.- A priest exonerated of sexual assault charges against a teen girl will return to his parish with “great joy,” almost four years after he left public ministry, and two years after his acquittal.
“It is with a sense of great joy and anticipation that I return to public ministry in my parish of Cappagh with my good name and standing in the Church fully restored,” Fr. Eugene Boland told the Tyrone Herald March 9.
He said his exoneration was a “long and painful” journey that involved both a civil and a canonical process.
Fr. Boland will be reinstated as pastor at an anticipated Mass March 15 at St. Mary’s Church in Killyclogher, in Northern Ireland. Fr. Boland is a priest of the Diocese of Derry, which straddles the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“I am eagerly looking forward to celebrating the sacraments with my parishioners once again and being involved with all the ministries for which I was ordained 44 years ago,” he said. “I ask God and his Blessed Mother to continue to bless and guide me in the priestly ministry amongst his holy people.”
Fr. Boland was accused in 2010 of five charges of indecent assault on a 14-year-old girl on unknown dates between June 1990 and June 1992. He stepped down as parish priest of Cappagh.
He was acquitted after an eight-day trial in 2012. After his acquittal, he told BBC News he had been “devastated” by the case, but forgave his accuser.
“My faith was strong and I always believed the truth would come out in the end.”
With the conclusion of the canonical process, the priest voiced his gratitude to Archbishop Eamon Martin, coadjutor archbishop of Armagh, who was previously vicar general of the Derry diocese, the Tyrone Herald reports.
Fr. Boland thanked the diocese’s chancellor, Fr. Paul McCafferty, and also expressed his “heartfelt thanks” to Fr. Francis Bradley, the diocesan administrator, whom he said “worked tirelessly” to conclude the case.
Fr. Bradley commented, “I entrust Fr. Eugene and all involved to prayer and the protection of God our Father. I warmly welcome Fr. Eugene’s return to Cappagh.”
“Throughout this journey I have been sustained and encouraged by the countless prayers and support of my family, colleagues, parishioners past and present and many friends,” he told the Tyrone Herald.
“In all of this, I only had one goal in mind, namely to return as soon as possible to my parish of Cappagh and resume the priestly ministry.”