Bend priest's removal sparks furor

Some St. Francis parishioners outraged by bishop's decision

POSTED: 6:24 AM PST December 24, 2013    UPDATED: 6:18 PM PDT October 2, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

For more than a year, Father James Radloff has offered words of inspiration and faith to the parish of 5,300 at St. Francis of Assisi in Bend.

"He made me feel welcome," said St. Francis parishioner Cricket Daniel.

On Tuesday, a big announcement from the bishop of the Diocese of Baker: Father Radloff will be replaced.

Bishop Liam Cary issued a statement but would not comment on camera.

But Father Radloff's family expressed their concern.

"He is in the state of shock," said Radloff's sister, Kimberly Boehl. "He just feels like everything is been ripped away from him, everything that he cares about."

Coincidentally, the announcement comes just after a church newsletter was released Sunday, with a  glowing report card on Father Radloff. He received A's across the board.

"He's just a man of the people," Daniel said. "I have to say, since he's become pastor, the parish numbers are up, the pews are full, the spirit is high -- and that was something that was not happening before him."

Father Radloff announced the action on his Facebook page Tuesday morning, and that sparked an outpouring of support.

One commenter said, "You are not only an amazing priest, but you are an amazing man! "

Another wrote, "the Bishop has made a terrible mistake. I pray he realizes this and can make amends with the best pastor we've ever had at St. Francis."

More than 100 others made similar remarks by mid-afternoon.

In Tuesday's statement, Bishop Cary would not say why Father Radloff will be leaving, only that it does not involve something illegal.

Whatever the reason may be, many in the parish are hoping Bishop's decision move can be reversed.

"I'm a hesitant Catholic," Daniel said. "I cannot speak on behalf of the parish. I don't go every single Sunday. I just know that for the first time, I wanted to go on a Sunday - and that says a lot."

Father Radloff has been with the Diocese of Baker for almost 20 years. He started at a church in La Pine, then moved to Sisters and then to St. Francis in Bend.

Father Radloff's family said he cannot comment on the issue.

You can find a link to Bishop Cary's statement on the diocese Website at http://www.dioceseofbaker.org/