My name is Dave Dionisi and Jerome Cabeen is one of the most remarkable and honest people I have ever met.
I have been a volunteer for many years and once thought Father Emil was a living saint. I like spending my volunteer hours helping people, not having to explain a priest committed serious crimes and repeatedly disabled whistle blowers with false information.
Why am I bothering to explain what really happened? We send students who are going to Liberia with us to this Amazon page to buy Jerome’s book? False information does not serve children, students volunteering, and the whistle blowers should not now be required to address mean spirited attacks on their credibility.
What makes my observations on the accuracy of this book credible? I was the person present when Liberia Mission started on November 17, 2003. I was also the person who at the request of APUFRAM, Father Emil, and the Mission Honduras International board of directors conducted an investigation. Few people know this fact, but I was a friend of the man who raped children in Liberia. A month before I learned of the first rape of a child by my friend, I had presented him with an award from another non-profit to thank him for his service to the children in Liberia. In retrospect, I believe APUFRAM and Father Emil were counting on my friendship with Omar to make sure he was promptly freed from jail and put on a plane out of the country. The Mission Honduras International board of directors wanted me to investigate because I was the board member most familiar with Liberia. Thank God neither Jerome or I did what Father Emil and APUFRAM asked us to do as if we did, they would have had their fall guys and may have been able to effectively cover up all of the children who were raped. I also thank God that the head of the Catholic Church in Liberia wanted the truth and cared only about the victims and doing what was right. This was also the focus of the all volunteer MHI board of directors based in Chicago who wanted first and foremost to make sure the victims were being cared for. This was also my first priority.
I prefer smk delete this book review which would also delete my comments. While the details are available for anyone who feels they are needed, people wanting to help the children of Liberia should not have to spend time reading a slanderous book review loaded with false information. The false information is intended to discourage people to read Jerome’s book because his book tells the accurate series of events. Unfortunately, if this anonymous person keeps incorrect information published, then this correction will continue to be necessary. If smk is comfortable not remaining anonymous or has any interest in the truth, my phone number is 530-554-7061.
A single 1 star rating for a book receiving almost all 5 star ratings should not discourage anyone from reading this book. The person, smk, rating this book with a 1 star notes Jerome changed the story of how Liberia Mission started from information shared in 2007. Jerome would not learn the full story until he actually traveled to Liberia in 2008. This is not a big deal, just a point I am making to help people understand how an honest conversation in 2007 about Liberia can result in a different understanding from living in Liberia for two years.
The anonymous smk review claiming Jerome “altered some details” is wrong. I can again provide myself as a witness and there are at least two dozen witnesses who are Honduran, Liberian, or American that can verify that what Jerome has written is true. As I write this comment, Jerome is an employee of the Catholic Church with the blessing of the Franciscans to raise funds to help children. Father Emil does not have the blessing of the Franciscans and is in a state of disobedience. The Catholic Church is taking action to protect children from Father Emil and APUFRAM. The American bishops already prohibit Father Emil from traveling to the U.S. and raising funds.
Regarding Barbara Pawlikowski, I was one of the people who provided her with the history of how Liberia Mission was started for the book she wrote titled Man On a Mission. Again, smk has incorrect information. Barbara honestly wrote Man On a Mission based on her understanding of how Liberia Mission was started. It is true that the Honduran volunteers arrived two years after Liberia Mission had already started in 2003. I feel it is important to note that the Hondurans Norman Nunez and Hector Lanza are loved in Liberia. They led Liberia Mission from 2005 to 2007 and their good work should never be confused with the problems discussed here. Returning to Barbara, some details she simply did not know because they did not seem important at the time as the book purpose was to help Father Emil raise funds to help children in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Liberia. For this reason the book Man On a Mission was an incomplete version of how Liberia Mission started. In any event, Barbara completes what is incomplete with her second book on Liberia which is the Memoirs of a Reluctant Servant book (which she co-wrote with Jerome Cabeen). The details of Father Emil’s not being involved in the first two years in Liberia was of so little importance to me that I never brought it up with Barbara when I first read her book.
The key point is what Barbara writes is based on her understanding from first-hand interviews. There is no agenda to mislead and anyone who knows Barbara knows this is true. The person, smk, criticizing Barbara would have been correct if he or she said her first book about Liberia Mission did not tell the full story but her second book with Jerome cleared things up.
Regarding George Pfautsch as a source of information on what happened in Liberia, smk is wrong. George Pfautsch appears to be a good man writing many nice things about Father Emil. In his book he admits he never met Father Emil or any member of APUFRAM. This point should be kept in perspective as Father Emil was called on the carpet for covering up child abuse by people who did know him well and in several cases knew him for more than 30 years.
As for Liberia, George was not in Liberia. He did not do the homework necessary to write an accurate book or even interview a single Liberian. He assumed the Franciscan actions against Father Emil are because of the bad behavior of Omar when in fact the actions are because Father Emil repeatedly covered up children being raped. As a person who interviewed all the Liberian witnesses in Liberia, it is not surprising that my understanding of what happened is different than a person who decided to write a book filled with statements like “it seemed” which can be found in George’s book five times between pages 24 and 26 alone. If you want to read a book about a person guessing what is going on, that is George’s book. If you want to read a book by a person who lived it, read Jerome’s Memoirs of a Reluctant Servant.
If smk writes to George about the source for his information about the child abuse in Liberia, he or she will find George did not do the necessary interviews with the people involved. The closest George gets is a former volunteer board member, Joan Pharr, who had little knowledge of what was going on and chose to ignore the little she knew. Smk and George are missing the big picture by not knowing that this is not the story of one employee committing a crime but the story of the bigger problem of Father Emil and the APUFRAM leadership covering up child abuse.
Father Emil communicated verbally and in writing multiple false statements that confused a lot of people that multiple children had not been raped. He concealed very credible reports of rapes of other children in both Honduras and Liberia. As a result, to this day, a small number of people in the U.S. and a larger group of people in Honduras believe the issue is centered on a Honduran rapist named Omar and not the crimes of Father Emil. People who remember the early statements by Father Emil that Omar had not raped a child should remember Father Emil had already been told about Omar’s police confession that he raped a girl, his confession to me in the Monrovia jail, and Omar’s confession to the little girl’s family in front of multiple Liberian staff members. He decided to twist the rape into a relationship between a boyfriend and a girlfriend instead of the adult leader of the mission and an elementary school child in his care. The Father Emil and APUFRAM strategy to mislead is to put the blame on an unnamed Honduran when in the U.S. (whose full name is Jose Omar Orellana Martinez and in Honduras he continues to be presented by the APUFRAM leadership as an innocent victim and not a rapist) and distract people from crimes spanning a period of many years.
What George writes about Liberia, while well intentioned, does not match what I witnessed of the coverup that Father Emil directed. I wish to stress a critical point, I was one of the people Father Emil asked to keep the rape of the first child I was to learn about secret. I would learn only after returning to the United States that more than he feared donors would stop donating he feared the much larger number of rapes he was covering up would no longer remain contained. Thank God I rejected his instructions which were wrapped in protecting the donor base and preventing a blood feud in Honduras between Omar’s family and APUFRAM members. My report to the U.S. board of directors confirming a child had been raped did explode in the United States with multiple former volunteers in Honduras stepping forward to share their first-hand experiences of Father Emil suppressing reports of children being raped.
All smk or George have to do to validate what is written here is interview any member of the Franciscan Works board of directors, believe the Franciscan leadership in Indiana, or go to Liberia and interview people with first-hand experiences of the children who were raped. I also recommend reading the official report written by the Franciscans which is 100% in support of Jerome Cabeen.
Smk wrote he or she hopes Jerome “will someday experience being a selfless missionary and help others without seeking personal gain and financial compensation.” This is mean spirited because the truth is Jerome volunteered to serve Father Emil for over 4 years. He never sought personal gain or served the poor for money. Common sense screams smk is wrong as you do not volunteer for years without pay or work with an extremely low pay because you are motivated by financial compensation. A person considering the information provided by the anonymous smk, should note smk does not provide a single example of how Jerome was seeking personal gain or money. I summarize Jerome’s generosity as he gave years of his life without pay, worked a few years for poverty level pay to survive, and wrote a book where he donates book profits to help poor children.
Smk should be ashamed to try to disabled Jerome’s good work with the slanderous financial gain claim. Smk owes Jerome an apology because he is one of the few people I know that has volunteered full-time and for multiple consecutive years. I do hope smk does the right thing and corrects the false information in this book review. For people reading this, I can guarantee smk is not a witness to what happened in Liberia.
Had a small number of dupes not helped Father Emil continue the lie that he is innocent and the problem was just a bad employee, there was a real opportunity for Father Emil and APUFRAM to have chosen the children over the lie. Specifically, with no fund raising avenue to bypass the Catholic Church, Father Emil and APUFRAM might have stopped the deceptions. This was the hope of many insiders with access to the full story. Sadly, dupes continue to enable Father Emil to bypass the Catholic Church and do not see the harm they have done to the children in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Liberia.
This story is far from over and in the next several years Jerome Cabeen will continue to be vindicated for his and his wife’s courageous whistle blowing.
I encourage people to look at the 5 star book reviews and believe the Franciscan Works board of directors and the people with first-hand knowledge of what really happened. People who believe one anonymous negative review of this book should ask themselves why the negative review is anonymous and this rebuttal is not.
I can think of no better way to learn about the 400 children being cared for at Liberia Mission than to read Memoirs of a Reluctant Servant. I hope you do read it and join the Franciscan Works team in helping to break the cycle of poverty.
May the peace of the Lord be with you,