Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me—-Part XV—-What Danny Wegman Said

July 30th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

As noted earlier, I skipped over a few parts of the story in order to get current but will be filling in the details in retrospect.  This is one I wish I had brought up sooner (if I’d had time) as I now note much speculation about what really happened with Danny Wegman.  I will share what I know, and also raise a few questions too.  But I think, overall, it will bring some clarification.

Bob Wegman lived on the west shore of Canandaigua Lake in the summers, and was a generous contributor to St. Januarius in Naples.   His widow, Peggy, continued to attend and be supportive.  Danny Wegman is situated further north but also on the west side, and although closer to Canandaigua sometimes also attended St. Jan’s.  His daughters, Colleen and Nicole were married there, and Danny Wegman contributed to refurbishment of the church for their double wedding.

This is by way of background to show that the Wegman Family did consider St. Januarius to be part of their faith experience, and that they were supportive.  In fiscal year ended June 30, 2009, St. Jan’s experienced a serious shortfall, and a Wegman donation of approximately $20,000 bailed out the parish, and by implication OLOL and Fr. Ring as well.  It must have taken some effort to secure such a sum, as Fr. Ring told me once that the Wegmans are a “house account” for the Bishop.  So during Partners in Faith in 2003 they didn’t received the typical solicitation as did the rest of us, but (I was told) they were separately solicited by DoR and therefore the half that would revert to a parish would not do so.  Other than conversation, I have no way to verify this, but it would not be surprising that a number of “deep pockets” in DoR don’t directly benefit their local parishes except through the Sunday collections.

Therefore, there must have been some high level machinations to even be permitted to go after the Wegmans to fund Fr. Ring’s projects at St. Januarius.  Fr. George Wiant apparently knew them and had contacts, but it seems pretty clear that DoR was on top of this all the way.

Since I started sending the Newsletter to all DoR parisihoners in Fall 2009, the Wegmans have been on the list, and therefore they received volumes on the concern about selling the organ, about the Sanctuary opposition, about the surveys, and even letters from parishioners.  Mostly, the parishoners felt ignored, and Fr. Ring and Fr. George went full speed ahead.  They solicited funds from parishioners and from summer visitors alike with a letter that said:

Dear Parishioners:

We have been offered a unique opportunity. Numerous times conversations have surfaced about renovating St. Januarius Church: to restore the simplicity that was so beautiful when the church was first dedicated, to make the altar more safe and accessible, while bringing the altar, tabernacle, baptistry and reconciliation room (confessional) more into conformity with the Vatican II Liturgy.

The Wegman family, in memory of Robert Wegman, has generously offered to fund this, though also wanting parishioners involved, raising part of the money. The approximate cost of the renovation will be $300,000. We are expected to raise $30,000 from our parish. The Wegman family will provide the remaining funds. Such an opportunity is unlike to come our way again.

Economically, this is a very difficult time for everyone. Yet at least some things, like the partition separating church and hall which is falling apart, must be addressed.  We now have a unique opportunity to address not only that, and to improving lighting; we can also accomplish renovation/restoration that could serve us very well long into the future.

Enclosed are some pictures of the renovated altar and baptistry. Will you try to be as generous as you can to help with this unique opportunity, which holds the promise of not only renewing our building, but also renewing our experience of praying the Eucharist, and our celebrating the sacraments together? Please return your pledge card by August 15th. Your pledge will be due Sept. 15th.

In advance, we thank you for your support and generosity.

In Christ,

Fr. Robert Ring & Fr. George Wiant

Please note several points in the letters sent by the Pastor and Fr. George.  The reference to original simplicity is apparently not shared by those few parishioners who were at St. Jan’s when the new church was dedicated.  Leaving that aside, Fr. Ring (with handouts earlier, and with this explict statement) seems to be clearly stating that St. Jan’s (the parish he has pastored for about 9 years at that point, has not been in compliance with Vatican II.  Strange, because that was the first time it seemed many people were hearing that complaint.  (Let’s not get into the Vatican II disputed statements at this point; worth a different post.)

Next, Fr. Ring and Fr. George are clearly saying they have $300,000 pledged by the Wegmans.  Remember the exact words:  “The Wegman family, in memory of Robert Wegman, has generously offered to fund this, though also wanting parishioners involved, raising part of the money.”   Ask yourself, is it any wonder that people receiving this letter would believe the Wegmans had agreed to fund, and even to cover overruns.

It isn’t clear why we never heard from the Wegmans, either to request to be off our mailing list, or to protest that Fr. Ring’s letter to parishoners didn’t accurately reflect their donation intent. 

Most (but not all) of the “Rest of the Story” is reflected in a chance encounter with Danny Wegman, reported to parishioners in a Special Edition Newsletter in March, 2011.  Here that Newsletter is reproduced in its entirety.  Click to make it larger and more readable.












This would have been a logical place to end the portion of the Zeal story that deals with Danny Wegman and the Wegman Foundation, if it truly were “the end.”  However, after more than a month of quiet (no reaction to the Special Edition Newsletter) it was reported back to me from those in attendance at two different Care of the Community meetings, that

1. Cris Wensel (Fr. Ring’s DRE and gatekeeper) reported that there had been a $300,000 commitment by Wegmans but that because of my meeting with him in the aisle of Wegmans that he had reduced his donation to $50,000.  That attributed comment would be patently false, as Mr. Wegman informed me that he had NOT promised the $300,000 but only the $50,000 and that is consistent with DoR reducing the scope of the project in January 2011.

2. It was also reported separately that the Wegmans had reduced their donation because someone from St. Jan’s (“a mandater”) had banged on Peggy Wegman’s door on her birthday demanding Wegmans not fund the project.  I have personally spoken to a mandater who says he did see Peggy Wegman walking on her birthday, said hello, did politely request that Wegmans not fund the work in their mutual parish that was opposed by so many.  He did not go to her home, let alone “bang on her door,”  or “demand.”  Such exaggeration and spin  is not untypical of other “stories” that get told in OLOL.

3. At yet another Care of the Community meeing, Cris Wensel stated that Danny Wegman had contributed another $50,000.

4. Then it was mentioned that Fr. Ring had secured the funding from “another source” and people worried that he’d put a mortgage on St. Jan’s or used the St. Patrick;s money which got folded into OLOL with the amalgamation, or the final spend-down of the St. Mary Rushville treasury.

5. At another point it was said that Mr. Wegman had relented and was giving the full amount.

 6. At another time it was said that a private donor had stepped in to make the rest of the donation.  Speculation was Fr. George Wiant or Danny Wegman “anonymously.” 

7. At another point it was said that  Danny Wegman had relented and was going to give the $300,000 after all.

Since so many OLOL stories do not seem to agree with each other, and minutes with specifics are unavailable, we can’t say what is true and what is not.  So we rely for the moment on what Jack Jones in his Naples Record arrticle reported: “Ring has since acknowledged that the Wegman gift was a donation of $50,000, but said that since that time the controversy over the project has led to Wegmans and another anonymous donor to make additional contributions that will cover the $300,000 cost.” 

How does one explain first the accusation that those who protested the sanctuary changes caused the contribution to drop, and then Fr. Ring’s later remark that the controversy led to Wegmans making additonal contributions?  It sounds like a contradiction.  Further, why the secrecy about an “anonymous donor” and is it really a donor or another financing method?  And since the diocese split the project, it would seem that all $300,000 wouldn’t just be spent on the sanctuary and lighting, so where is the rest of the money, especially for what had been most needed all along — the divider curtain in the back of the church?

I am the one who looked Danny Wegman in the eye, heard, restated and thus confirmed what he said to me.  I sent him a thank you for his good stewardship and I believe others did too.  If he changed his mind, it would be surprising but not impossible, but going from $50,000 to $300,000 seems unlikely for a good businessman, no matter how much wheedling Fr. Ring did.  And where are the financial statements showing the flow of funds?

If I’d published this part of the story after meeting Mr. Wegman “in the aisle” it would have ended with the 2-page special edition newsletter.  Now, with all the versions being spun, anything seems possible.  We may never know the truth, so reporting all the versions we’ve heard seems the fairest way to proceed.

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5 Responses to “Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me—-Part XV—-What Danny Wegman Said”

  1. Kevin says:

    To be honest, I would trust the Wegmans over Fr. Ring. Danny hasn’t really done anything to not be trusted in this whole issue, but Fr. Ring has done plenty to not be trusted. It sounds like Fr. Ring and his lackeys have done as much as possible to confuse people and I wouldn’t be surprised if that is their intent, just so no one can figure out what actually happened. And it sounds like Danny had almost no idea what was going on aside from what Fr. Ring was telling him. I could be wrong, but I feel that I can be safe in assuming the Wegman family was not told the complete truth.

  2. Eliza10 says:

    Wow. I really don’t know who to trust. I know NOT to trust Fr. Ring, Bishop Clark, and the rest of the DoR administration, with few exceptions (except those exceptions have no power usually!). What they do with our money is most assuredly top-secret for a reason, and NOT an honest reason!

    But I am not so sure Danny Wegman can be trusted either. A really good steward would have taken his $50,000 back when he learned 75% of the parish was against the project. He could have funded only the needed divider wall (Did you say this is still not in place???). I am confused how the Wegmans can be a part of the DoR this long and not see something is seriously wrong with how Bishop Clark runs things. The Wegmans have top-notch accountants; they ought to be able to slot their charitable giving for things that serve DoR Catholics, and NOT Bishop Clark’s dissident plans and his dishonest, top-secret financing practices…

    So, I don’t know if Danny Wegman’s charitable giving/support of the Clark agenda can be trusted, or not.

    I’d be real happy if the Wegman family took a back seat to ALL DoR giving till Clark retires, and bank it to break out later, to support the new Bishop’s plans!

    Maybe we ALL should do that. Less than a year to go!

  3. christian says:

    I agree with Kevin-I would trust Danny Wegman and the Wegman family over Fr. Ring. I also agree with Eliza 10-I know who not to trust-Fr. Ring, Bishop Clark, and the rest of the DoR administration (with a few exceptions).
    What does it tell you of their intent and agenda when things which need to be fixed/repaired/replaced at St. Jan’s such as the needed divider wall were not done but the sanctuary was demolished and redone to Fr. Ring’s liking.
    The DoR are poor stewards. That is why I agree with Eliza 10 to hold on to your donations until a new bishop and administration are in place.

  4. Raymond F. Rice says:

    Diane: Are you sure the Wegman family read your newsletter???

  5. Diane Harris says:

    How can one be sure, Raymond? It is mailed to them, and some of these matters to their foundation as well. Goes to home and the office…..and I would hope their clipping service gets things like the Naples Record to them. But just because someone gets something doesn’t mean they read it. And just because they read it doesn’t mean they “get” it….

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