SOMERSET, NJ - Questions surrounding church finances at Saint Matthias led to the resignation of Rev. Douglas J. Haefner according to a letter sent to parishioners and school families on Nov. 2.
"It is with sadness that I must inform you that Father's resignation coincides with serious questions and concerns that recently have been raised regarding the handling of parish finances," Rev. James F. Checchio, Bishop of Metuchen wrote in his letter. "While I cannot go into details at this time for legal reasons, please know I am fully committed to getting to the bottom of things and will share additional information, as I am able."
Haefner has held his position at Saint Matthias for 27 years, according to Checchio. Checchio also noted in his letter that health concerns factored in Haefner's decision to resign.
According to Checchio's letter, Haefner will undergo treatment to address his health concerns, and he asked for the community to join in prayer for Haefner's wellbeing.
Father Abraham Orapankal, Pastor of Saint John Neumann Church in Califon has been appointed as temporary administrator by Checchio, according to his letter.
"I consider him to be a holy priest, a devoted pastor, and a talented man, loved by his parishioners," Checchio wrote. "At my request, Father Abraham has graciously agreed to leave his own beloved parish community and come to journey with you as you grow closer to the Lord even through the troubles you now experience."
Checchio was at the parish hall yesterday for a pastoral visit and to speak to parishioners.
"I understand the suddenness of this announcement is unsettling for many, and that Father Haefner has been so well respected by you over many years," Checchio wrote. "You are not alone in these feelings; this is heartbreaking to me too. Be assured you remain in my prayers during this challenging time of transition. I ask you to pray for me, too, as you pray for Father Doug and welcome Fr. Abraham to your wonderful parish."