Broward County

Priest pays back $236,000 he stole from Pompano Beach church, Archdiocese of Miami says

Miami Auxiliary Bishop Peter Baldacchino celebrates Mass at St. Coleman Parish on Divine Mercy Sunday with Father Henryk Pawelec, left.
Miami Auxiliary Bishop Peter Baldacchino celebrates Mass at St. Coleman Parish on Divine Mercy Sunday with Father Henryk Pawelec, left.

A Pompano Beach priest accused of stealing $236,469 in parish funds has resigned from his post at St. Coleman Catholic Church, the Archdiocese of Miami announced Sunday.

Father Henryk Pawelec, who had served at the church since 2015, stole the money for “his personal benefit,” wrote Archbishop Thomas Wenski in a letter to parishioners released on the Archdiocese website. No further details on the alleged theft were disclosed.

Wenski said “appropriate canonical proceedings have been inititated” and that the Archdiocese had reported the incident to the State Attorney’s Office for “any possible civil action.”

Acting on a tip, the Archdiocese investigated the priest and reviewed the parish’s financial records to determine how much money was stolen. At an Aug. 15 meeting with the archbishop, Pawelec agreed to resign and pay back the money he stole, Wenski said.

“This breach of trust on the part of Father Pawelec, I am sure, deeply saddens and disappoints you as much as it saddens and disappoints me,” Wenski wrote. “Father could only have diverted these funds because he, as pastor, deliberately chose to ignore Archdiocese policies on the proper handling of parish funds. However, these same policies and the accounting controls in place, allowed us to determine the amount of funds pocketed by Father which he has now given back.”

He added that Father Michael Garcia has been appointed Parish Administrator at St. Coleman.

“Any type of misbehavior by a priest or anyone else in authority is deeply disturbing but such failures are a reminder of our common humanity and the frailty of our human condition,” Wenski said. “Let us pray for our priests; let us pray for each other: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

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