Parishioners at St. Frances in Throggs Neck question the leadership of its pastor

Parishioners at St. Frances in Throggs Neck question the leadership of its pastor
Community News Group/ Photo by Patrick Rocchio

A group of parishioners at St. Frances de Chantal Church are in an uproar over the running of the parish.

Citing concerns about what they say is the pastor’s chronic absenteeism and his not following proper procedure in handling cash donations, a letter by the group was circulated calling on all parishioners to take certain actions.

It states that the parish is dying, and takes Father Peter Miqueli, the pastor, to task on several allegations. He has denied the group’s allegations through an Archdiocesan spokesman.

The letter alleges that Fr, Miqueli is absent from the parish four days out of every seven per week. It also cites concerns like “bags containing cash contributions left unsealed outside the pastor’s living quarters for six weeks while he was away on vacation.”

“Parishioners have attempted to make their voices heard,” the letter states. “They have met with the pastor. They have written many letters and made many phone calls to the Archdiocese.”

Some parishioners have begun donating a dollar a month by check to the parish to send a message to the Archdiocese of New York about what they term “questionable financial procedures.” This action was confirmed by prominent local Throggs Neck resident Jack Lynch.

Lynch, along with other concerned parishioners are calling for a forensic audit of the parish’s finances, and for a change in the current leadership.

Lynch said that he had a meeting about a year ago with Fr. Miqueli over lunch because he was concerned about the direction the parish was going in.

“I presented him with a letter with all the issues I thought were important – and there were many issues,” said Lynch. “It was like talking to a stone wall. There was no substantive response.”

The group of parishioners, according to Lynch, have three major concerns about Fr. Miqueli that they would like him to address: a lack of spirituality since he took over the parish two years ago; the need for greater transparency as to how donations are handled; and what they see as Fr. Miqueli’s aloofness and his lack of communication with his flock.

Lynch also said that Fr, Miqueli is not a regular fixture in the parish school or at religious education classes, adding that children in religious education do not even know who he is.

A fellow parishioner who asked that his name not be used said that even though Fr. Miqueli delivers excellent homilies, he seems to disinterested in running the parish.

“It is almost as if he does not want to be a pastor to begin with,” the source said. He added “there is just not a good feeling about what is going on.”

Archdiocese of New York spokesman Joseph Zwilling said he has seen the letter and spoke to Fr. Miqueli, who denies the allegations. Zwilling said that the archdiocese has bank statements showing that deposits of donations took place on a regular basis in the summer.

“He has bank statements showing that the deposits were made, and the armored truck comes every Tuesday to pick up the donations,” said Zwilling. “The only changes he has made to the people who do the counting of the money is that he has added more people to do it. He certainly does not count the money by himself in his room.”

Zwilling said that Fr. Miqueli said that the only day he has taken off regularly has been on Friday, and in September and October he has even cut short his day off to celebrate First Friday mass.

“(The concerned parishioners) don’t offer any proof,” said Zwilling. “Anyone can make an allegation, but where is something to back it up?”

He also pointed out that just a dozen people signed the letter, but the group says that the signatories are just some of the more involved members of the parish community, and that many others support the cause for a pastor change.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procc‌hio@c‌ngloc‌ Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.