EAST AURORA, N.Y. (WKBW) — February 4, 2020 the Buffalo Diocese announced the closure of Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora. August 4th, former volunteers said they noticed bodies buried on the property were exhumed. Just days later, they say U-Hauls arrived and statues disappeared.
"They couldn't get out of Christ the King Seminary fast enough," Jim Grubka, donor and former volunteer at the seminary.
November 18th, the executive director of the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese, Richard Suchan, filed a petition in state supreme court to reallocate donations meant for Christ the King Seminary.
"However, if you do this, you have to provide a significant reason for asking for the modification and use of those funds," Grubka said.
The petition says the seminary was closed due to "fluctuating student enrollment" and the need for capital improvement. It also mentions, "Over the past ten years, Christ the King Seminary has experienced annual operating deficits averaging $500,000."
"That, everyone knows, is a complete falsehood. It's untrue," Grubka said.
Grubka provided the 7 Eyewitness New I-team with the seminary's financial highlights, prepared by the diocese's independent accountants. They show Christ the King actually had an overall net gain of $152,000 over 10 years.
But if you factor in 2009, just outside that ten year window, the diocese did have a total net loss of $2.7 million or just under $250,000 on average per year over 11 years.
The petition then mentions Upon this Rock, a $100 million fundraiser former Bishop Malone started in 2016. $5 million was designated for the seminary, creating the Christ the King Capital Campaign and Endowment Fund.
Four years after Upon this Rock was announced, the petition says "The Christ the King Capital Campaign and Endowment Funds were funded by gifts from numerous donors, many of whom can no longer be identified and many of whom are deceased."
But many donors are still alive and well, like Kathleen Frost.
"I think I'm inhaling and exhaling with you today. Actually, I think maybe four or five of the larger endowments yes are no longer, but there's a myriad of other donors, believe me, we're alive," Frost said.
Grubka said there is an entire database of Upon this Rock donors, showing a snapshot of the database.
"The Foundation has a list of every contributor from Upon this Rock. Every single one. I'm one, and I'm still living," Grubka said.
The diocese's communications director Greg Tucker told 7 Eyewitness News Supreme Court Judge Donna Siwek is allowing the funds donated to Christ the King to be reallocated. All donations to Christ the King will now support the process of priestly formation and 32 donors will be notified of that change.
Former seminary volunteers said they hope newly installed Bishop Michael Fisher will lead the diocese down a more transparent path, especially within Christ the King.
"I noticed that he kept saying the best gift that God has given me is the art of listening. I thought to myself, well Bishop, now's the time to listen," Frost said.