Revelations: Faith betrayed (Part 5 of 6) 2, 2005
By Megan Baldino

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Chicago, Illinois -- When 34 men came forward accusing Deacon Joseph Lundowski of sexually abusing them as children, many questions surfaced about who Lundowski is. The church says it has little record of Lundowski, saying that he was simply a lay volunteer.

Despite the lawsuit, officials haven't tried to track him down.

In the darkest days of winter, the secrets of a small church on the edge of Alaska's Norton Sound are finally being exposed.

"He pulled my pants down and I was holding them like this, and he unbuckled and un-zippered my pants and pulled it down, and I keep asking what he was doing and he said I'll find out," said Peter Kobuk, who is James Doe 18 in the lawsuit.

The man Kobuk is referring to is Deacon Joseph Lundowski, now accused by 34 men of sexually abusing them as children -- the largest case of alleged clergy sex abuse in Alaska.

"He was a big heavy-set person, very strong," Kobuk says.

Kobuk remembers a man with blue eyes and a shaved head. There are only a few pictures of Lundowski and, according to church officials, there is little record of who he was.

"It is a big puzzle. That remains to be the case. I have no idea who he was," said Bishop Donald Kettler (left) of the Diocese of Fairbanks. "All I can tell you, all that I know is that he was listed as a volunteer in some of our villages."

As the alleged victims tell it, one day a women named Martha Abutruck caught Lundowski with another man. That was in 1975, the same time Lundowski disappeared from Alaska.

Church officials admit they have not tried to track Lundowski down and don't know for sure if he is dead. Who he was and what happened to him have so far remained a mystery.

But a Chicago address on a letter written by Lundowski and sent to a man in Anchorage in 1993 leads to answers about what happened to Lundowski.

At 646 South State St., one can find the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. The mission was reluctant to give KTUU-TV any information other than that a Joseph Lundowski did live there and died sometime in the mid-1990s.

On a death certificate obtained from the Cook County Office of Vital Statistics, the address of the mission is listed -- and an important name.

After KTUU-TV traced Lundowski to Chicago and the Pacific Garden Mission, we wanted to know whether anyone remembered him. We found one man who said he knew Joseph Lundowski well.

"Yeah, that's him." David Saulnier knows all about Lundowski's transition from his life on the shores of Norton Sound to the busy streets near Chicago's Lakeshore Drive. He is listed as Joseph Lundowski's guardian on the death certificate.

Saulnier is the former superintendent of the Pacific Garden Mission and says Lundowski told him he was a commercial fisherman.

"He said, 'You know, Dave, the fishing business wasn't that good and we stayed around as long as we could. And you know what? I heard that "Unshackled!" program and I think I'm going to go down to Chicago and see what that's all about.'"

That "Unshackled!" program, beginning in 1950, has made the Pacific Garden Mission well known. The radio show airs weekly on 1,600 stations worldwide -- men and women talking about their own stories of being saved by Christ's love.

According to Saulnier, Lundowski listened to the show in Alaska.

Lundowski ended up at the mission sometime in the mid- to late 1970s.

Saulnier says Lundowski eventually completed the mission's alcohol rehabilitation program and became the nighttime switchboard operator, living in the men's dormitory until his late 70s.

He says Lundowski never gave him any trouble. "He was not a person who would sit down and talk to you about either his past life, or talk to you about much of anything."

Saulnier says he has no idea how Lundowski, a man who eventually gave his life to Christ, could be accused of sexually abusing young children. He says he never saw any evidence of the man now accused of such heinous crimes by dozens of men in several small western Alaska villages. A man accused of luring young boys into a "monkey room" with food and money and then molesting and raping them hundreds of times.

"I'm in utter shock. I still am. It's hard for me to believe," Saulnier says.

Also in shock is Saulnier's wife, Lois. Together, the couple took care of Lundowski in his old age, placing him in a nursing home just outside the city, where he died of congestive heart failure in 1996. He was 81 years old.

So much of Joseph Lundowski's life remains a mystery. From his later years in Chicago's, where those who knew him say he was seeking salvation, to his years in western Alaska, where those who knew Lundowski say they wish he had found it sooner.

The Saulniers say Lundowski returned to Alaska about three times, but he never talked about his trips and each time he came back to Chicago they say it seemed like Lundowski had a bad time.

The Saulniers also say they were surprised that Lundowski worked in the Catholic Church. They say he often talked about the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Russian Orthodox Church headquarters in New York says it has no record of a Joseph Lundowski.

There is some evidence to indicate that Lundowski did work as a commercial fisherman. There is a license on record from 1975 and also in one letter among some of the Jesuit leaders, there is talk about Brother Joe spending his summers fishing in Bristol Bay.

As for any family, Lundowski was born in West Virginia, but we haven't been able to track a single living relative. David Saulnier says Lundowski only mentioned his mother every once in while, but never talked about or visited any family.

Related Articles:

Revelations: Faith betrayed (Part 1)
In the largest clergy sex abuse case in the state, 34 men in western Alaska villages claim they were molested by a man they knew as Deacon Lundowski. For several James Does in the pending lawsuit, the old Catholic Church in St. Michael is a constant painful reminder of what they say happened there.

Revelations: Faith betrayed (Part 2)
They were young boys in the villages of St. Michael, Hooper Bay and Stebbins, and they thought of 'Deacon Lundowski' as a man of God. Now the boys are men -- and plaintiffs in a lawsuit that charges Lundowski with betraying that trust and molesting them.

Revelations: Faith betrayed (Part 3)
The Diocese of Fairbanks is responding to allegations that Joseph Lundowski, a deacon or lay volunteer, molested dozens of boys in western Alaska in the 1960s and '70s. Thirty-three men are plaintiffs in the case, the largest ever filed in Alaska claiming sexual abuse by church workers.

Revelations: Faith betrayed (Part 4)
The legal team behind the lawsuits against the Fairbanks Diocese says church leaders are covering up the truth about sexual abuse that went on decades ago in rural Alaska. Church officials deny that misbehaving clergy were 'dumped' in Native villages.

Revelations: Faith betrayed (Part 6)
Sexual abuse has lasting effects on victims and their communities. Such is the case in several western Alaska villages where dozens of men say a church worker molested them decades ago. In the last of our series, experts talk about the effects of sexual abuse and how victims can begin to heal.

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