Char­lotte Hall pri­est placed on leave af­ter an­gry funeral out­burst

Briese cleared Char­lotte Hall church be­fore funeral Mass af­ter vis­i­tor ac­ci­den­tally top­pled, dam­aged chal­ice

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­ Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

The Rev. Michael Briese of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Newport has been placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave af­ter an in­ci­dent last week in which the pri­est evicted a funeral from the Char­lotte Hall church in an ap­par­ent fit of anger over a dam­aged chal­ice.

Arch­dio­cese of Wash­ing­ton spokesman Ed­ward McFad­den said Briese has been placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave pend­ing the out­come of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter. Lo­cal arch­dio­cese priests will fill in for Briese dur­ing ser­vices, McFad­den said in an email.

“Parish staff and vol­un­teers will have to fill in for [Briese] for the food bank [which serves] more than 150 fam­i­lies per month, his em­ploy­ment aid pro- gram and his hous­ing aid pro­gram, the lat­ter two he op­er­ated by him­self,” McFad­den said in an email.

On June 27, as guests filed into the church for the funeral Mass of Agnes Theresa Hicks of Char­lotte Hall, one guest un­know­ingly knocked over a chal­ice, dam­ag­ing it. Ac­cord­ing to Hicks’ fam­ily and other wit­nesses, when Briese dis­cov­ered this, he ex­ploded into a fit of anger, can­cel­ing the funeral be­fore the Mass could be­gin, call­ing the po­lice and evict­ing the fam­ily, guests and the de­ceased.

The funeral later took place in a Me­chan­icsville funeral home with a pri­est from a neigh­bor­ing parish, who of­fered apolo­gies to the fam­ily on be­half of the arch­dio­cese. The arch­dio­cese also sent a let­ter of apol­ogy to the fam­ily.

The story and video of the in­ci­dent have since made the rounds on so­cial me­dia, re­ceiv­ing na­tional at­ten­tion and in­spir­ing the Twit­ter hash­tag #Mourn­ingWhileBlack.

Briese is white; the Hicks fam­ily is black.

Briese apol­o­gized in a let­ter to the ed­i­tor which ran in Wed­nes­day’s edi­tion of The En­ter­prise. In it, Briese stated, “The man who can­celed this fam­ily’s funeral and dis­patched them in anger, is not the man who hours be­fore worked to min­is­ter to their needs in a time of grief. In­stead of lift­ing them up, I let them down. For the anger and em­bar- rass­ment I caused to that fam­ily, I am pro­foundly sorry.”

The arch­dio­cese stated that Briese would be meet­ing with the fam­ily in the com­ing days to of­fer his per­sonal apolo­gies.

Ac­cord­ing to the Catholic Stan­dard, Bries is a na­tive of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and a grad­u­ate of Arch­bishop Carroll High School and the Univer­sity of Scran­ton. He at­tended Blessed John XXIII Sem­i­nary in We­ston, Mass., and was or­dained in 2009.

Briese be­came pas­tor of St. Mary’s in July 2016. With mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion, Briese opened the Good Shep­herd Food Pantry in the base­ment of the church in Fe­bru­ary 2017, de­liv­er­ing food to those in need.


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