It was a beautiful spring day in Michigan. The flowers were just
beginning to bloom and buds were blossoming on once-barren tree
branches. The snow had disappeared for another season and the
temperature had actually climbed above 60 degrees for the first time all
year. Jennifer Tracey drove her 2006 Chevy Tahoe south on Farmington
Road toward the church. “What a great weekend for a camping trip,”
she said out loud. The boys needed this, she thought; I hope they liked
She pulled into the parking lot of Our Lady of the Lakes Church and
School. After settling on a parking space as close to the entrance as
possible, she got out of the old wagon and headed for the rectory to
pick up the kids. She spotted the group almost immediately. Actually,
she spotted a bunch of backpacks, camping equipment, pop bottles, shoes,
socks, and other debris strewn across the lawn of the rather impressive
two-story brick home. Apparently, she was the first parent to arrive.
She was not surprised; she was a half an hour early.
She was quite excited to see the boys. This was their first overnight
since Father Bill’s transfer. And Father Bill was the only adult male
that the boys warmed up to since their dad, Jim, passed away three years
earlier. My God, she thought; had it been three years already? She
remembered the day of the accident like it was yesterday; the phone call
from the plant, the shocking news, the rush to Botsford Hospital, the
all-night, prayer dominated, vigil; finally, the doctor coming out of
surgery shaking his head and saying “I’m terribly sorry, we did all
that we could.” She remembered telling the boys, then 9 and 11, that
their father had been called to heaven. Jake, her sensitive 9 year old,
wanted to know if he could visit. Kenny, always the more out-spoken of
the two, sat stunned, staring at the sky with those piercing green eyes
of his, asking, with heart, not voice, why the Lord had chosen to take
his father at this time, when he needed him most. It was so unfair.
Jim’s loss had been terribly hard on the boys; they were bitter and
sullen, until they met Father Bill. He had just transferred from a
parish in Pennsylvania when Jim’s accident occurred. After Jim’s
death, Bill made the boys his special project, and, in a short time,
became their substitute father. He took them to Detroit Tiger ball
games, played ball with them, took them camping, and even let them sleep
overnight at the rectory. They became altar boys and were adjusting to
life without their father, fairly well. Then, one day last month, Father
Bill came by the house and announced that he had been transferred to a
parish in Virginia. His three years in Michigan were up and it was time
to move on. The boys may as well have heard that Father Bill had died.
It was their father’s death all over again. Father Bill’s farewell
‘celebration’ was more like a wake. He took the boys aside and tried
to explain that he was required to do God’s work wherever THE CHURCH
sent him, He said that he’d try to visit as often as possible but the
boys were unconvinced. The looks on their faces when Father Bill drove
off were almost as sad as the day they heard the news of their
That was why this outing with Father Gerry was so important. Gerry was
Bill’s replacement and had been at Lakes (the parish’s nickname)
less than a month. This camping trip was the first chance the boys got
to spend any extended time with him, away from his parish
responsibilities. Jennifer knew it would take some time, but she hoped
that the boys would, at least, like him.
She climbed the porch steps and knocked on the door of the large bricked
colonial. It was a typical suburban Michigan home; two stories with red,
white and black reclaimed brick and white aluminum siding. The grounds
were massive since the house stood on church property. The lot was
heavily treed and the grass had been freshly trimmed. She could smell
the fresh cut grass, one of the wonderful smells of spring in Michigan.
Father Gerry came to the door and invited her in. There were boys
running all over the house, chasing each other. The noise was deafening.
Jennifer scanned the crowd but could not locate Jake or Kenny.
“Nice to see you, again, Jenny,” Gerry said.
“Nice to see you too, Father. How was the outing?”
“The boys had a great time. They’re still having a great time as you
can see. Jake and Kenny are in the backyard, I believe. I’ll go get
them for you.”
“Oh, don’t trouble yourself, Father, you have your hands full here;
I’ll get them.”
“No trouble at all, Jenny. Wait here. I’ll be right back with the
Jennifer would have preferred to get the boys, given the noise level in
the house. Instead, she walked out onto the front porch to wait in the
sunshine. In ‘no time’ (as Jake would say) Father Gerry appeared
with her two sons. The contrast between Jake and Kenny and other boys
was absolutely startling. They looked almost as they did on the occasion
of their father’s death and Father Bill’s last day.
“Here they are, safe and sound,” said Father Gerry. “Boys, say
‘hi’ to your mom.”
“Hi Mom,” Kenny managed, barely audible.
“Yeah, hi Mom,” said Jake, just as softly.
“What’s the matter with you guys?” asked Gerry. “Did I tire you
out that much?”
To Jennifer: “I ran these kids ragged; hiking, calisthenics, canoeing,
all night stories, you name it. They’re tired. Take them home, put
them to bed; they’ll be fine in the morning.”
Jennifer was in shock. The other boys were none the worse for wear. What
was wrong with hers?
“Thank you, Father,” she managed. “I’ll do just that.”
The Tracey family got into the wagon and Jennifer headed for home. The
boys sat in the back seat together. Usually, they fought over who would
sit in front.
“Did you guys have a good time?”
“How was Father Gerry? He seems quite nice. Is he as good a camp
director as Father Bill?”
Jennifer looked at her two silent sons in her rear view mirror. Kenny
was looking at Jake, fiercely, with one finger to his lips silently
ordering him to be quiet. Jake had a single tear running down his cheek.
They drove in silence the rest of the way home. Something was terribly
2. THE PRIEST
Father Gerry Bartholomew was enjoying his conversation with Spencer and
Sherry Reed and their teenage boys, David and Justin. They were new
members of Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in Farmington, Michigan, and
Gerry was its new Assistant Pastor. The Reeds had lost a child, and were
trying to organize a charity event for St. Jude Children’s Research
Hospital, where their Jeffrey, despite the valiant efforts of dedicated
St. Jude nurses and doctors, lost his final battle with Cancer. They
were touring the vast campus of “Lakes”, as the parish was known,
enjoying the beautiful spring weather. The boys were tossing around a
football. The ball had eluded one of the boys, and rolled up to Gerry,
who picked it up and launched a perfect spiral to David. David glanced
at Justin with an expression of surprise at Gerry’s ‘quarterbacking
“Nice throw,” said Justin, obviously impressed. “Where did you
learn to throw a football like that?”
“Oh,” said Gerry. “We played a lot of football at the seminary and
I coach our parish team in the local junior football league. You guys
should try out. We have many other activities, including camping, my
personal favorite, and swimming, baseball, choir, assuming you can sing
a bit. And, of course, we do a lot of charity work, especially with kids
your age. Charity is one of the many ways that God provides to
demonstrate our love and compassion for others. It is but one of the
many miracles of pleasure that God wants us to experience. After all,
love of man is love of God; don’t you agree? Doing what we love makes
us happy and I adore bonding with happy teenagers. We have a close-knit
group. Much of my time here at Lakes is spent with our young people and
I love it. I would love to have you join us.”
The boys promised to consider it and the parents were excited with the
prospect of their boys participating in good, clean, fun in a pious
environment. Gerry walked them to their car and waved as it disappeared
down the road leading from the parish to the main highway.
Gerry Bartholomew, had recently been the Assistant Pastor of St.
Patrick’s Parish in Ohio. He was thirty-six, approximately six feet
tall and heavy-set. He had dark brown, almost black eyes; one could
hardly make out the pupils. He had long, brown hair, hanging down, past
his cheekbones and curled under. His complexion was very pale, almost
milk-like. He had two major passions: camping and teenagers. He was very
charming and spoke to parishioners on their level. His sermons were
powerful and memorable. Everywhere he’d been, parishioners loved him.
One father of a 14-year-old boy even loaned him his camper to take his
son and some other boys on an overnight camping trip. These types of
activities and interactions with teenagers were the highlights of his
He did not want to leave Ohio or St. Patrick’s, but THE CHURCH, in its
infinite wisdom had decided that it was time for him to move on. He
fought against reassignment; he argued that his work with parish
teenagers was unappreciated and that he was misunderstood. Gerry
Bartholomew was certain that he was going to be assigned out of parish
work, perhaps to do charity work overseas or to counsel the frail and
the sick. In fact, his personnel file and records contained copious
notes, with strong recommendations that he receive these types of
assignments. To his surprise, the notes and records contained in his
file were ignored. Gerry was placed at Our Lady of the Lakes. He was in
Michigan. There were lush campsites all over the state, excellent sites
within twenty-five miles of the parish. There, he met the Reed brothers.
There he Jake and Kenneth Tracey. Gerry Bartholomew was beside himself
Excerpted from "Betrayal of Faith" by Mark M. Bello. Copyright © 2017 by Mark M. Bello. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.