WATERTOWN — In response to concerns raised in June by parishioners at St. Bernard Parish, Watertown, the Diocese of Madison in July called for independent auditors to conduct an examination of the parish finances and records.
According to a press release from the diocese dated July 19 and published in the Catholic Herald on July 23, the concerns included the borrowing of funds from parishioners and the parish itself and the overall handling of parish business affairs.
In response to the concerns, Fr. Thomas Marr was placed on administrative leave, effective July 16.
Msgr. Daniel T. Ganshert, vicar general, who served as interim administrator of the parish, assured parishioners at meetings at St. Bernard Church that the financial condition of the parish is stable.
According to Monsignor Ganshert, both an internal audit on the parish financial records and an external examination of the parish financial records, policies, and procedures have been completed.
It is the understanding of the diocese that Father Marr inappropriately borrowed $55,000 from the parish and more, directly, from parishioners, family, friends, and other priests, to the total of $340,000. It is believed that Father Marr invested all of these funds in “an alternative, non-traditional investment with a third party.”
The parish has retained legal counsel and is undertaking litigation against the third party “investor.” In addition, the City of Watertown Police Department and Wisconsin Department of Justice, White Collar Crime Unit have instituted criminal investigations into the facts and circumstances surrounding the incidents.
Fr. Brian J. Wilk, pastor of St. Henry Parish in Watertown, was appointed administrator of St. Bernard Parish on September 24. There have been no formal discussions or proposals for any type of merger between the parishes.