Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Local Priest, Former WJU Professor Charged With Sexually Battering Minor

Local Priest, Former WJU Professor Charged With Sexually Battering Minor
Posted: 4:32 pm EDT July 12, 2010
Updated: 7:47 pm EDT July 12, 2010

A Catholic priest who was a faculty member at Wheeling Jesuit University and who served as an associate pastor at St. Paul Parish in Weirton was arrested on sex charges last week.

The Rev. Felix Owino, a priest in the Religious Missionary Institute of the Apostles of Jesus, was arrested on July 8 in Fairfax, Va., on charges of aggravated sexual battery of a minor.

Owino served as associate pastor at St. Paul’s in Weirton, providing coverage of parish Masses, and, until last month, he was a faculty member in the philosophy department of WJU. University officials said in a news release that Owino has no current responsibilities at the university and is not expected to return to campus.

"Owino is not a member of the Jesuit order and was on summer break from his teaching duties at the time of the incident. During his two years at Wheeling Jesuit, the campus authorities received no student complaints about his conduct," the news release stated.

Owino is being held without bond at the Adult Detention Center in Fairfax awaiting trial in September. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston learned of Owino’s arrest July 9. The diocese then informed his religious superiors and suspended Owino’s priestly faculties within the diocese, effective immediately, pending the outcome of proceedings in Virginia.

Owino is a priest of the religious missionary congregation known as the Apostles of Jesus, the first African congregation of Catholic priests and brothers. He came to West Virginia last year as an instructor in the philosophy department at WJU.

Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Owino was ordained in 1992 and is a member of the Religious Missionary Institute of the Apostles of Jesus, headquartered in Philadelphia. He joined the faculty of Wheeling Jesuit in the fall of 2008 and taught for two consecutive terms, most recently instructed an online class. Prior to that, he worked at Magdalen College in New Hampshire and before that at Alvernia College in Reading, Pa.

“This alleged behavior violates the core of who we are called to be as Christians and as a Jesuit, Catholic campus community whose mission demands that we dedicate ourselves to the care and protection of our students,” said interim WJU President Sister Francis Marie Thrailkill. “We want to assure the public that nothing is more important than the safety of our students. We encourage all students to report misconduct to the president’s office or their student advisor.”

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