HUMBOLDT — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon has removed two priests, who both served at Humboldt’s St. Augustine Church sometime during their careers, from ministry.
Fr. Ephraim Mensah, who was once a pastor at St. Augustine, and Fr. Michael Yaremko, who was an associate pastor, were removed after two separate investigations determined they engaged in serious misconduct. The incidents were unrelated.
Bishop Mark Hagemonen, the head of the diocese, said he couldn’t comment on the nature of the misconduct in both cases. He did say that there are no criminal charges and they did not involve children.
Mensah was serving as pastor of the Cathedral of the Holy Family of Saskatoon when he resigned. Yaremko has been on leave for almost two years since he left his first appointment as associate pastor of St. Augustine.
“After our internal investigation, it was determined that Fr. Mensah’s actions amounted to serious misconduct and were a breach of his vows to God and the Church, and the position of trust he held towards parishioners,” Hagemoen said. “His serious misconduct warranted his removal from any priestly ministries.”
The bishop added the future status of Yaremko is yet to be determined.
“To respect the privacy of the complainant or complainants and the process, it’s difficult to say anything more at this time.”
Hagemonen said both incidents were subject to an internal independent investigation that determines if serious misconduct took place. Once that investigation makes a decision, it is communicated to him as the bishop. He then talks to three different parties: the chair of the diocese’s safeguarding committee, the director of safe environment and the College of Consultors before deciding how to proceed.
The bishop said the final decision is his and he’s acted, but both have the right to have the decision reexamined according to both civil and canon law.
“A priest does not have a right to priestly faculties. That’s something that is granted by a bishop or religious superior,” he said.
“The decision, despite the very extensive consultation that's handled very carefully and discreetly, is the bishop’s or the religious superior’s.”
The parishioners at the Cathedral of the Holy Family were told of Hagemonen’s decision on March 15, where a media release said he asked for prayers for the victims affected by the incidents of serious misconduct and expressed his commitment to accountability and care.
Hagemonen said the parishioners know it’s a serious and difficult issue, but they are grateful for the communication.
“It is our goal to hold the bar very high in assuring that all our churches are safe and respectful communities,” the bishop said. “When concerns are brought to light, we will continue to act decisively and compassionately and find a way forward inspired by the mind and heart of Jesus Christ.”
Released at the same time that Sunday was the diocese’s new 20-point Safeguarding Action Plan, which aims to help victims of misconduct or abuse to come forward. The work on the plan started in early 2018.
Hagemonen was planning to go to St. Augustine the following Sunday, March 22, to make the same announcement there, but those plans were disrupted by the pandemic.
“I will be following up with the St. Augustine community as soon as we can gather and have an assembly again,” he said. “I just want to underscore, I do look forward to visiting them to talk to them directly.”