By Jenn Bernstein
SWEDESBURG, Pa. – The Sacred Heart Church is nestled in the small tight-knit town of Swedesburg.
Tonight everyone is buzzing about the Sacred Heart Polish Festival, but the arrest of its former pastor, Reverend Andrew McCormick, last night on child sex assault charges, has many surprised and upset. That includes the church’s Holy Names Society President, Bernard Gutkowski.
“We just can’t believe it, a man like this, that we’ve known. He’s a great friend of ours,” said Gutkowski. He’s remaining supportive of McCormick and says the community is also. “We will stand by him 100 percent,” he said.
Gutkowski says the town’s been waiting for McCormick to return after he was suspended by the Archdiocese in March 2011. He was one of more than two dozen priests removed from the ministry after the Archdiocese said it was investigating past sexual abuse allegations.
Gutkowski describes McCormick as well-liked, and a holy man. The town even had a party ready for him, “I hope he’s exonerated,” said Gutkowski, “that this is found to be unsubstantiated accusations.”
McCormick was arrested in Pottstown. No one answered the door on Friday, but a neighbor said he often saw McCormick visiting his parents, and described him as friendly. The neighbor also saw two detectives sitting in the apartment complex last night.
McCormick is accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in 1997 at St. John Cantius in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia. Many Parishioners say they remember him, and that his arrest is hard to believe.
“As a Catholic, I’m surprised and disappointed,” said Gloria Jankiewicz. “Everything he had to do he did perfectly. He was a nice personal and friend.”
“It’s really sad, the Church is in enough trouble as it is,” said Ryan Henderson. “And then you have stuff like this happen over there, and it’s just going to hurt them worse.”