JACKSON – Over the last year, federal authorities have conducted an investigation into events at our parishes in Starkville and Macon that involved Father Lenin Vargas.
One year ago those federal authorities executed search warrants at those parishes and at the offices of the Diocese of Jackson.
The Diocese remains steadfast in stating that neither Bishop Joseph Kopacz, nor any Diocesan Official, committed, condoned or covered up fraudulent activity. In late 2017, when the Diocese learned there might be problems with parish finances at St. Joseph Starkville, Bishop Kopacz ordered an audit be conducted and based on those audit findings, took actions to bring the parish back into compliance with Diocesan policy. No Diocese official had any knowledge that Father Vargas was asking individuals for money until the affidavit was unsealed in November 2018.
During the course of the investigation the Diocese has worked to bring forth the truth that will lead to a just resolution and reconciliation throughout our Catholic community. To wit:
• The Diocese has cooperated fully with federal investigators.
• The Diocese has reached out to those who donated to Father Vargas and returned parishioners’ contributions. If you gave directly to Father Vargas but have not spoken with the Diocese, please do so. We want to hear from you.
• Father Vargas was stripped of his priestly facilities and authorities in the Catholic Church in Mexico were notified of his standing.
• Diocese-wide protocols were implemented for “special collections.”
Yet there is still work to be done. The Diocese will continue to seek reconciliation and restorative justice for the communities impacted by this investigation. The Diocese will also continue to reach out to those who donated, but feel betrayed, to seek a just resolution with them and continue to support those communities to rebuild trust and confidence. Additionally, the Diocese will continue to be transparent in our dealings with all Diocesan leadership and ministries.
Finally, continue to pray for our St. Joseph and Corpus Christi parishes and all those in the Starkville and Macon communities who have been hurt by this investigation. We hope in Christ for new life and peace.