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Catholic priest assaulted in north-central North Dakota

Rev. Robert Wapenski

ANAMOOSE, N.D. – Investigators are still running down leads in the assault of a Catholic priest that took place here Tuesday morning, Jan. 30.

The Rev. Robert Wapenski, 62, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Anamoose, was assaulted somewhere on the church property before 8 a.m. Tuesday, Catholic Diocese of Fargo spokesman Paul Braun said Wednesday, Jan. 31.

Braun said he did not know if the attack took place inside or outside of the church or other buildings on the property.

“I can tell you he did suffer injuries in the attack,” Braun said, but he added that he did not have permission yet to say what those injuries were, if Wapenski had been hospitalized and what his current condition was.

Wapenski was treated at St. Aloisius Medical Center in Harvey, N.D.

McHenry County Sheriff Trey Skager said Wednesday that the time of the assault was unclear. He said that he and other investigators worked on the case until 4 a.m. Wednesday, and they were back looking for persons of interest a few hours later.

Skager declined to release further details on the incident, but said he would be meeting with other officials on the case Wednesday afternoon.

Wapenski, who lives in Anamoose, was ordained as a priest in the Fargo diocese in June 2005, Braun said.

“We have Father Wapenski in our prayers as he recovers from this incident,” Braun said.

Anamoose is in north-central North Dakota.

Wapenski attended seminary at Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo and at a seminary in Ohio.

He was a parochial vicar at St. Michael’s Church in Grand Forks from June 2005 to June 2007, and held the same position at Holy Cross Church in West Fargo from June 2007 to January 2009.

He then worked as church administrator for St. Margaret Mary's Church in Drake, N.D., and St. Francis Xavier’s Church until July 2009, when he was named pastor for both churches.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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