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Archdiocese of Omaha reports theft

After a financial review confirming the theft of significant funds from the Archdiocesan Family Life Office and FOCCUS, Inc., a Nebraska non-profit corporation affiliated with the archdiocese, the Archdiocese of Omaha has turned its findings over to the Omaha Police Department. Earlier this year, the archdiocese terminated the employment of Family Life Office Director Sister Barbara Markey, ND, when financial irregularities came to light.

The archdiocese's financial review, covering calendar years 2004-2005, has revealed more than $300,000 in missing funds. How the money was used and whether recipients of diverted funds are responsible for restitution is still being investigated.

Archdiocese officials believe the majority of the funds were taken from the revenues of FOCCUS, Inc., a widely-used marriage preparation instrument of the same name that is copyrighted by the Archdiocese of Omaha. About 500,000 couples use the FOCCUS instrument in the U.S. and 13 countries worldwide on a yearly basis.

Interim Family Life Office Director Father Gregory Baxter says, 'The work done by this office continues uninterrupted. Our staff is committed to preparing couples for marriage and serving the needs of families. This ongoing investigation will not detract from our efforts."

Several months ago, archdiocesan financial officers discovered accounting irregularities in the Family Life Office. This prompted the dismissal of Sister Markey and the in-depth review, which was handed over to the Omaha Police Department April 21. The archdiocese will cooperate fully with the police as the investigation continues.

The Notre Dame Sisters have been extremely helpful and cooperative throughout the investigation. This incident in no way reflects on the ministry and service that they have contributed to the archdiocese over the years.

Father Baxter, the archdiocese's moderator of the curia, will continue as interim director of the Family Life Office until a new director is found.

A national search will begin soon, Father Baxter said.

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