Long-time director of Morning Star Boys’ Ranch retires - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Long-time director of Morning Star Boys’ Ranch retires

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Father Joseph M. Weitensteiner is retiring as executive director from Morning Star Boys' Ranch, a residential program for boys.  In a letter to staff, donors and other supporters mailed April 19, Weitensteiner, head of the ranch in Spokane for nearly a half century, announced his retirement from that role effective May 1.

The decision was recently accepted by the Morning Star Board of Directors as well as Spokane Catholic Bishop William Skylstad. In formally acknowledging the retirement at its April 10 meeting, the board unanimously passed a resolution strongly praising the 74-year-old priest and thanking him for his decades of service.

“Father Joe’s remarkable history at Morning Star, in overseeing the care of nearly 1,300 boys spanning a period of five decades, can only be described as a life of dedication and caring,” said Robert Durgan, president of the MSBR Board.

The stress of some highly publicized abuse allegations, most dating to the 1970s and earlier, and subsequent legal filings against the Ranch and him have taken a toll, Father Weitensteiner concedes. However, he added, “I cannot thank enough the hundreds of alumni and supporters who have contacted me over the past months.”  In a statement issued on Dec. 23, Father Weitensteiner offered “forgiveness and reconciliation to those who are making these false accusations” and underscored that he has “never been sexually inappropriate with any child at any time.” The statement concluded, “Creating a positive and safe environment at Morning Star Boys’ Ranch has been one of my primary priorities for 40 years. These allegations have hurt me deeply, but I have confidence that those who know me and have worked with me throughout my career know what is real.”

Dominic Frucci is among educators and board members familiar with Father Weitensteiner’s impact. “I feel blessed to have known and worked with this outstanding man as a valued friend and inspiration for more than 30 years,” said the long-time counselor at Sacajawea Middle School where scores of Ranch residents have attended. “Going to school, working your best, being polite, getting involved in school activities, staying out of trouble and being good representatives of Morning Star Boys’ Ranch are goals Father Joe taught and expected,” Frucci said.

Morning Star officials said the succession plan to replace Father Weitensteiner, begun in 2001, would be advanced by his formal retirement.

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