HAZLE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A sign of controversy at the corner of Father Angelo and St. Joseph's Drives will be put to a vote next week, the sacred and the profane playing out in paper ballots in a municipal building.
Most residents were silent in the suburban Ridgewood development on the outskirts of Hazleton in Luzerne County on Tuesday morning when asked about the late Rev. Girard Angelo, whose name is on their deeds and the birthday cards that relatives send their children, a man identified as an alleged child abuser in the Pennsylvania attorney general's recent grand jury report on widespread abuse in the Catholic Church.
A woman on Father Angelo Drive spoke sternly to a German shepherd by a two-car garage and said "No" when approached by a reporter. A neighbor skimmed leaves off the surface of his pool and didn't have time to talk. A widow around the corner with a statue of the Blessed Mother in her backyard said she forgave Angelo, who was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in Williamsport in the 1960s.
"Temptation is all over," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.
The 11 households on Father Angelo Drive will decide Monday whether they'd like to change the name of their small street or keep things the way they are. One man said it didn't matter either way but declined to say how he'd vote.
None remembered ever meeting Angelo.
Resident Anna Jarnutowski recalled a time when her house number was changed. It was a hassle.
"I don't want to change the name," she said in her doorway.
When Attorney General Josh Shapiro released the grand jury report Aug. 14, phone calls came in to the Hazle Township Board of Supervisors asking whether officials would move to change the street's name.
"I have gotten some calls from people who want to get rid of it," said Jim Montone, chairman of the supervisors.
Montone said some residents were concerned about being harassed if they decide to keep the name.
"I'm leaving it up to them," he said. "If that's what they want to do, that's fine."
Keeping the status quo on the street seems to be the consensus, said resident Dave Naugle, who had a "Father Angelo Drive" placard screwed into his brick facade.
"Most of the people on the street are against having it changed, because of the nightmare that would entail with everything. Your driver's license. Your mail. Your utilities," he said. "Not that they want to honor someone that … you know."
Angelo, who passed away in 2009, was pastor of St. Raphael's, later renamed Sacred Heart of Jesus, for three decades. The church is just a few blocks from the street that bears his name. A Hazleton native, Angelo spearheaded the efforts to build the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus beside the church.
The church closed in 2009 as part of a Diocese of Scranton consolidation, and two years later, the shrine was closed as well, its statues moved to surrounding churches. The open-air shrine, described as Angelo's "legacy" in his obituary, sits unkempt today. The fountains are empty and large rhododendrons grow into the pathway that leads to a sculpture of a large crown.
Prior to Sacred Heart, Angelo was an assistant pastor at Mater Delorosa in Williamsport, Lycoming County. According to the grand jury report, former Diocese of Scranton Bishop James C. Timlin received a letter from an adult male in 2002, claiming that Angelo sexually abused him when he was 14, in the 1960s.
In all, the grand jury report found that some 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania victimized more than 1,000 children for decades, crimes that were often never addressed by church hierarchy and sometimes covered up.
Timlin, according to the report, told Angelo's alleged victim he was contacting the Lycoming County District Attorney's Office. Timlin also told the victim that Angelo would be responsible for any compensation, though the man said he had no intention of filing a lawsuit.
Timlin also told the victim to contact Angelo directly. He never did. Angelo denied the accusations, according to the report, when contacted by Timlin.
The University of Scranton said on Monday that it would be removing Timlin's name from buildings, along with the names of two other bishops, Jerome D. Hannan and J. Carroll McCormick. All three were named in the grand jury report.
Frances Calarco, Hazle Township's zoning officer, said changing a street name isn't that difficult on the municipality's end. There are legal ads, a small attorney's fee, and documentation sent to both Luzerne County and the U.S. Postal Service.
"It doesn't happen that often," she said.
The Diocese of Scranton "respects the right of the municipality to determine on whom and in what manner it will bestow honors," a spokesperson said in an email Tuesday.
In the Ridgewood development, residents recalled the paperwork gantlet when St. James Drive became St. Joseph's, when Sunburst Drive became West Venisa Drive.
Paul Rashko, a resident on West Venisa, said the development's builder, Jim Ustynoski, was close with Angelo and named the street in his honor.
"I'm going to tell you it took us not months but years to change every legal thing, from credit cards, to licenses and permits, and even the deed on the house," Rashko, 64, said.
Rashko, who is Catholic, said the "damage is done" when it comes to Father Angelo Drive.
"I mean, come on, let's not beat this horse to death," he said.
Chris Leskosky, 63, lives on St. Joseph's Drive, at an intersection with Father Angelo Drive. She won't be allowed to vote but stopped her SUV in the middle of the street to make sure someone heard how she felt about it.
Leskosky, a Catholic, suggested draping black cloth over the sign.
"It sickens me that I have to look at that sign every time I pull into my driveway," she said. "It really makes sad."