The friendship of Stephen Spalding and Michael Wegs was
brief. They met in the fall of 1967 when they both enrolled
at St. Thomas Aquinas High School Seminary in
Stephen Spalding grew up in Monroe City, Missouri, about
30 miles from the town and river made famous by Mark
Twain. Michael Wegs is from Moberly, Missouri, about
30 miles southwest of Monroe City, and 70 miles from
the Mississippi River.
Stephen attended the seminary in Hannibal for that one
semester. His father died in the summer of 1962. He
confided his sorrow and pain to a spiritual director and
guidance counselor only to find himself in the hands of
a child molester.
Stephen Spalding (above, right), 1971
Stephen told his mother that Anthony J. O’Connell had molested him sexually. After reporting the abuse to Fr. Richard Kaiser, the seminary rector, Stephen withdrew from St. Thomas. He graduated from Jefferson City High School.
A Lost Friendship Rediscovered
Stephen then attended Central Missouri State University for two years before moving to Boston to join his sister, Susan, in a successful modeling career. Stephen was featured in a variety of national advertising campaigns throughout the next decade and made his home in Boston and Key West. After contracting AIDS, Stephen spent his time surrounded by family and friends until he passed away in 1986.
Michael Wegs discovered the reason that Stephen
left St. Thomas abruptly at Christmastime 2002.
Stephen’s sister, Sarah Spalding, reported O’Connell’s
sexual transgressions to civil authorities when she
learned that Michael, too, was a victim of this pedophile.
For nearly 35 years, Michael Wegs believed O’Connell’s
reasons why his friend never said good-bye; why Stephen
never wrote; why there was only this special memory of
a young boy who wanted to be friends.
O’Connell, who also was Michael’s spiritual director,
mentor, and confidante, offered various reasons for
the swift departure of Stephen Spalding. O’Connell
said Stephen didn’t like St. Thomas. Then: Stephen
didn’t have a vocation. And then: Stephen wanted to
go to public school. O’Connell told the 14-year-old
Michael that Stephen left no forwarding address.
Michael Wegs (above, left), 1967.
Eventually, to drive home the point, O’Connell told Michael Wegs that the Stephen and his family were no longer Catholic and that they wanted no contact with the high school freshman seminarian. And then one last stab: O’Connell told Michael that the Stephen and his family had moved to another state and left no forwarding address.
A Family Wounded
Recently, Sarah Spalding, who is a retired school administrator living in St. Louis, Missouri, wrote to Michael:
“I was dismayed to hear that you were blocked from writing to Stephen after he left the seminary. No doubt, he also probably sent letters that never reached his friends there either.
“Stephen was always a kind and gentle soul. Never a harsh word or even a bad mood can I recall as we were growing up. Susan is the oldest (three years ahead of Steve), then me with two years between us, the next brother John is three years younger than Steve, and Robbie was five years younger. Robbie passed away of AIDS in 1995. John lives here in St. Louis and Susie comes and goes between here and Chicago.
“Steve was always very artistic, too; he could draw anything and he was really interested in birds, fish, and other animals. In his adult years, he had a big greenhouse and raised many varieties of plants.
“We all grew up in Monroe City in a big happy Catholic family surrounded by cousins and grandparents. My father passed away suddenly from a heart attack when he was 38, leaving my mother a young widow with five kids under the age of 12.
“A couple of years later Mother remarried and we all moved to Jefferson City. Steve finished elementary school there and then started his freshman year in Hannibal for just that semester.
“He then transferred to Jeff City High School and had many friends and activities in the fine arts areas. He went to Warrensburg for a couple of years.
“My sister Susie had already moved to Boston and was a successful model there and she invited Steve to join her.
“They both had very successful careers and travelled throughout the US and Europe. Steve lived in Boston and later also bought a house in Key West.
“For a time, all of the family was living on the East coast and so I would visit Boston and New York often in the summers and holidays.
“Steve had many wonderful friends and truly enjoyed his life. He had one long-term relationship, but it had ended before his illness though they remained friends. His best friend, George, with whom Steve had shared an apartment for many years, remained his loyal friend and caregiver until Stephen died.
In those last two years, Steve flew to France for experimental treatments and exhausted all efforts. Little was known about the disease then and people were fearful of it. I’ll never forget those wards in the Boston hospitals with all the gaunt men, many whose families, jobs, and friends had abandoned them.
St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Hannibal, Missouri, and their families, and their friends. The seed money for this endeavor of hope comes from a settlement agreement with Anthony J. O'Connell, the former bishop of Palm Beach, Florida, and Knoxville, Tennessee, and Bishop John R. Gaydos, Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe (1969-1997; b. 1920, d. 2006) of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri. The strategic plan for Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation includes the following goals:
We look forward to the day when Come to the Stable/the Stephen Spalding Foundation will be able to provide support to survivor/ victims with practical help and a range of healing options treatment and complementary therapies.
Most importantly, Come to the Stable/the Stephen Spalding Foundation envisions a place where the survivor/victims of sexual molestation will be able to feel that their experiences are recognized and believed; where they can safely express grief and anger.
See also . . . .