I think this is a fairly big deal.
Dale Fushek, formerly Monsignor, was the founder of LifeTeen, and a very popular priest of the Diocese of Phoenix, serving as Vicar General.
The outline of his troubles with the law can be found at his Wikipedia entry, but the basics include a settlement of a sexual harrasment allegation back in the 90’s, and then, after investigations, indictments in 2005 on 10 misdemeanor counts related to sexual misconduct with teens and young adults. Three of those counts have been dismissed, and Fushek is currently waiting for a hearing from the Arizona Supreme Court as to whether he has the right to a jury trial on the remaining seven counts. He declares his innocence.
Well now Fushek, who is evidently seeking laicization, has started a “Praise and Worship Center” in the area.
Dale Fushek, the former pastor of Mesa’s St. Timothy’s Catholic Community, who was indicted on sexually-related misdemeanor charges in November 2005, was back before a congregation Thursday for the first time in three years.
Although he sent out no invitations, instead letting supporters spread news of his return, more than 550 people attended the first service of the nondenominational Praise and Worship Center at the downtown Mesa Marriott hotel.
Mesa resident Elizabeth Culverson trembled with tears while she lingered in line to hug Fushek after the service. She said she had waited a long time to hear him preach again and felt blessed to be in the audience.
“God gave us a great gift today,” she said.
On Thanksgiving Day, he said he was happy to be back before a group of worshippers.
“I feel alive again,” he said after the two-hour service Thursday morning. “This was inspiring and beautiful. I thought there was a really good spirit among the people here.”
Pam Davis of Mesa said she thought having the first service take place on Thanksgiving was appropriate.
“It’s called ‘Praise and Worship,’ and how could you not on Thanksgiving?” she said, adding that the service will complement her regular church attendance.
Fushek said he started the center not as competition to the church but as a place where people can come to worship between regular services.
“This is not a church. It is not intended to draw people away from their denominations,” he said.
The Praise and Worship Center will meet periodically, to start, Fushek said, but he hopes to raise enough money and interest to meet every week starting next year.
The next service is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 23 at the Mesa Convention Center, 200 N. Centennial Way.
Former priest Mark Dippre, who is running the center with Fushek, said they are hoping to offer an alternate place of worship that is more accepting than some churches in the East Valley.
People in attendance at the first service waited in long lines to personally thank Fushek for starting the center.
As the service ended Thursday, the people in the audience raised their voices to sing “Blessed Be Your Name.”
Fushek joined in, his arms raised toward the ceiling, his eyes closed tight.
“Happy Thanksgiving. I love you,” he said, in closing. “I thank you so much, and it won’t be three more years until I see you again. I hope to see you every week soon.”
For more information about the Praise and Worship Center, go to
Lots of code words in there. Lots of ego, if I dare say so, too.
(Dippre resigned from his parish in 2002. A brief article on it from the 10/1/02 AZ Republic is available only through archives, but the gist:
The pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Tempe resigned last week, blaming church members whose “letters or misguided rumors have killed this servant’s spirit.”
The Rev. Mark Dippre, 38, resigned Wednesday. Letters read at Sunday Masses at the church, from him and Bishop Thomas O’Brien, emphasized that Dippre’s resignation is not the result of “any scandal or allegations.”
He is taking a leave of absence “to re-evaluate whether he wants to be a priest,” diocesan spokeswoman Kim Sue Lia Perkes said Monday.
“It’s a hard job,” said Msgr. Dale Fushek of St. Timothy Church, where Dippre worked before his promotion two years ago. “There’s lots of responsibility, and some take criticism harder than others.”
Toni Logan of Tempe said Dippre arrived with high hopes. The parish had been his first assignment after ordination, and his return “seemed like an answered prayer,” she said.
But he met “huge resistance” when he standardized church services, she said.
“It is ghastly to me that as community members, we would drive a pastor off rather than welcoming and accepting him,” she said.
“When he was put on administrative leave, he was told not to administer the sacraments and to not present himself as a priest,” Jim Dwyer, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, said Friday. “If he is not violating that, we wouldn’t have to know specifically what he is doing.”
The Praise and Worship Center answers some key questions about the new ministry on a Web site, http://www.praiseandworshipcenter.net. The site spells out the ministry’s mission statement, among other things.
Fushek, 55, faces one count of assault, five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count of indecent exposure. Teens complained that he carried on sexually explicit discussions with them during confession, exposed himself to them as he got into his hot tub and created a sexually charged setting with teens present.
Fushek founded Life Teen, one of the largest international Catholic teen organizations that today has about 120,000 youths enrolled in 1,080 programs in 20 countries.
Dwyer said Catholic leaders had been aware that Fushek and others were exploring their new ministry.
“We heard about some of the promotional materials that were done, but we didn’t know if it was ever going to take place,” Dwyer said. “We made it clear to the Catholics at St. Timothy’s that it wouldn’t be (regarded as) an official Catholic service. But other than that, we have no control on what he does as a Catholic citizen.”
Fushek told the Tribune after the service Thursday that he was resigning from the priesthood, but Dwyer said the diocese has not received notification.
“I am not aware of any official resignation, and his status really hasn’t changed,” Dwyer said. “He definitely would have to contact the bishop first and go through some formal process.”
Mark Dipree, a former priest, is working with Fushek in the ministry. The Web site listed 2029 N. Alma School Road, Suite 107-14, Chandler as the address for the Praise and Worship Center, but the location is a mail drop, not a church office.
If Fushek is convicted, he likely would have to register as a sex offender, which would restrict him from being around youth.
A Web site called www.helpmonsignordale.com continues to solicit funds for Fushek’s legal defense, and it uses the same address as the Praise and Worship Center.
Well, I guess they’d better change the name now, eh?