For more than four decades as a popular teacher, successful basketball coach and capable missionary, Father William Hodgson Marshall's work took him across Canada and to postings in the United States and the Caribbean.
Now, living in a Toronto retirement home and battling cancer, the 88-year-old priest is facing a raft of sexual abuse charges related to incidents at different points of his career. The latest of these were laid Wednesday in connection with an incident alleged to have happened in 1953 at St. Michael's College School, a private Catholic boys' school in Toronto.
In the fall of that year, Father Marshall was a recently ordained priest working as a math and religion teacher at St. Michael's. According to police, a former student has alleged that he was sexually assaulted. Police say the alleged incident occurred during an after-school basketball program.
The victim, now 72, only recently came forward to Toronto police, said Constable Tony Vella. The priest turned himself in Wednesday morning at 52 division on Dundas Street. He was charged with two counts of indecent assault and released. He will appear in court Nov. 3.
Police went public with the charge in hopes of discovering whether there are others with similar allegations.
"If there are victims out there who haven't come forward, we urge them to contact us," Constable Vella said.
Father Marshall himself could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Windsor lawyer Andrew Bradie, who is representing him, said his client has notdecided how he will plead.
Ordained in 1951, Father Marshall taught at St. Michael's in two stretches, from 1952 to 1954 and 1957 to 1958. In the interim, he worked as a teacher at Assumption College School in Windsor and St. Thomas high school in Houston. Later postings would take him to Saskatoon, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. He worked another stint in Windsor, this time as principal at Holy Names high school in the 1980s, before heading to the island of St. Lucia as a missionary, where he read mass and ministered to the sick.
In 1996, the Congregation of St. Basil, the order to which Father Marshall belongs, received a complaint about the priest. Father Thomas Rosica, the order's spokesman, said he didn't know the exact nature of the complaint or who filed it, but that it was serious enough that he was recalled from Saint Lucia. He was sent to Saint Luke Institute in Maryland, a mental-health facility that primarily treats Catholic officials. Afterwards, he moved into a Basilian retirement home in downtown Toronto.
Over the years, others contacted the congregation and the church attempted to help them, in one case paying for psychological care for a Sudbury man. None of the complainants went to the police, Father Rosica said.
Earlier this year, however, other alleged victims began contacting the authorities. In May, Father Marshall was charged with sexual abuse dating to his time at Holy Names. In August, Windsor police laid charges based when three other alleged victims came forward. One of the charges related to Holy Names, the others to the priest's time at Assumption College School in the 1950s.
When Father Marshall was first charged in Windsor, St. Michael's staff began contacting alumni and donors to let them know what was happened, said Michael De Pellegrin, a spokesman for St. Michael's.
"For me, it was personal, because not only do I work here, but I was a student here," he said.
Father Rosica said the Basilians didn't receive any complaints before 1996 and that Father Marshall's frequent moves were typical for a priest at the time.
"He was an effective, charismatic teacher and coach. He has a lot of people who appreciated him as a coach, teacher and missionary," Father Rosica said.
The priest lives in a Basilian home and has suffered from cancer for about two years.
"He is completely aware of the seriousness of the situation. He has expressed sorrow over what has transpired," Father Rosica said.