February 23, 2005

Cross to Bare

Phoenix New Times


Monsignor Dale Fushek had long been the rock star of the Catholic Church in the United States.

He founded America's largest program for Catholic teenagers, Life Teen, at his parish in the East Valley in 1985. Today, about 100,000 high-school-age Catholics across the country attend his program each week.

As the flamboyant, charismatic leader of that program, Fushek reigned as the de facto spokesman for the country's Catholic youth. He is credited with bringing America's young Catholics back to the church by energizing, personalizing and modernizing church doctrine. He also is credited with bringing Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa to the Valley.

During the pope's visits to Tempe in 1987 and to St. Louis in 1999, Fushek organized and led major youth events associated with the trips, essentially serving as the ambassador to John Paul II and the national media for America's next generation of Catholics.

Fushek, not long ago second in command to former bishop Thomas O'Brien, also was arguably the most powerful, popular and financially connected priest in Arizona.

He was so connected, for example, that he both successfully solicited massive donations from Charles Keating and later became close friends with the man credited with dismantling Keating's crooked savings-and-loan empire, local attorney Mike Manning.

But, for two decades, there also have been whispers.

Fellow priests used to joke that Fushek created Life Teen to "get teens."

Posted by kshaw at February 23, 2005 08:11 PM