STOCKTON — The Rev. Dean McFalls, a Stockton Diocese priest who served at St. Judes in Ceres, among other parishes, said he was resigning as a priest after fathering a child who will be born soon.
The news was announced to his parishioners at St. Marys Catholic Church in Stockton over the weekend and broadcast by KCRA-TV Tuesday evening. No information has been released about the mother of the child.
In a letter to parishioners, McFalls said: A child will soon be born, and I am the babys father. I know this comes as a shock to you, and to many a disappointment. I assume full responsibility for my actions and will do all that I can so that my child receives the care and love that he deserves.
I am asking for forgiveness for not being a better example. I believe in my life I am accepting a reality thats been a part of me from the beginning.
He added, Ministers are under attack from the devil and weakness.
McFalls was one of a group of five to six diocesan priests who often spent their days off together, boating on nearby lakes, hiking in the mountains or driving to the beach. The Rev. Mark Wagner, pastor of St. Josephs in Modesto, was one of that group. Reached by phone from a conference in Texas on Tuesday night, he said he was surprised and saddened by the news, and said there had been no hint of the liaison before Saturday.
When asked whether McFalls intended to marry the woman and/or be an active father to the child, Wagner said, These are things I do not know. In fact, he said, he knows few details.
Today is my 25th anniversary as a priest, Wagner added, acknowledging that the date made the news especially hard to hear. Ive just been thinking that there, but by the grace of God, go I. By the grace of God, I have been able to remain faithful to my promise of celibacy.
McFalls was a popular speaker and outspoken on social justice issues. In 2008, when his good friend and fellow priest the Rev. Joseph Illo stirred national controversy over his advice to parishioners to go to confession if they voted for the pro-abortion-rights presidential candidate Barack Obama, McFalls said he had planned to go to confession himself no matter who he voted for due to all of the candidates stands on various issues.
I agree that if a person voted for Barack Obama knowing that he has the intent to declare the universal right to abortion and would not support the partial-birth abortion ban, a Catholic could not in good conscience support him, even if everything else about him was good, McFalls said in a December 2008 news story. (But) I personally feel that Gods hand is on Obama. I do. I didnt vote for him, but I think in some mysterious way, God has allowed him to rise to the presidency.
Earlier in 2008, McFalls then serving at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lathrop helped coordinate an event in Modesto to commemorate the Cristeros movement in Mexico in the 1920s and 30s, which was a rebellion against the then-socialist Mexican governments pressure to crush the Catholic Church.
Its kind of a forgotten chapter of Mexican history, McFalls said. The socialist government basically tried to destroy the Catholic Church, not only the preaching, but also the social services. For example, one large church was taken over; its really beautiful, but it was used as barracks for the soldiers. You can still see one corner that the soldiers used for the firing squad.
In a 2006 story about faith leaders opinions on illegal immigration, the well-traveled priest said: Despite being at risk so many times at foreign borders, or within hostile territories, I dont think Ill ever fully appreciate the raw experience of a person who struggles to survive a situation of hopeless poverty, to escape an environment of systemic violence or to simply make a new life in the United States.
Do we treat our illegal immigrants too well? I doubt it. While some come here to cause trouble or to take unfair advantage of our civil liberties, one thing is certain: every one of them is a child of God and deserving of basic human respect. Those who seek to blame illegal immigrants for our complex national problems or to designate them as felons often close their eyes to the harsher realities of the world in which we live.
He wrote a letter to the editor a year after Ceres Police Department Sgt. Howard Stevenson was killed and officer Sam Ryno was injured in a shootout with Andres Raya, a 19-year-old Marine who had reportedly set out to kill a police officer one night in January 2005. McFalls was serving at St. Judes in Ceres and conducted the funeral Mass for Raya, urging gang members and other youths at the service to set aside violence. He said in his letter:
Here, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, I am on retreat with 40 priests from 18 countries. We are reflecting on the example of Mother Teresa in the light of the mother of Christ, who brought new hope and a new future to the New World when she appeared to Juan Diego. Both women, Mother Teresa and the Virgin of Guadalupe, reached out to the broken, the destitute, the ones beyond hope, regardless of their race, situation or religion. Both came to bridge the gaps that divide people with the walls of prejudice, hatred and unforgiveness.
I pray for all who were injured by what happened last January in Ceres. I pray in a special way for Sgt. Howard Stevenson, whose mother was Mexican and American Indian. I pray also for the family and friends of the young man who assaulted the officers that day. I know a number of these people, and understand that they are having a hard time understanding how or why this could have happened. ... Needed most is a dedication on everyones part to work for a better world, following the examples of Mother Teresa and Our Lady of Guadalupe. May their examples help all those who have been wounded by violence, prejudice and injustices in our communities to find a better way.
Attempts to contact Stockton Diocesan officials and McFalls for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday night. Information on the dioceses website said McFalls was ordained on Dec. 8, 1995, and is on a leave of absence.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2012.