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Official of diocese to take leave

The Rev. Robert Sherman, the No. 3 official in the five-county Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, will take a one-year leave of absence from the "active ministry," he said Tuesday.

Sherman, who was the youngest priest to assume the post of chancellor when he was appointed at age 36 in 1990, confirmed that he will leave March 21 to train health care managers at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.

"This is (of a) personal nature," Sherman said. "I am not going to elaborate. I don't want to make this a big issue in the press."

Asked if the year's leave would be the first step toward "laicization" _ the process of leaving the priesthood _ Sherman responded, "That decision has not been made. That's a possibility."

Sherman resides at Christ the King parish in Tampa and helps with priestly duties there. Pastor Michael Muhr could not be reached for comment.

As chancellor, Sherman works under Bishop John C. Favalora and Vicar General Brendan Muldoon. The chancellor's duties include correspondence, record-keeping and serving as official notary of the diocese, which covers Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, Hernando and Citrus counties.

Muldoon was unavailable for comment.

In an interview Tuesday, Favalora said, "He (Sherman) asked for a year's leave of absence for his own personal reasons, and I have granted him that. . . .

"I would just say (that) obviously I will miss his services a great deal as a priest (and) as a chancellor of the diocese. He served very well for four years. Anything more than that, I don't think I have any reason to say. . . ."

According to the 1993 diocesan directory, Sherman has served as a board member of Catholic Charities, chairman of the diocesan insurance board, and secretary of the college of consultors, which gives advice on church property sales.