Bishop of Norwich Pushes Priest to the Brink and He Resigns

Editor's Note: This opinion piece was submitted by a member of the public to The Day's community website, www.Zip06.com.

St. Mary’s Church of the Visitation is about to lose beloved priest, Father Michael Sequeira, despite pleas for him to stay, for no good reason.

After a breakdown in communication with Bishop Michael Cote of the diocese of Norwich, Father Michael Sequeira, pastor of St. Mary’s for 24 years, submitted his letter of resignation on April 30, and the bishop promptly accepted it.

”Recent communications from Bishop Cote made me realize that he was troubling me for no reasons at all and my fear was only escalating,” said Father Sequeira. “In fact, his recent letter of April 24 to my parishioners and the accusations in it, made me sleepless, restless and unable to eat well. Fearing more persecution in the future and tears which would substantially affect my ministry and would be most noticeable to parishioners, I submitted my resignation.”

Father Michael responded to the outpouring of emotion and support from parishioners and agreed to stay on as full-time pastor of St. Mary’s if he were treated fairly. He humbly wrote to Bishop Cote rescinding his letter of resignation.

The bishop remained distant and unapproachable, and all letters and phone calls from countless parishioners who contacted him asking that he keep Father Michael at St. Mary’s, went unanswered. He also chose not to meet with him, despite multiple requests for a personal meeting to offer spiritual guidance and pastoral leadership, instead he sent a letter pushing him out.

“As soon as your resignation was received, it was accepted and you were sent a copy of that acceptance…. We immediately began the search for your replacement," wrote Bishop Cote. "I hope you will continue with your original plans for your retirement and departure from the parish by the end of May."

“I feel he was most happy with my resignation,” said Father Sequeira. “I intend to write to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome requesting a thorough investigation into my case as well as into other potential cases involving other priests and the Diocesan population as well."

Father Michael is a treasure to St. Mary’s, serving eleven masses a week in a trilingual parish that includes Hispanic and Brazilian members. He works tirelessly, with little support, giving his whole life to his church and people. He now falls short two years until he would receive his full retirement and will move to a mobile park.

In a time of priest shortages and plans for parish restructuring that calls for sharing of priests and resources of nearby churches, it appears that the church hierarchy has failed when it lets go of a seasoned and loved priest, who is willing and able to serve.