Kenyan Priest Charged With Sex Assault in Virginia Served As Chaplain in NH

A priest who had served as chaplain at a small New Hampshire Catholic college was arrested in Virginia last month and charged with sexual assault against an 11-year-old girl, two activists organizations said yesterday.

The Rev. Felix Owino was arrested in Herndon, Va., which is about 25 miles west of Washington, D.C. A Fairfax County police spokesman said Owino was considered a longtime friend of the alleged victim's family.

A native of Nairobi, Kenya, Owino served as chaplain of Magdalen College in Warner from June 2005 to October 2008, the college said yesterday. He was a member of the Africa-based Apostles of Jesus missionary worder.

Yesterday, New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful and Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests picketed outside the Diocese of Manchester offices yesterday to demand better efforts to find potential victims in the Granite State.

Diocesan spokesman Kevin Donovan said there are no allegations against Owino in New Hampshire involving sexual abuse of a minor. He said he was unaware of any allegations of improprieties against Owino.

"We've reached out to the college to offer pastoral and counseling support," Donovan said.

College spokesman Jim Van Damm said Owino was a part-time teacher and chaplain at the college, which had 68 students last year. The college never received any complaints about Owino when he was stationed there, he said.

"He was an excellent teacher and a pious priest," Van Damm said.

At the time of his arrest, Owino was on summer break from his duties as a philosophy instructor at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. He also served as associate pastor of St. Paul Parish in Weirton, W.Va.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston suspended Owino from his priestly duties pending the outcome of his trial in Virginia. He had been scheduled for court Thursday, but that has been postponed.

In Manchester yesterday, Carolyn Disco urged the diocese and Magdalen officials to reach out to alumni and other participants in Magdalen programs during the Owino's years in Warner.

"We are well within the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution," said Disco. "That's not to say there's something here."

The diocesan website yesterday made no mention of Owino, or any priest accused of sex crimes. Donovan noted that the website includes a link on its homepage on how to report abuse. The diocese also runs notices in church bulletins about how to report abuse, he said.

"We don't put up (information about) specific priests," Donovan said. "This priest was never assigned a ministry in a New Hampshire parish."

Disco said the groups want more than a generic notice about reporting sexual abuse. Most victims, she said, do not report abuse, and proactive outreach by the diocese would encourage any possible victims of Owino, or other priests, to speak up instead of suffering in silence.

Disco said Bishop John B. McCormack has a poor record of outreach.

"It's about outreach," she said. "You do more than just a one paragraph boilerplate (notice)."

Earlier this month, McCormack announced he had submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict 16th. No replacement has been named, and McCormack continues in his role as shepherd of New Hampshire Catholics.

Donovan said Magdalen College is a private Catholic entity that is not overseen by the bishop. Magdalen brought Owino to the college, and all McCormack did was verify that he was a priest in good standing with his order, Donovan said.

That allowed Owino to celebrate Mass in the diocese.

Donovan said the diocese would report to authorities any allegations of child-sex crimes involving an outside priest to authorities.

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Judy Jones's picture
Judy Jones

Quoted: "Donovan said Magdalen College is a private Catholic entity that is not overseen by the bishop"

This priest, Fr Ownio, worked within the Manchester diocese. The bishop is the sole boss of his territory, he has to allow any catholic org.

( college, etc.) into his diocese and he has the power to remove them. So yes, McCormack should know what is going on at Magdalen college..

Often, when one victim of a predator discloses, others sit back and feel like the obligation to report is somehow lessened. But it's important for everyone with information about clergy sex crimes to come forward.

In any setting where there is an inherent power imbalance between clergy-church members ..It is much like teacher-student or doctor-patient or therapist-client relationship, where any sexual contact is expressly forbidden.  And for good reason: because it almost always results in devastation, with individuals and the families.

If anyone at Magdalen college has been harmed by Owino, please contact police.

Remember, Owino is being held in jail without bond, because of allegations for 'sexually abusing an 11 year old girl', who was a friend of the family.

This family must be going through hell. They are so brave for coming forward and reporting it to police. If there has been allegation of sexual misconduct by this priest before, this child and family could have been spared his harm.

Also, there is help and healing, do not report your abuse to the church officials, go to police.


Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director,   636-433-2511,

"Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests"

Judy Jones's picture

It is suspicious that this priest was removed from Magdalen College in the middle of the semester. He was their only Chaplin the school had no other priests prepared to take his place. Also he would "council" several females only in a basement room of one of the faculty... Sounds like the school shipped their problem to Virginia.

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