My name is Benjamin Flores. I am a Native NYer, age 36, living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and I belong to the Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish (OLGC). After completing 8 years of elementary education at OLGC School, in 1986 I chose to attend Cathedral Preparatory Seminary. One of the primary reasons for attending this high school was due to the guidance and nurturing friendship I developed with then Fr. Wallace Harris; who was a visiting priest who presided over Sunday Mass at the request of his friend Fr. James Doyle. At that time, Msgr. Richard Guastella, was an Associate Pastor of OLGC and he was also a former Seminarian classmate of Msgr. Harris. Knowing these men thru my youth made me contemplate the possibility of the priesthood as a path in my life. Sorry to say, I did not answer that calling but have a deep respect and admiration for the men who did and do today.
I attended the Prep from 1986-1990. Part of the faculty that molded the Man that writes you today were Msgr. James Sullivan, Msgr. George Thompson, Fr. Salvatore LaSalle (deceased), Bishop Gerald Walsh, Msgr. Kevin Nelan, Fr. Edward O’Halloran and of course Msgr. Wallace Harris. All fine men, and all I consider excellent priests. After high school, I attended Penn State and earned a Business Degree in Real Estate & International Studies. Throughout all those years, I have maintained my close friendship with Msgr. Harris and leaned on him pretty hard; especially when my Father passed in the Spring of 1995 while I was studying overseas in Costa Rica. Thank God I had him to get me through it all.
Now that you have a little background on who I am and my relationship to Wallace Harris, I would like to inform you as to why I am writing this letter. I am requesting an audience with you and approximately 5-7 former Men of the Prep to share stories, experiences and lessons learned about the man we call Wally. Also, we would like to relay our concerns and doubts about the allegations brought against Msgr. Harris, especially since most of the men you will meet were one time students of the Prep during the years in question.
I know you are a busy man with an enormous amount of work and responsibility; but I firmly believe that if a man stands accused, and whether that person is guilty or innocent, you deserve to hear all sides of the story. If victims have the right to be heard, then so do the men who were not victims and believe in the Man’s innocence. The men you will meet have some of the closest bonds to Wally and can give you some insight to the Man that has been a friend, mentor, guidance counselor, Father to those with no Dad and of course one of the finest priest we have ever known. While Wally patiently but anxiously awaits his Judgment Day, I can not let the opportunity go by without reminding you of his 37th Anniversary to the Priesthood is just a few days. I firmly believe he deserves better and I truly believe you will give him the best and fairest treatment possible.
Msgr. Harris has been away from his Parish of St. Charles Borromeo and the Archdiocese of NY since August of last year. Requests for meetings and/or simple talks have gone blatantly ignored by your Predecessor for the past year. All we want to do is talk. We are Men in our mid 30s or early 40s, but we all feel like we're being treated like children. In some way we are. Like a child that has lost their parent in a crowded airport or the busy subway system in this great City. I am turning to you Archbishop Dolan, the Sheppard of the Flock, to help us. I completely understand the graveness of the alleged crimes and mis-doings that have been brought forth by the victims but I firmly feel that the men who believe in Wally and what he stands for, are victims as well. Victims because we are being shut out. The man who we would normally go to in such troubled times as these is not available to us. We do feel a sense of great loss and I ask that you guide us and lend us your ear while we wait for our friend to return home in whatever capacity and no matter what happens. A true friend is a friend for life and Wally needs those friends even more now as he struggles with this ordeal. But a friend can’t help if he is kept in the dark. Please shed some light on this for us and help us to ultimately help him.
Make no misrepresentations, I want Msgr. Harris back in NY and at St. Charles yesterday but I do realize there is a process. But this same process has taken over 5+ years for Msgr. Charlie Kavenaugh and this is something I can not let happen.
I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (917) 860-5811. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Very truly yours,
Benjamin Flores III
Class of 1990