Families left holding the bag on trip to Rome

04/24/2014 5:24 PM

04/24/2014 9:12 PM

Jeanne Holderman of Granbury had the chance of a lifetime in 1996 to meet with Pope John Paul II at his private residence during a trip to the Vatican with her mother.

The experience “overwhelmed” her, and she was looking forward to an even more special moment — a pilgrimage to Rome to see John Paul II canonized on Sunday.

“Pope John Paul was head of the Catholic Church in my lifetime and to see him canonized, well it would never happen again,” Holderman said.

But instead of flying to the Vatican City on Wednesday with other members of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Granbury, Holderman and others were trying to fathom what their travel agent and tour guide Teresa Rosser did with the tens of thousands of dollars she was paid to arrange the trip.

The parishioners — many of them senior citizens — just recently discovered that Rosser filed for bankruptcy after taking the money for their 10-day trip to Rome. Twenty-eight church members signed up for the tour, so if Rosser received payments from all of them, she took in over $70,000.

Cleburne police Detective Kelly Summey said police are investigating.

Johnson County District Attorney Dale Hanna said Rosser has given his office “restitution money,” but he declined to give an amount.

“At this point, I don’t know if there will be a criminal case. We are waiting for the Cleburne police department to complete its investigation,” Hanna said.

Rosser and her attorney Michael Rogers did not return calls seeking comment.

Trip of a lifetime

Holderman said she first learned of Rosser’s tour when she saw a flier in her church bulletin. The tour was to include the Mass to see the canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. The flyer also said that those traveling to Vatican City would have an audience with the Pope.

The church was not involved in booking the tour.

The cost of the trip was $2,800 per person, which included airfare, hotel accommodations and some meals. The cost was based on double occupancy, Holderman said.

She contacted Rosser, who owned the Born to Fly and Entertain travel agency, and paid her a total of $2,800 in three deposits of $500, $900 and $1,400, all by a Feb. 28 deadline.

But in late March, Rosser sent an email canceling a meeting where the parishioners were to receive their plane tickets and other travel documents.

Then, Holderman said, she received another email from Rosser saying that an April 5 meeting was canceled because of a “sudden death” in the family.

A week later, Holderman said she grew suspicious and drove from Granbury to Cleburne to find Rosser, but when she arrived at Rosser’s apartment, no one was there.

Then, Holderman said, a friend told her of Rosser’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing on April 11 and knew that she wasn’t going to Rome after all. Those records indicated that Rosser had $5 in cash and balances in her personal and business checking accounts of $500 and $100 respectively.

Personal loss

This is not the first time Rosser has filed for bankruptcy. According to court documents, she also filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2004.

Rosser’s 2014 bankruptcy filing also indicated that besides credit card companies, the church members were also listed as creditors.

Holderman wonders if she will see any of her money.

“This is very personal to me,” she said, recalling how she and her mother saw Pope John Paul II celebrating Mass in his private chapel, kneeling in prayer.

“It was very moving when I saw that flier in November. Pope John Paul was going to be a saint; I said I’m going to be there,” she said.

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