Father Dennis R. Sewar, a diocesan priest currently on administrative leave, was arrested by Rochester city police July 22 on charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
Investigator Joseph Dominick, police department spokesman, said Father Sewar was arrested at his home in Henrietta. He was charged with third-degree sexual abuse, a Class B misdemeanor, and endangering the welfare of a child, a Class A misdemeanor. He was due to appear in Rochester City Court on Wednesday, July 27, at 9:30 a.m.
Dominick said the arrest stemmed from information provided by the Diocese of Rochester regarding alleged incidents involving Father Sewar and a teenager. The incidents allegedly took place between August 1999 and August 2001, while Father Sewar was serving as pastor of Rochester’s Church of the Annunciation.
Michael Tedesco, diocesan spokesman, said the diocese received the information in late April and immediately turned it over to police, in accordance with sexual-abuse guidelines set forth by the diocese and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
“I am deeply disturbed by these allegations,” Bishop Matthew H. Clark said in a statement. “I sincerely hope that they do not diminish in the eyes of our faithful the great progress we have made over the last three years in promoting our Safe Environment Program. We continue to keep the safety and protection of children and vulnerable adults among our highest priorities and remain committed to working with the proper authorities in the prompt investigation of any behavior that is contrary to our policies. We are confident that the Rochester Police Department and our legal system will provide justice for all concerned.”
Diocesan officials did not comment beyond the statement. They stressed that anyone wishing to report cases of possible sexual abuse is welcome to contact the authorities directly, and that those wishing to receive help and guidance from the diocese should contact the diocesan victims’ assistance coordinators: Barbara Pedeville at 585/328-3228, ext. 1215; or Father Robert Ring at 315/730-0882.
Father Sewar served as pastor at Church of the Annunciation from 1998 to 2003. His most recent assignment was as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Spencerport from 2003 until June 14 of this year, when Bishop Clark placed him on indefinite administrative leave. Father Sewar, who had been on sabbatical since January, requested the leave for personal reasons.
Father Sewar was ordained in 1983. Prior to his pastorates at Church of the Annunciation and St. John the Evangelist, he served as priest intern and parochial vicar at St. Helen’s, Gates (1983-88); parochial vicar at Church of the Assumption, Fairport (1988-91), St. James, Irondequoit (1991-95) and St. Lawrence, Greece (1995-97); and pastor of St. Mary’s, Waterloo (1997-98).
Due to Father Sewar’s leave of absence, his pastorate at St. John’s in Spencerport has been filled by Father Lance Gonyo, who assumed that position on July 20. Father Gonyo had been pastor of Church of the Epiphany/St. Rose of Lima in Sodus and Sodus Point since 2000. Tedesco said a replacement is currently being sought for the Sodus/Sodus Point pastorate.