months after accusing a parishioner of wrestling him for Communion trays at the altar during Mass, and alleging the church member repeatedly charged at him following the ceremony, yelling and screaming threats.
The Rev. David J. Jenuwine petitioned for a personal protection order against Louis Pierce three days after what the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw calls “a disagreement” on Dec. 27, 2015 at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church. Jenuwine, 53, states in Saginaw County Circuit Court documents that he feels “threatened” by Pierce, 64, of Reese.
Jenuwine, a Saginaw County resident, alleges in the petition that during the Dec. 27 Mass, Pierce “tried to cause a scene at the altar, wrestling me for Communion trays” in the church at 12835 E. Washington Rd. (M-81) in Saginaw County’s Blumfield Township.
After Mass, Pierce “came into my changing room, shut the door and began to shout and yell at me,” Jenuwine claims.
“He made verbal threats and physically charged at me four times,” Jenuwine stated. “I asked him to leave. I told him he needed help. He refused to leave until I said I was calling the police. He ran out banging into other parishioners.”
Jenuwine, then the pastoral administrator of St. Elizabeth, maintains in court documents that Pierce once worked for him and the parish, but that Pierce was “volatile” as a worker.
“As an employee, (Pierce) would lose his temper and shout, slamming doors and equipment,” Jenuwine wrote. Jenuwine said Pierce “was asked to seek treatment or be terminated” and that Pierce resigned in May of 2015, after which Pierce “stayed away from church for a few months.”
As a result of the Dec. 27 incident, the priest accused Pierce of “getting physical.”
Pierce declined comment about the allegations when contacted by an Advertiser reporter at his home this week.
In a Feb. 19 letter to St. Elizabeth of Hungary parishioners, announcing Jenuwine’s resignation, Bishop Joseph R. Cistone referred to a Dec. 27 “disagreement … involving Father Jenuwine and a parishioner.”
“The occurrence itself was most unfortunate,” Cistone wrote. “Regrettably, the subsequent actions and reactions on the part of a number of individuals, however well-intended, seemed to make the situation even more difficult to address.”
Cistone stated the diocese “made every effort to review the matter in a fair, pastoral and charitable manner.” The bishop then added he accepted Jenuwine’s resignation, “knowing that he offered it in a spirit of love and concern for the parish and parishioners.”
Cistone wrote he didn’t reassign Jenuwine to another position or parish. “I hope that this transition will afford him an opportunity to be physically and spiritually nourished,” the bishop wrote.
Erin Looby Carlson, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, said this week that “A suitable assignment will be forthcoming” for Jenuwine.
The Advertiser couldn’t reach Jenuwine by telephone for comment on Friday.
Saginaw County Circuit Judge Patrick J. McGraw issued the personal protection order Jan. 4 against Pierce. The order prohibits Pierce from following Jenuwine, appearing at Jenuwine’s residence or workplace, approaching Jenuwine in a public place or on private property, contacting Jenuwine by telephone, sending mail or other communications to the priest, or purchasing or possessing a firearm.
The order remains in effect until Jan. 4, 2017. If found guilty of violating the order, Pierce would face a maximum sentence of 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer at The Advertiser and can be reached at email@example.com