This news makes me really sad. I am shocked, heartbroken, and very confused. Last week, the Hudson Valley Post reported that former St. Peter’s Parish Pastor, James Garisto, was arrested on January 27th, 2022 with charges of endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors, and indecent assault. Garisto was the pastor of St. Peter’s Parish of Hyde Park/Poughkeepsie from 1998 to 2014. 

The Accusation 

Garisto, who owned a home in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia at the time of the assaults, is accused of attacking the child hundreds of times between 1995 and 2002. He was released from custody after posting 10% of his $75,000 bail.  

Garisto has been in the public eye since his abrupt removal as pastor of St. Adalbert – St. Roch parish in North Shore Staten Island in 2015. On leave from the Archdiocese of New York since August of 2019, Garisto faces legal action in New York. This new allegation marks the third time that Garisto has been accused of sexual assault, according to SNAP. 

Here is the police report from the Municipal Court of Philadelphia County: attachment-CpDocketSheet

Garisto’s Time in Hyde Park 

As mentioned prior, Garisto was the pastor of St. Peter’s Parish from 1998 to 2014. It was through his actions that the parish acquired the Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel and eight acres on the grounds of the former Hudson River State Hospital. The acquisition resurrected the parish, which was at its lowest ebb in 1998. Since then, Mass attendance had doubled, collections quadrupled, and enrollment in St. Peter’s Catholic School increased by 100 students in three years. 

In 2006, when it was announced by the Archdiocese that St. Peter’s Catholic School was to merge with Regina Ceoli Catholic School, Garisto fought to keep the school independent. He was a revered public figure in the Poughkeepsie area. 

One Victim Speaks Out 

In regards to a different case, one victim, former Staten Islander Ryan Barry, a husband and father now living in Pennsylvania, has come out publicly about his experiences. Throughout his teen and adult years, Barry kept his sexual abuse a secret until the IRCP program began requesting interviews with people who knew Garisto. Although many lawsuits under the Child Victims Act have been filed anonymously, Barry decided to be named as a plaintiff. In an article for BishopAccountability.org, Barry said, “I was fed up at that point... Everybody knows now. It makes no sense not to put my name into it.” 

Barry sued the Archdiocese of New York and St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School under the Child Victims Act in Manhattan state Supreme Court. In a silive.com article, it says that “Ryan [Barry] was sexually abused by Father Garisto when he was approximately 15 to 21 years old,” from about 1993 through 1998, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also states that he was abused “in multiple locations, including Father Garisto’s car, and at Father Garisto’s house, when Father Garisto would visit Ryan and counsel Ryan in his capacity as a priest.” 

“I wasn’t one of the best students in the world, so my grades weren’t so good... when I put in my application for St. Joseph by-the-Sea, he [Father Garisto] came to me and told me, ‘I picked your application out of the garbage. They were going to throw you out, so now you owe me’ That’s when the grooming started.” Ryan Barry

At the time, Garisto was well regarded during his long tenure at St. Joseph’s where he became the chairman of the school’s science department in 1989. He founded and served as moderator of the biology club. Garisto taught Advanced Placement Biology to seniors and was responsible for having the AP Biology program accredited by St. John’s University, thereby allowing those selected seniors taking the course to obtain college credits. 

The Thoughts and Feelings of a Former Altar Boy 

When I saw the news, it shook me to my core. My parents and I had been parishioners of St. Peter’s since I was born. I attended St. Peter’s Catholic School from Kindergarten through 8th grade from 2003-2012. I was an altar server and sacristan under Garisto from fourth grade through freshman year of high school. This was a man that I worked closely with. This was a man that I revered and had respect for. This was the man who did First Friday Mass and Stations of the Cross at our school. This was the man would stroll the halls of St. Peter’s School, saying hello to classrooms and handing out candy after quizzing us in Bible trivia. This was the man who led me through the sacraments. This was a man that I trusted.  

I used to consider Garisto as someone who was strict, business-minded, traditional, and kind. When I heard the news, I immediately reached out to one of my close friends who was also an altar server and sacristan. We talked on the phone for about an hour in absolute shock. Neither of us had ever experienced a side like this from Garisto, but these allegations made us question and rethink our childhoods. It made us rethink certain events, certain things he said, certain trips he would make, etc. It made us wonder if anyone we knew was a victim. It made us sick to our stomachs thinking that someone we worked with or went to school with may have been going through something like that. I know families that would have him come over to their houses for dinner. With these allegations, I look back on these things in a different light. I can’t deny that he was an influential figure for me growing up, but now it all feels tainted. This was someone who was instrumental in my formative years, and to hear about these allegations puts a big black spot on many elementary school and middle school memories.  

I’m sure many people from the St. Peter’s community are dealing with this news in different ways. Some are probably confused. Some are probably mad. Some are probably sad. Most are probably a combination. I would hate to hear that someone from our community was a victim of abuse, as well, but I also want to make this the environment where they feel empowered to come forward. Abuse is a tricky thing, and speaking about it and coming to terms with it can be quite difficult. What’s best at this time is to be there for each other, to listen, and allow ourselves to feel these emotions. I felt because of my connection to the school and parish that I owed writing something about this.  

The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline is available 24/7. On can chat live on the site or call 1.800.656.HOPE (4673).

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7. One can chat live right on the site, text "START" to 88788, or call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).

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