A priest who taught at Wheeling Jesuit University and served as associate pastor of St. Paul's Parish in Weirton is being held without bond in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center in Virginia, accused of sexual battery on a juvenile.
Lt. Sonny Cachuela, public information officer for the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office, said the Rev. Felix C. Owino, A.J., is charged with aggravated sexual battery of a minor under 13 years of age. Owino's next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 2 in the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston issued a news release Monday, stating it had suspended Owino from his priestly duties within the diocese, pending the outcome of his trial in Virginia. The diocese had learned Friday that Owino was arrested Thursday in Fairfax County.
Accused of sexual battery of a juvenile in Fairfax County, Va.
According to information from diocesan spokesman Bryan Minor, Owino is a priest of the religious missionary congregation known as the Apostles of Jesus, the first African congregation of Catholic priests and brothers. He came to West Virginia last year as an instructor in the philosophy department at Wheeling Jesuit.
The university also issued a statement, noting Owino was on summer break from his teaching duties when the alleged battery occurred. He served until June as a faculty member in the philosophy department, but has no current responsibilities at the university and is not expected to return to campus.
During his time at Wheeling Jesuit, campus authorities received no student complaints about his conduct.
"This alleged behavior violates the core of who we are called to be as Christians and as a Jesuit, Catholic campus community whose mission demands that we dedicate ourselves to the care and protection of our students," said Interim President Sister Francis Marie Thrailkill, OSU. "We encourage all students to report misconduct to the president's office or their student advisor."
Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Owino was ordained in 1992 and is a member of the Religious Missionary Institute of the Apostles of Jesus, headquartered in Philadelphia, according to the university. He joined the faculty of Wheeling Jesuit in the fall 2008 term and taught for two consecutive terms, most recently instructing an online class. Prior to that, he worked at Magdalen College in New Hampshire and before that at Alvernia College in Reading, Pa.
"Bishop Michael J. Bransfield asks the community to pray for those involved in this incident, especially the minor," the diocesan news release states. "May the healing power of our Lord, Jesus Christ, be with all abuse victims now and each day."
Minor noted that suspected cases of sexual abuse by personnel of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston can be reported by calling one of the bishop's designees at 888-434-6237. The designees are the Rev. Monsignor Frederick P. Annie, V.G., at ext. 267 and the Very Rev. Anthony Cincinnati, S.T.D., V.E., at ext. 260.