A Polk County church is in crisis mode, after their priest was arrested Tuesday and charged with soliciting oral sex from a male undercover detective.
Stephen Glenn Charest, 66, of Lake Wales is the pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Church.
Members of the church said Father Glenn had a great personality and was a positive addition to the church.
According to the church's Facebook page Fr. Glenn had just been appointed as their head priest on March 8.
The post said, "The community of Holy Spirit would like to say a heartfelt thank you that God has placed Fr. Glenn Charest in the midst of our lives. Through the past three years we’ve seen the dedication, care, pastoral support and love you have for people…so we say thank you Fr. Glenn for becoming our pastor.”
Parishioners who found out about Fr. Glenn’s arrest Wednesday morning are in shock.
“I can't believe it, I really can’t,” Shirley Schultz said.
Schultz said she was married at the church more than a decade ago (by a different priest) and would never have thought Fr. Glenn would be accused of this type of crime.
“He is so nice, nice with the kids, everything. My whole family they are shocked over it,” Schultz said. “It hurts, it really hurts, it is a shame.”
According to an online blog called Clerical Whispers, Fr. Glenn was “dismissed” from Our Lady of the Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Ponte Vedra Beach. The article published on June 5, 2010 went on to say that “Charest is popular with the congregation, and the dismissal came as a surprise to many parishioners.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of St. Augustine is quoted in the article that it was not because of any “abuse.”
The church released a statement Wednesday that read in part, "Bishop John Noonan has removed [Charest's] faculties and he may not minister as a priest in the Diocese of Orlando. We pray for Father Charest, the Holy Spirit Catholic community, and all those involved in this situation."
The alleged encounter occurred while a male detective worked undercover in Winter Haven at the Lake Fannie Boat Ramp in response to reports of lewd activity, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
The detective walked to a wooded area and spoke to the pastor who, deputies said, asked the detective to perform oral sex on him. The detective replied, "OK, is that what you want me to do?"
"Yeah," the pastor said, according to deputies.
"You ready?" the detective said.
"Yeah," the pastor said, again, according to deputies.
The detective showed his badge and identified himself as a sheriff's detective.
Charest faces one count of solicitation to another to commit lewdness. He has bonded out of Polk County Jail.