GLENDALE — Parishioners at St. Pancras Church are getting a new pastor following the arrest of the parish’s former rector who is accused of sharing explicit texts with a minor.
Msgr. Steven Aguggia, chancellor of the diocese, will also serve as the church’s new pastor, Adriana Rodriguez, press secretary for the diocese confirmed on Aug. 17.
“I’m ready to serve,” Msgr. Aguggia, whose official start date as pastor is Sept. 15, told The Tablet.
Parishioners are still grappling with the news of the arrest of Father Francis Hughes, 65, who had served as their pastor from 2015 until his removal on July 29. Father Hughes is accused of sharing lewd pictures and texts with a 15-year-old after meeting him on a dating app. He was charged with one count of receipt and distribution of child pornography, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio appointed Msgr. Aguggia to his new post, stating that he selected him to be pastor “because of the need for a healing presence in the parish of St. Pancras, with which he has had some contact in the past.”
Msgr. Aguggia served for 10 years as pastor of St. Margaret’s Church in Middle Village, a parish not too far from St. Pancras. The Italian communities in the two parishes often interacted, he said. He also led a Padre Pio prayer group at St. Pancras while he was pastor of St. Margaret’s.
Msgr. Aguggia said his immediate goal is to minister to parishioners who say they have been deeply hurt and angered after the arrest of Father Hughes, adding he is eager to show parishioners that the priesthood is a good and holy endeavor.
“The parish community of St. Pancras has suffered and I am acutely aware of the pain the community feels,” he told The Tablet. “Together we can move forward and with the help of the Lord heal and rebuild trust. It’s my prayer that I can be a sign and means of Jesus’ presence in St. Pancras.”
Parishioners learned of Msgr. Aguggia’s appointment during an announcement at Masses that were celebrated on Aug. 15-16 at both St. Pancras and St. Kevin’s Church in Flushing, where he is in residence.
Msgr. Aguggia was born in Jackson Heights and grew up in Bayside. He attended Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament School in Bayside; Holy Cross High School in Flushing; Georgetown University; and Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington.
He was ordained on May 22, 1993. He served as an assistant at Our Lady of Miracles Church in Canarsie until 1998, when he went to Rome to pursue post-graduate studies on Canon Law. He was named a monsignor in 2009.
Immediately following Father Hughes’ arrest, the diocese placed Father Wladyslaw Kubrak, the parochial vicar for St. Pancras, as the temporary administrator of the parish. Father Kubrak will remain at the parish as parochial vicar, according to the diocese.
Msgr. Aguggia served as judicial vicar for the Diocese of Brooklyn for several years and became chancellor in January. He is also the liaison to the vicar for clergy for the Diaconate Formation Program and serves as the chaplain for the Catholic Lawyers Guild Queens County Chapter.
While he won’t officially become pastor for a few weeks, he has already heard from parishioners.
“They were very welcoming. I am coming to St. Pancras with a great willingness to serve and with an obedience to God,” Msgr. Aguggia added.