A popular Pennsylvania priest was forced to resign from his job and is now under investigation by authorities after he was accused of misspending some $130,000 earmarked for charitable purposes.
The Diocese of Scranton confirmed Sunday to The Citizens' Voice that the priest, the Rev. John Chmil, who has been pastor of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Kingston since June 2015, resigned amid an investigation into his alleged misuse of the money. Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis told the publication that the diocese has asked her office to investigate the matter.
Chmil claims the money was used for charitable purposes, according to the diocese but the amount of the missing money exceeds the maximum allowed without diocesan approval.
The news about their church leader came as a shock to parishioners at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola where Chmil is beloved and popular.
"I thought he was nice, I thought he was a good man, I did not know," parishioner Nancy Phillips told WNEP.
"I am in shock because he has been nothing but wonderful to me," church receptionist Jennifer Carey commented.
She explained that Chmil's resignation was "a blow" to the church because he was well-liked. She also noted that she never saw any red flags regarding financial impropriety and she hopes Chmil has an explanation for the misuse of the funds that the church will understand.
"Because he is such a good person, I really don't think the funds went to personal use. I really don't know what they went to."
Chmil's resignation was announced following masses this weekend, according to WNEP.
In a statement, a spokesperson said the missing $130,000 was taken from the St. Vincent DePaul account. Chmil contacted them about the money in late May.
The church is now looking for a new leader but some parishioners are hoping that Chmil will be able to return to full-time ministry at some point.
"As inquiry into the matter continues by diocesan officials and law enforcement, efforts are being made by Father Chmil to fully restore the misused funds to the parish," said William Genello, executive director of communications for the diocese.
In his bio at Scranton Vocations, Chmil explained why he loved being a priest.
"I wake up everyday and love what I do. I love celebrating the Mass, hearing Confessions, visiting the sick, celebrating Baptisms, Weddings and comforting families at Funerals," he said.
Chmil who was ordained into the Sacred Priesthood on June 24, 1995, at Saint Peter's Cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He noted that he was just 16 when he felt the call of God to become a priest.
"My earliest recollection regarding my vocation to the Priesthood is when I was 16 years old. I was attending Mass with my family at St. Leo's Church in Ashley, Pennsylvania. It was at the Consecration that I felt called to the Priesthood. The journey that would later take me into the seminary and ultimately into the Priesthood began at that moment. This journey which spanned several years included many questions and ended with much peace and confidence in what God was asking of me," he said.