Windber priest suspended as feds raid home, rectory |

Windber priest suspended as feds raid home, rectory

A Roman Catholic priest was placed on indefinite leave because federal agents raided his Somerset County church office and residence last week.

Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese suspended the Rev. Joseph Maurizio Jr., 69, of Windber, diocesan spokesman Tony DeGol said on Wednesday.

Maurizio has been pastor of our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Central City, near Indian Lake Resort, since 2003, according to the diocese.

His suspension occurred because neighbors said they saw agents from Homeland Security searching his rectory office and his Windber home, carting off boxes of records.

Maurizio has extensive connections in Central and Latin America through orphanages that he supports financially, according to tax records.

DeGol said the diocese is not aware of Maurizio’s nonprofit organizations and has no idea what the probe involves.

“Obviously, this is a federal investigation, and we’re not privy to that,” he said.

Maurizio did not return phone calls seeking comment.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton confirmed that agents executed search warrants in Central City and Windber “as part of an ongoing federal investigation.” He declined further comment.

Maurizio operates the nonprofit Humanitarian Interfaith Ministries in Johnstown, which is linked to the Honduran Interfaith Ministries in Honduras, according to the organization’s website. He established a trust fund based in Altoona — the Independent Catholic Foundation for the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown — to handle contributions. The trust’s website says it accepts stocks, bonds, life insurance and other investments on behalf of Humanitarian Interfaith Ministries.

DeGol said he has never heard of the organization, and it is not affiliated with the diocese.

“We’re not aware of any of Father Maurizio’s outside charities,” DeGol said. “What he did with those charities, I do not know.”

The website for Honduras Interfaith Ministries, another Maurizio charity, said it is a financial supporter of the ProNino Foundation in Honduras, which cares for abandoned and orphaned children. ProNino was founded by George Mealer, a retired Army sergeant major who lives in El Progresso, Yoro, Honduras. He could not be reached for comment.

On the website, Maurizio says he has traveled to 100 countries and has worked with orphanages in El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Haiti, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Peru.

He has funded the building of Remar Orphanage in Guatemala, the New Home for Street Children in Costa Rica, and the Bread for the Little Ones in Honduras, a list of projects on his website shows.

In 2008, Maurizio received the Legion of Honor from the National Four Chaplains from the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha of Johnstown. The award recognizes “outstanding members of society whose lives model the giving spirit and unconditional service to community, nation, and humanity ..,” according to the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation website.

A native of Windber, Maurizio graduated from Villanova University, the Washington Theological Union an has a doctorate from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He celebrated 25 years in the priesthood in 2012.

The Associated Press contributed. Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or [email protected].

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