HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) – A 27-year-old priest at Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage has been removed from the Erie Catholic Diocese.
Less than a year after being ordained to the priesthood, Father Sean Kerins has been removed from the ministry and ordered to stay away from the school where he had been teaching.
Kerins was the chaplain at the school, starting in July, as well as a priest in residence at Church of the Good Shepherd in West Middlesex.
On Monday, Kerins was placed on permanent leave by the Diocese of Erie.
Three weeks ago, officials learned he had been texting a student at Kennedy. Through an investigation, the diocese said Kerins sent a series of “inappropriate” texts to the student, violating school standards and policy.
Kerins was removed from both the school and church when the accusations first surfaced last month, and has been ordered not to have contact with minors.
Hermitage police were notified at that time as well and are doing their own investigation.
A police detective talked to the student, who said one of the texts was in poor taste, but did not rise to the level of a crime, according to a statement from police on Wednesday.
Those WKBN talked to on Wednesday found it upsetting.
“I’m heartsick because, I mean, what’s going on in society? I think we need to come back to religion more and I’m heartsick about it,” Ilona Gibson said.
“You hear about it on the news, it’s at some distance from you, and then when it comes close to home, the worse you feel about it,” Mark Murray said.
Professional counselors were made available to students at the high school on Tuesday.
Along with Kerins, 64-year-old Father David Poulsen, pastor of St. Anthony of Padula Parish in Cambridge Springs, has also been prohibited from public ministry following allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The two situations are completely unrelated.
Bishop Lawrence T. Perisco said he was shocked and disappointed by both cases.
“My heart aches for the victims and their families. Priests are rightly held to a high standard, so it was especially devastating for me to learn about both situations. I know all Catholics, including our priests, are deeply wounded by this behavior.”
Although Hermitage police could not be reached to talk about their investigation, no charges have been filed. Officials with the diocese said they don’t plan any further action against Kerins until after police have closed their case.