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Religious order priest recovering after alleged assault

Father Thomas Haake, OMV  (Photo from Archdiocese of Washington)

Two Washington, D.C., Catholic parishes offered prayers and support for a visiting religious order priest who was allegedly assaulted on June 9 during an early morning walk.

The website of St. Peter’s Parish on Capitol Hill noted, “Father Thomas Haake, OMV (Oblates of the Virgin Mary) was recently assaulted on the streets of Southeast, Washington, D.C. We are saddened that Father Haake, an out-of-town guest to our city and a friend of St. Peter's, suffered an assault. Father Haake has been provided a space in St. Peter's rectory to use once or twice a week while meeting with people participating in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. We are thankful that Father Haake was not seriously hurt and is doing well in body and spirit. We will pass along the prayers and concern of many inquiring about Father Haake, and continue to pray for healing and justice in our country.”

The Catholic Standard sought an interview with Father Haake about the incident, but was unsuccessful as of July 2.

A representative of Public Information Office for the Metropolitan Police Department noted, “This incident has been classified as ‘Injured Person to the Hospital,’ as the circumstances are currently being investigated.” 

According to the police report on the incident dated June 9, Father Haake was walking on the Sousa Bridge in the 2300 block of Pennsylvania Ave., S.E. The priest told police he fell to the ground and hit his face on the sidewalk, remembers waking up with a swollen right eye, and his wallet and cell phone were missing. The report said Father Haake “did not know how he got his injury,” and he was transported to a hospital for treatment.

The Washington Post reported that police on July 2 said they reclassified the incident as a robbery and are continuing their investigation.

In a July 2 interview with the Catholic Standard, Msgr. Raymond East, the pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Washington, said Father Haake had been staying at the parish this spring, starting in mid-April on the day after Easter.

“Father Haake has been a delight to have with us. We were happy to welcome him to the rectory,” he said, noting that the priest is in his 60s, not 80-years-old as has been stated in social media accounts. One social media post falsely claimed that the priest had been attacked by Black Lives Matter protesters.

Msgr. East said during the coronavirus shutdown of public Masses, the priest continued offering spiritual reflections for people online via Zoom, and he assisted with celebrating the 7 a.m. Mass for the Missionaries of Charity nuns at their chapel in their convent next door.

“He was always very reverent when he would celebrate Mass,” said Msgr. East, who added that Father Haake was well-liked by the nuns and St. Teresa’s parishioners who got to know him. “He was always smiling, with a twinkle in his eye.”

Msgr. East said that Father Haake likes to take long walks in the city. “He walks everywhere,” said St. Teresa’s pastor, noting that his friend was taking his usual early morning walk and praying the rosary when the incident happened. After his fall on the bridge, Father Haake walked back about a mile to St. Teresa’s and celebrated Mass for the sisters. Afterward, he was taken by ambulance to George Washington University Hospital. Msgr. East said his friend had two small fractures in his cheek, and couldn’t remember details of what had happened to him. 

“He remembered guys on a bike coming toward him” before losing consciousness, Msgr. East said.

A group from St. Teresa’s stayed with Father Haake in the hospital emergency room, and he returned to the rectory later that day. Msgr. East said a parishioner walked back to the bridge and searched unsuccessfully for the priest’s wallet and cell phone.

Msgr. East said that Father Haake is now staying in the Capitol Hill area, where years earlier he served as a U.S. Senate page.

The Archdiocese of Washington issued this statement on June 30: “Father Thomas Haake, a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, is a visiting priest serving in the Archdiocese of Washington for a few months. He has been serving as retreat master, leading the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius at a few parishes within the archdiocese. While we have no further information about Father Haake's condition, we pray for his continued healing, and for an end to violence in our country.”

The archdiocese issued a further statement on July 2 that said, “At this point, we are unable to confirm the facts of this story due to Father Haake's request for privacy. He has declined any interviews at this time because he is in the midst of the ongoing investigation by D.C. Police. Our office must abide by his wishes for privacy.”

That statement from the archdiocese added, “When and if we are able to share more with you at a later time, we will.”