Despite an allegation of child abuse in 2000, which his current superior said resulted in Hollidaysburg-based Brother Stephen Baker's removal from public ministry at Bishop McCort High School, the friar had a continued presence at the Johnstown school through the late 2000s, sources said.
A Bishop McCort alumnus told the Mirror that Baker spent time around the school's football team as an athletic trainer/equipment manager in 2001.
He said Baker arranged for the team's water boys, eighth-graders, to have their own suite and meal passes during Bishop McCort football camp at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in fall 2001.
"He made it possible for five or six other eighth-graders to actually stay overnight at camp as water boys,"?he said.
"My mom said it was ridiculous and didn't at all allow me to. But I did go to all the games, and Brother Steve drove us to the district championship."
Asked to confirm the water boys' separate room and Brother Stephen's interaction with the boys, Bishop McCort Principal and then-head football coach Ken Salem said he was not authorized by the board of trustees to comment.
Baker's time in the area
Approximate dates that Brother Stephen Baker has been in the Altoona-Johnstown area:
1993-2000 - Baker worked as a teacher and athletic trainer at Bishop McCort while living at St. Anthony Parish (currently St. Clare of Assisi).
2001-03 - Baker was under supervision at St. Bernardine Monastery, Newry.
2004-10 - Baker lived at St. Joseph Friary, Hollidaysburg, (the same province as St. Bernardine Monastery - the Province of the Immaculate Conception, Hollidaysburg).
2012 to present - St. Bernardine Monastery.
Source: Attorney Mitchell Garabedian
Baker's current superior, the Rev. Patrick Quinn of St. Bernardine Monastery near Hollidaysburg, had no knowledge of Baker's involvement with McCort football.
"I am not aware of that," Quinn said. "If he was doing that, it was not in any way sponsored by us. He would have been violating his limitations."
How he could have circumvented his supervision at St. Bernardine? "That's a good question," Quinn said.
The McCort alumnus said he had a series of encounters with Baker during a summer between 2000 and 2003, when he was in his early teens.
The source said Baker would show up in his van with a McDonald's breakfast for him as he worked to earn some pocket money by sitting at the corner of Bishop McCort's parking lot, collecting money from employees of a nearby hospital for using the Bishop McCort parking lot. It was an official job performed for the school.
Baker "came down every day for two weeks and bought me McDonald's breakfast. For no reason," he said.
"He'd park, and I'd get in the car. Baker didn't have anything for himself. Nothing ever happened. But it was classic behavior for grooming a victim," he said in hindsight.
Baker's van was one of his methods of abusing children, said Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who secured settlements against the Youngstown Catholic Diocese, John F. Kennedy High School and the Third Order Regular Franciscans for 11 men who accused Baker of sexually assaulting them.
He is investigating claims of 25 more victims, including a number from Bishop McCort. He characterized Baker as a "serial pedophile" who probably abused "hundreds" of McCort students.
The McCort source said Baker or "Bro" as McCort students called him, was also fixture at Little League baseball games in Johnstown.
The source recalled watching his brother's baseball game in 2002 accompanied by his friends. The source alleges Baker told him that he and his friends needed to be stretched and he wanted to transport the children in his van to the McCort athletic training room. The source said he didn't go.
"'He'd say, 'I need to take you guys to get stretched.' It was never like a preparatory thing for a game the next day," the source said, but he always presented it as a general way to improve athleticism.
"Anytime he ever saw you, he'd grab you and feel you up [touching legs and buttocks], and say 'You're tight. You need stretched,'" the McCort source said.
Throughout the mid-2000s, Baker appeared on the sidelines of Bishop McCort football games.
Another Bishop McCort alumnus recalled seeing Baker in the school weight room in 2007.
"I can only recall one time I've see him at school. We were lifting weights, and he was just talking to the coaches the whole time. I wanna say early 2007."
Garabedian said Baker "knew no boundaries and had negligent supervisors."
"A pedophile doesn't need to touch his victims. He can be sexual gratified just by being in a locker room."
Baker was a religion teacher at Bishop McCort from 1993 to 2000, according to Garabedian's record. Quinn said Baker lived at St. Anthony Parish - currently St.Claire of Assisi. The parish was operated by friars of St. Bernardine while Baker was serving at McCort, said current pastor the Rev. Matthew Masurda.
Baker was removed from ministry in 2000 as a result of a single allegation by a young man involving massage that occurred in the '80s, said Quinn. The incident resulted in a lawsuit and settlement in 2002 that included a confidentiality agreement that was requested by the victim, Quinn said.
Quinn said he was in Rome from 2000 to 2005 and became the superior of the monastery in 2010.
Quinn said "until very recently," Baker, the monastery cook, was allowed to go leave the monastery for errands including grocery shopping.
He was required to notify Quinn where and when he was going. But Quinn said, "I have to say, there was no double checking."
Attorney Kathleen Gallagher, who represents the school's trustees, declined to answer whether Bishop McCort was aware of the reason for Baker's removal from public ministry.
"I can't speak on that because of pending litigation," she said, referring to attorney Susan Williams' representation of three former Bishop McCort students who have talked to her in detail about their alleged abuse.
Bishop McCort hired a Pittsburgh-based law firm to investigate after school trustees became aware of abuse allegations last week.
Last week a representative of Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callahan said she had received no allegations regarding Baker to date. On Friday, a representative of Callahan's office said if a criminal investigation of allegations against Baker would be commenced, the Johnstown Police Department would be the first investigating agency. She said Callahan would contact the Mirror with further information on whether she plans to launch an investigation, but the Mirror received no call on Friday.
A source close to Bishop McCort said "a lot of people from McCort want Baker in jail."
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.