1969: St. Scholastica and Sexual Abuse (Duluth)

[Webmaster’s Note: Benedictine Brother David Hemmerling was the founder and director of the New Direction program from approximately 1966 until 1993. During that time, the program was primarily associated with the College of Saint Scholastica (Duluth, MN), Saint Vincent College (Latrobe, PA) and Northwest Missouri State University (Maryville, MO). In 2012 and 2013, David Hemmerling was interviewed at a nursing home in Missouri on three occasions. Almost twenty New Direction participants and parents were interviewed. At least six victims of sexual misconduct (by Hemmerling) have been identified. Four were interviewed. Former and current Saint Vincent College and Saint Vincent Archabbey personnel were also interviewed. The following is based on those interviews, emails and public information. Except for a short newspaper article, officials at the College of Saint Scholastica and within the Duluth County Attorney’s office were able to keep Hemmerling’s sexual misconduct a secret, allowing Hemmerling to continue to sexually abuse students at two more colleges.]

David Hemmerling (Part One: 1937-1975)

David Hemmerling was born in 1937.

Hemmerling attended a Catholic high school in Wisconsin.

Hemmerling was a junior (non-professed) monk at the King of Martyr priory in Fifield, Wisconsin. From 1952 until approximately 2001, King of Martyr was a dependent priory of Saint Procopius Benedictine Abbey in Lisle, Illinois.

Hemmerling’s superior at King of Martyr priory was Prior Rembert Sorg, a 1929 graduate of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

Hemmerling studied at a seminary in Washington DC that closed in early 70′s and is now a Baptist college.

Hemmerling attended Catholic University in Washington, DC.

In approximately 1966, Hemmerling’s participated in a program called SOS (“Save our Seminary”) to raise money for his DC seminary. The seminary lost money when it took out a mortgage and invested the money at the urging of a DC lawyer. The investment failed. To raise money, Hemmerling first approached the American Legion in DC. They could not help but suggested Hemmerling meet with Phyllis “Barbara” Couch, Director of Public Relations at the Sheridan-Park Hotel. Couch introduced Hemmerling to Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey, Hale and Lindy Boggs, and George Meany, president of AFL/CIO. Couch suggested that Meany give Hemmerling the money ($48,000) to buy the opening performance of the Ice Capades. Meany agreed. Many politicians planned to go. However, President Johnson gave his state of union address on the same night. Tickets were given to vets from a nearby naval hospital. Some money was raised. According to Hemmerling, however, the seminary closed six years later.

During his last two years at Catholic University, Hemmerling worked at St. Anthony’s Catholic School in Washington, DC. Hemmerling claimed he was frustrated with the nuns because any work the students turned in was deemed acceptable.

After graduation from Catholic University, Hemmerling was supposed to go to Mishawaka, Indiana for 18 months, but Prior Rembert Sorg sent him to Mother Mary School in Phenix City, Alabama. Mother Mary School was under the direction of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

After Hemmerling worked in Alabama he went back to St. Anthony’s Catholic School in Washington, DC with the condition that he would put in place all new educational standards. The nuns at St. Anthony’s agreed. Hemmerling claims he told students what they were capable of, and they have to achieve it, under threat of expulsion. Hemmerling called his initiative the “New Direction” program.

Hemmerling left Washington DC in 1968.

At some point, Hemmerling became disenchanted as a result the changes under Second Vatican Council, particularly as those changes dealt with the religious. Hemmerling thought that the Catholic Church was becoming too modern. As a result, Hemmerling claims that he no longer wanted to become a priest.

By 1968, Hemmerling had moved to the Highland Village Apartments in Duluth, Minnesota. Duluth is 126 miles from his priory in Fifield, Minnesota.

Hemmerling implemented the “New Direction” program at the College of Saint Scholastica. A January 1969 article in the college’s newspaper [ View ] featured Hemmerling’s program.

At some point in late 1970 or early 1971, a 33 year old Hemmerling pled guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to a local news report, “Hemmerling was charged with inducing a scholarship recipient to come to Duluth, where, court records show, Hemmerling ‘did practice sodomy’ on the youth.” [ View ]

The case in Duluth was handled quietly by St. Louis County Attorney Keith Brownell in order avoid publicity on the case:

“I felt, rightly or wrongly, that this really wasn’t that big a crime. I entered into plea negotiations myself because I felt the program (New Directions, Inc. was of sufficient merit to justify my interest in it rather than going the normal course.” – Brownell

By the summer of 1970, however, Hemmerling had already found a new home.

Prior Rembert Sorg, a 1929 graduate of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania set up a meeting between Hemmerling and Saint Vincent Archabbot Egbert Donovan, Saint Vincent College President Rev. Fintan R. Shoniker, along with the college’s academic dean and its treasurer, Rev. Conall Pfiester.

Someone suggested that Hemmerling contact a monk/priest from Saint Vincent, Fr. Lucian Malich, at his parish in nearby Whitney (PA). The local parish, Saint Cecilia’s, had a vacant convent building that hadn’t been cleaned in a few years. Malich set the rent at $300 per month and said that Hemmerling could have the first month free if he cleaned the place.

Hemmerling had to receive the blessing of Bishop William Connare. According to Hemmerling, Connare’s chancellor, possibly Fr. Norbert Felix Gaughan, didn’t want Hemmerling in the diocese. Hemmerling met directly with the bishop, bypassing the chancellor, and received the bishop’s approval.

On his second day in Whitney, three woman approached Hemmerling while he was washing walls. They were the church organist, secretary and the cook. Hemmerling was busy and said he was rude to the women.

Hemmerling claims the New Directions program officially launched in Pennsylvania on August 15, 1970 with six students from Bowie, Maryland, all white, none Catholic. No money had been paid to Saint Vincent College when the school year started.

The students and Hemmerling slept on cots in the living room, scheduled use of the two showers, and ate from plastic plates.

The Ford motor company provided cars to transport the students.

In November of 1970, Whitney resident Ann Kozusko visited Hemmerling at the convent. During their conversation, Hemmerling shared his worries about the approaching winter and the convent’s 1902 coal furnace. Kozusko contacted Mr. Brown, who delivered several tons of coal to the convent that afternoon. Mr. Brown reportedly delivered coal for the next ten years.

Kozusko became a frequent visitor to the convent. She told Hemmerling she would pay the convent’s electricity bill and would help steer bingo profits to pay the rent.

In 1971, the program added three students.

In 1972, the program added two students.

By 1973, the program ran out of money for food. Hemmerling called Lindy Boggs (who chastised Hemmerling for his pride and lack of planning) and a deal was struck (involving contacts in Philadelphia and Baltimore) which resulted in the program receiving three truckloads of food and household supplies from Philadelphia. The supplies kept coming over the next five years.

In 1975, all of the students were required to attend summer school. In the fall of 1975, Rev. Conall Pfiester approached Hemmerling. Pfiester told Hemmerling that he had to pay the students’ bill, now well over $40,000. Pfiester was worried that the college might be sued by students who were paying their bills. Pfiester said that the situation was “dangerous” and reportedly told Hemmerling that “if you don’t pay your bill, I don’t think we can continue.”

Hemmerling drove to Washington DC to meet with George Meany, president of AFL/CIO. Meany said he could help but it would take six months. Although Meany warned Hemmerling to stay away, Hemmerling took the subway to NYC to meet with Teddy Gleason, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association, at his office was near Battery Park. Hemmerling wore his collar. When he arrived in the afternoon, Hemmerling was told that Gleason would not return until the morning. Hemmerling was told to arrive at 6am.

The next day, Gleason took out a personal loan at Citibank and gave Hemmerling a check for $40,000 along with some cash to return home. Hemmerling was to return the next week to discuss how the loan would be repaid.

The first report of sexual misconduct involving a Saint Vincent College student came in 1978.

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Topics: David Hemmerling, Duluth, New Direction, Saint Scholastica

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