It is hard to put into words what has happened at St. Isabel Church over the last week.
Firstly, on Thursday, December 6, Fr. Christopher arrived on Church property, after being given permission by the diocese to remove his belongings which have been held hostage for more than three years. His arrival, late in the day on account of an unexpected delay on the part of the moving company who had been contracted, found him not arriving until after mid-afternoon. At that time, Fr. Christopher tried to remove most of his artwork that hung in the rectory, and while they were not allowed in the rectory, parishioners were allowed to park their vans in the parking lot as Fr. Christopher carried out all the individual pieces which had been placed in his former bedroom. They were able to take the artwork to his new home.
When the hired mover arrived after three o’clock Thursday afternoon (they were supposed to be there at 11:30), he was given a tour of what needed to be done, and a guard hired by St. Isabel staff informed him that if “things were not removed by the (then) 5:00 o’clock deadline,” they would then become the property of the Church. The owner of the company, who drove a trailer onto the property, said I normally leave the trailer here, but the tension here is so high that “I think there is the possibility that they could lock me out, and I would not have access to my things.” He agreed to show up, nevertheless, on Friday at 11:30, knowing that would not allow enough time to pack and remove everything.
The following day, Fr. Christopher, knowing the prediction was they would never finish in time on Friday, hired a second company on Friday morning, who were able to show up roughly by 10:30, and with two teams and two trucks, started the arduous job of packing up nearly fifteen years of “things” that Fr. Christopher was desirous of moving. The four movers began to pack shortly after the introduction to the job, and were making great progress. Around the noon hour Shirley Bohnert showed up to give support and maybe some help to Fr. Christopher, but was told by one of the two hired guards that she had to leave the property. In response to the guard she said, that man (Fr. Christopher) is sick, and he looks “exhausted and is limping; he needs some help.” She was assured that was not allowed.
Fr. Christopher, acknowledging her wave, walked out to her car which was leaving the property. She rolled down her passenger window, Fr. Christopher said hello, and they spoke of how ridiculous the present circumstances were. At that time, the two hired guards, one with a bullet-proof vest on, approached the car and said Shirley had to leave. Fr. Christopher assured the guard she was leaving. The guard then screamed “she has to leave immediately.” At which point, Fr. Christopher said, “she will leave after we are finished speaking.” At that point, for the first time, the guard shouted that “I am calling the police.”
Indeed, they did call the police, three patrol cars, in spite of Shirley Bohnert leaving immediately, knowing that her presence was going to hurt Fr. Christopher. Regardless, the police showed up and told Fr. Christopher that he had to leave. He politely protested to the officer assigned to speak to him, an officer who was well aware of all that had happened over the past three years. The officer told Fr. Christopher, who had barely started the moving process, that he had to leave the property. Fr. Christopher politely protested and asked to speak to the detective in private, something the guard was reluctant to allow. Fr. Christopher literally had a breakdown, and tearfully begged the officer not to do this. He temporarily relented, and said he would see what he could do, and said, “It will surely be with restrictions, and if I have to come back you will have to leave.” Fr. Christopher agreed to the conditions.
The detective returned after speaking with, office manager, Mrs. Khristy Scheer, and suggested that Fr. Christopher do his best to ignore the presence of those who had no appreciation for his presence. Fr. Christopher promised to “behave.”
The afternoon went along as expected. Fr. Christopher continued to carry out boxes/bins to the end of the driveway while the Church staff, and two parishioners, and guards, enjoyed lunch, as they had done at the start of the day with coffee and donuts in the rectory living room. Not only did they never lift a finger to help, they did nothing as Fr. Christopher unsuccessfully attempted to move an extraordinarily heavy cabinet that had been moved the length of the rectory so as to block access into the very room which was filled with bins that Fr. Christopher had come to procure.
All went smoothly until about mid-afternoon, when Lyn Kern and Shirley Bohnert arrived on the property and came into the rectory where Fr. Christopher was working. Lyn handed some papers to Fr. Christopher, who received them while the guards shouted they had to leave. On her way out, Lyn Kern made the mistake of picking up a bin in the hall that she said she “would bring to the end of the driveway.” The guards began shouting more loudly, protesting “you are not allowed to do that; put that bin down.” As their volume increased, Fr. Christopher finally shouted, “stop hollering at those women. You are being abusive.” Fr. Christopher knew this would not end well, and encouraged Lyn that he would “be okay,” and just put the bin down and go. Fifteen to twenty minutes elapsed while Fr. Christopher continued to pack and carry things outside the rectory. The detective who first spoke to Fr. Christopher showed up, and said “I told you (Fr. Christopher) what would happen if I showed up again; you have to leave the property.” Fr. Christopher asked him to reconsider the situation, but the Sanibel detective said there was no choice. “They” want you off the property! Fr. Christopher said for what reason? The detective said, “they don’t have to have a reason,” you have to leave and they are serving you with a trespassing citation,” in spite of the fact that Fr. Christopher had permission from the Diocese to be on the property. Fr. Christopher waited for the papers to be drawn up by one of the officers in the four Sanibel police cars. When Fr. Christopher asked “why do you send so many patrol cars?” he was told “we always send one car more than the number of people that are described as a danger.” It was clear in Fr. Christopher’s paperwork, that the citation was the result of Mrs. Khristy Scheer registering a complaint, that an infirm older priest, an eighty-four year old woman, and a seventy-seven year-old woman, were somehow a threat to the Church. In an apparent outright lie, Khristy Scheer told the police that Fr. Christopher was yelling and threatening people as he was removing his belongings, something that just did not happen. The lying of Church staff, however, is something that frequently happens, and which parishioners have grown accustomed to.
It would appear that the Church is trying to project the false appearance of danger. Assuming the cost of guards runs high, it is astounding that the Church’s available monies are being used to fund what is nothing more than a charade. With all the policemen who responded to calls from the Church office on Friday, none of them were because anyonewas in imminent danger.
Fast forward to Tuesday, December 10, when parishioners in support of Fr. Christopher gathered together to pray for Fr. Christopher as they have consistently since October 28, 2016. It was noticed by those attending the prayer service (which have taken place some 150 times since 2016), that there was one guard and one police vehicle in the church parking lot when the prayer service began. By the end of the prayer service there were four police vehicles, one guard, and one extraordinarily vengeful Office Manager, Mrs. Khristy Scheer. As a result, attendees were encouraged to exit the side doors to avoid a confrontation. Mrs. Khristy Scheer came out of her office, unusual for a Tuesday, to inform the local police of the identity of the two women who had no right to be there, since they were warned they should not come back to church property. The ladies’ assumption was surely that their forbidden presence on the property applied to when Fr. Christopher was on property, (which was only to collect his belongings), but Mrs. Scheer deliberately came out to identify the two women, Shirley Bohnert and Lyn Kern, so that the police could serve them, as they did the week before with Fr. Christoper, “no trespassing citations,” preventing them from stepping foot on Church property for the remainder of their lives.
The behavior of Mrs. Scheer was deliberate, intentional, vindictive and malicious. Neither Bohnert or Kern, ever presented a threat to St. Isabel Church (likewise Fr. Christopher), in spite of the fact that the Diocese has weighed-in on this as saying it is their obligation to “protect Church staff from harm.” Indeed, there is no reason, for a church to walk deliberately into this situation, especially when the actual person in charge, Fr. Martin, claims he is trying to bring peace and healing to the church. It appears the temporary administrator is concerned about only a few parishioners, and he appears not to be bothered by a church which behaves this way towards those who literally “built” the church.
It is clear that the Church’s Office manager, Mrs. Khristy Scheer, has been enabled and given the power to thoroughly ruin a church which was thriving before the Bishop intervened on October 28, 2016. Who walks into a situation that could so easily be avoided? On Tuesday, by considering that an eighty-four year-old female parishioner, and a seventy-seven year-old female parishioner, were “threats to parish safety,” crossed the line of what is reasonable. Indeed, the distress that has caused these women, who consider living on the island without the ability to liturgically mourn friends or fellow parishioners in the parish church a stark possibility, is remarkable and unacceptable. It is hard to imagine a solution to this problem, given what has happened over the past three years, but we continue to hope that those with clearer heads and more gospel-sourced precepts will realize the legitimate outrage of those who have been offended.
To those who continue to think that this is “right and just,” I ask you to think what you would do if this suddenly happened to you? If this can happen to anyone, it can happen to you – maybe not tomorrow, but on a day which you don’t expect, the tables can suddenly turn, and when those tables are turned by those with evil intent, it is certain that this can happen to you.