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  Home :: 2007 February :: 'Father Gil' resting at Maryland center,1891,TRN_5784_5322789,00.html
'Father Gil' resting at Maryland center

Saint Luke administrator: Institute offers 'spiritual retreat, psychological help'

 February 2, 2007

SILVERSPRING, Md. - Quiet woods, rolling hills and a graceful statue ofChrist surround a psychiatric center where the Rev. Gilbert "FatherGil" Pansza is being treated after removal from duties at Our Lady ofGuadalupe Catholic Church.

Saint Luke Institute in this Washington suburb had no guardsstationed at the foot of its long driveway where a no-trespassing signwas posted. No bars were visible on its windows Thursday.

But access is not easy.

"All of our doors are locked," Katie Thiede, Saint Luke's executive administrator, said. "We are a controlled-access building."

Visiting Pansza on Thursday at the Catholic facility wasn't allowed without direct permission from him, Thiede said.

Pansza declined a visit, saying on the phone that he's awaiting legal counsel before making any statements.

He has been at the facility that treats clergy and others sincemid-December when Fort Worth church leaders removed him from theWichita Falls church. They said they discovered references in a file toPansza's sexual abuse of a minor in the 1970s before he entered theseminary.

"Right now he's at a place for rest, some retreat and spiritualretreat but also for a type of psychological help he can get for thetransition, for the shock of having been removed in December," said theRev. Michael Olson, vicar general for the Roman Catholic Diocese ofForth Worth.

Pansza is doing well and is free to leave, Olson said.

Most of its patients are directed to Saint Luke Institute, Thiede said. The center treats all kinds of addictions.

The institute treats people with depression, anxiety and "a widerange of sexual problems" by offering mental health counseling,wellness programs and education, according to its Web page. Research isalso done at the facility.

The facility is perched above busy four-lane New Hampshire Avenue, just north of Northwest Branch Park.

It's been at that location for 10 years, but it's been in operation since the 1950s, Thiede said.

The institute is on a 43-acre campus with a chapel, garden courtyards, tennis courts, handball courts and a basketball court.

Thiebe declined to give a tour, saying she "wasn't comfortable with that. Our entire building is confidential."

Pansza said the facility where he's staying was once a seminary.

The institute at 8901 New Hampshire Ave. has a middle section oflight-colored stone flanked by sprawling brick wings. A triangularmetal plaque of a downward-facing dove with a ring in its mouth hangson the middle section.

Across from it, at 9001 New Hampshire Ave., is a smallerbuilding with the letters "Missionary Servants of the Most HolyTrinity."

North of Washington, Silver Spring is one of many communities densely packed around the nation's capital.

By all appearances, it's another affluent Washington suburb, but it's not an incorporated city.

No clear boundary is discernable upon reaching the MontgomeryCounty town about 7 miles north of Washington. Traffic puts the brakeson a drive from the city to Silver Spring, demanding about 30 minutesto go the short distance on a weekday afternoon.

Rolling hills and tall trees, many stripped of leaves by the winter, characterize the landscape.

Busy main arteries such as Maryland 650, also called NewHampshire Avenue, crisscross the burg and dilute the landscape's charm.

The Silver Spring Metro Station is a large subway hub, andwithin walking distance from that is the regionally well-known AmericanFilm Institute and Silver Theater Cultural Center.

The historic AFI building in the city's thriving downtown hasan old-time marquee, and the center boasts on its Web site that ittrains the next generation of filmmakers.

The downtown where AFI is located is inside the Capital Beltway - also known as Interstate Highway 495.

About 74,000 people live in the diverse community, according tothe Census Bureau. It's about half white, with blacks and Hispanicsmaking up the bulk of the minority population, according to the CensusBureau.

Approximately $65,000 is the median income for a family. The median value of a home there is about $425,000.

Scripps Howard News Service reporter Trish Choate can be reached at (202) 408-2709 or

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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia