Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In these closing weeks of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I take this occasion to express my pastoral greetings to you the parishioners of Saint Isabel Parish, with the prayer that Our Merciful Lord will richly bless you and your family.
Regrettably, it falls to me to share some difficult news. The Diocese of Venice has been informed that in investigation has been carried out by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office which issued a Criminal Investigation Report which was referred to the Florida State Attorney for prosecution. The focus of the investigation was Father Christopher Senk, who is alleged to have financially exploited an elderly parishioner who was identified as suffering from dementia. Father denies these allegations. For the good of all involved, as troubling as this Report is, it must be appropriately addressed.
The Diocese of Venice has placed Father Senk on paid administrative leave while continuing his health benefits. This will allow for the allegations to be reviewed and for a proper response by the Diocese. Due to the serious nature of this matter and following the recommendation of priest consultors, it is believed that this course of action is prudent and pastorally necessary. Be assured that all pastoral needs of the Parish will be cared for during this period.
The Office of the State Attorney decided not to prosecute at this time. However, if true, Father Senk’s actions require a pastoral response by the Diocese of Venice. It is necessary to ensure that those who serve the faithful do so with appropriate compassion and respect, particularly when they are caring for elderly or vulnerable parishioners.
In a difficult matter like this, the necessary deliberations will take some time. Therefore, I ask for the kind understanding of parishioners and greatly appreciate your prayers for Father Senk, the Parish and all involved as we move forward.
Allow me to express to the faithful Saint Isabel Parish my gratitude and ongoing consideration. Let us remain united in prayer.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Frank J. Dewane
Bishop of the Diocese of
Venice in Florida