Northeast Tarrant

Sexual abuse investigation underway at North Richland Hills church

A volunteer is being investigated after allegations of sexual abuse at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in North Richland Hills.
A volunteer is being investigated after allegations of sexual abuse at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in North Richland Hills.

An investigation into sexual abuse of youths at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church is underway, police and church officials said Sunday.

A letter concerning the investigation was read at a Saturday Mass and Sunday morning services at the church, at 7341 Glenview Drive.

The investigation is in the early stages, Detective Keith Bauman said Sunday in a telephone interview. No one has been arrested.

According to the letter, the allegations involve a church volunteer accused of sexual abuse, some of which took place on church property during evening prayers, several children reported.

The investigation does not involve a priest or a deacon, according to the letter.

The letter from Bishop Michael Olsen was read by Deacon Rigoberto Leyva from the central offices of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Officials from the Diocese of Fort Worth received reports from a member of St. John about 10 days ago and alerted police. The abuse is alleged to have occurred over the past seven years, according to the letter.

Church officials also contacted Child Protective Services, Diocese of Fort Worth spokesman Pat Svacina said Sunday.

Bauman said the allegations involve two incidents in North Richland Hills and one in Colleyville.

“We’ve adopted the Colleyville report since it involves the same person,” Bauman said. “But Colleyville police are continuing to assist in the investigation.

Bauman declined to comment on any other details, adding that the case involves juvenile victims.

“We’ve been in contact with church officials,” Bauman said.

Svacina said the diocese’s victims’ assistance office also is assisting. The office will provide immediate care to those reporting sexual abuse and assure proper response to victims and their families, according to the diocese’s website.

“It is not easy to speak about the reports of abuse to a parish community,” Olsen said in the letter. “It is important, however, for you to know that the Diocese is ready to reach out to those who have been hurt and need help, that we might assist in any way we can.”

A former priest at the same church, Philip Magaldi, who died in 2008, was accused of sexual abuse starting around 1994. Magaldi, who was accused of abusing three young men, was being defrocked when he died.

This story contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-390-7763, @mingoramirezjr