Life Teen founder, ex-priest, Dale Fushek, writes “tell all” book

Dale Fushek, a notorious former priest of the Diocese of Phoenix, has had a tumultuous life of late. Perhaps best known as the founder of Life Teen, his notoriety stems not only from his legal troubles over accusations of immoral behavior with young men, but also from the fact that, since his dismissal from the priesthood and subsequent laicization, followed in 2008 by his excommunication from the Catholic Church.  That last episode in Mr. Fushek’s strange saga was prompted by the fact that the former priest started his own Church — the Praise and Worship Center — which he envisioned as a “non-judgmental community of faith.” Needless to say, he has been a source of many a migraine headache for his former bishop, Most Rev. Thomas Olmsted, and for the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Phoenix.

As you might expect, Mr. Fushek wants to tell his side of the story and has done so in his new book, The Unexpected Life, which has just been released. Not having read the book, I can’t comment on its contents. But even so, just based on statements like the following, I can draw some pretty clear conclusions about what tack its author takes in trying to justify and exculpate himself.

“I feel I never left the Catholic Church,” Fushek said. “They left me.”

Yeah. Right.

P.S. Please note that I am not promoting this book. Far from it. But because this man has caused a lot of problems for a lot of people, most notably for Bishop Olmsted, I want people to be aware of the latest chapter in Mr. Fushek’s strange post-Catholic career.


  1. Christie

    I never really left my last Life Teen Mass, either. My ears are still ringing.

  2. Jim A

    I felt the same way at one point in my life. And then I realized what I was asking the Lord in His prayer to forgive me as I forgive others. Suddenly I had to search my past and find forgiveness in my heart for many things and also ask for it. Through this humbling experiance, I came back to the Church Jesus started and built and have been flooded by his Awesome Graces ever since. One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church!!
    Thank you Lord for calling me home. I pray Mr Fushek may also humble himself to ask forgiveness and receive your Graces.

  3. Brandy M Miller

    Martin Luther said the same thing.

  4. Michele

    This is typical of (Mr.) Fushak, he has written books before and tapes his talks still today at his “Praise and Worship Center”. You can find them on his Praise and Worship website.

    I used to attend St. Timothy’s and experienced a cult like following for him. Many of the former parishioners followed him right out of the Catholic Church and now attend his P&W Center.

    The events in his “unexpected life” have taken a toll on the Catholic Community, and like every schism, the casualties of war were innumerable. He has had dissenting views since I started attending St. Timothy’s. I don’t expect anything less since his departure.

    Prayer is always the answer…

  5. David

    Did anyone notice the shark-shaped shadow cast by the IChThYS (“Jesus-Fish”) on the book’s cover? Bizarre.

    Strangely, he’s dressed in the violet choir cassock of a monsignor. Such attire would never be worn without surplice, i.e. it seems he doesn’t quite know how to dress the part.

    1. Patrick Madrid

      Yeah, that shadow is someone’s oh-so-clever way of saying that the Catholic Church was mean to him.

      1. Amy

        It seemed odd to me too. Is he trying to say that he still represents the Church?

  6. Colleen

    Thank you for this. My husband and I are new youth directors at our cathedral parish in Florida. We inherited Life Teen, and were not sure of it because of the controversy surrounding the founder, but have found it to be a surprisingly excellent resource. Do you recommend it now, do you know it’s new directors, and what have you heard from others?

    1. Quaerens

      LifeTeen has done a lot to distance itself from Fushek. I am also a youth minister in Florida, and I inherited the EDGE program so I did I lot of research. When I was a youth myself, I grew up in the LifeTEEN program, and volunteered with it during college…so I knew well its particular faults at that time. I have seen a remarkable change for the better, and I find their materials very helpful, thoughtful, and first and foremost, faithful. Their “Come” series (‘Come Adore’ on Adoration, ‘Come Walk’ on the Stations, and ‘Come Clean’ on Reconciliation) has been invaluable to me, and is well written. We don’t use the liturgical guides as we don’t have a youth Mass, but I can speak for the rest of their materials.

    2. nancy

      Lifeteen YM hre for 4 years. As a former crazy Catholic teen who did not know there faith after atteding Catholic Grade school and High school I love Lifeteen. It is solid Catholic teaching done with creativity. The current Lifeteen leaders seem to be striving for Holiness and desiring to share it with the teens. Our teens are literally killing themselves, drugs, suicide ect. Lifeteen reaches teens on a level of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict said recently the essence of Evangelization is to “lead people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” Lifeteen fulfills this message in many ways. It would be great if we had more Lifeteen style products out there for Catholic YM. Unfortunatley to many Youth Minster choose non Catholic resources to help liven up their programs. The Lifeteen Mass is centered on the Eucharist is done in the proper way. As with any type of Mass music can try to take center stage….it is not the center of the Mass. Until the teens well all of us Know Christ personally and turn to him in the greatest gift of his real presence we will cotinue to stuggle. Teens love Lifeteen. Adults who work with Lifeteen do also.

  7. Anna

    @Colleen, I attended Life Teen in my high school days (early/mid 90’s) and know several people who are involved as Core Members now. I know a lot of people hate Life Teen, but I loved it as a high school student and am still in contact with some of the wonderful leaders we had. I think Life Teen is really what the parish makes it; if you have a solid priest and faithful Core Members, you’ll have a great faith formation and support program for your teens. If not, you won’t. And much depends on what you’re trying to do; we had nights of adoration for example, and never used the “peppier” songs at times like Communion, so it wasn’t just a matter of “we think teens like high volume and quick tempo so let’s just do that all the time regardless of whether it fits.” The format of Mass and then the rotating types of activities is an excellent one. The retreats then were always good, but again, would be very dependent on how the team chose to run them.

  8. […] So if you were accused of indecent exposure, assault and five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and plead guilty on one count how do you get a book deal? Simple just be a priest who was laicized and excommunicated and has a bone to pick with his faithful bishop. Life Teen founder Dale Fushek has a book out. […]

  9. Whitney

    All I’ll say about the Life Teen Mass is that I didn’t become Catholic to go to a Protestant Mass.

    1. nancy

      Mass can never be protestant when we have the Eucharist. Good Music and homilies can bring a person to enjoy Mass more but the Eucharist brings us Life!

  10. Paul

    My wife is the Youth Minister at our parrish in Hilliard Oh. She too inherieted a Lifeteen Program eight years ago. We have had excellent success with the Lifeteen Program. The resources are incredible and are based on what the US Confernce of Catholic Bishops expect High School teens to know. Our teens learn about their faith in a way that is geared toward teens. It is great to see our seniors go off to college with a strong foundation in their faith thanks to Lifeteen.

  11. Rick Flores

    We need to be explicitly honest about this man. He is a heretic at best and a pedophile/heretic at worst. This person does NOT deserve any type of notoriety except as a destructive man. He has hurt a LOT of people and was given every chance to “come clean”. The church did NOT “leave him”; rather, he destroyed a lot of lives and the church was given NO choice except to exclude him from doing more damage! it’s interesting how the church has been criticized for allowing priests too much time before exposing them…well, this goes to show that no matter what the church does, it will be criticized; either by the public or the criminals themselves!

  12. Scott W.

    I green lit the LifeTeen program at my former parish, and if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t. I agree with the commentor above that it is what a parish makes it, but the problem is that unless the leadership steps in and clearly says what you can do and what you can’t, LT will steamroll through and assimilate everything youth-related like the Borg from Star Trek. There is enormous pressure to implement or coopt a Mass for Life Teen with all pop nonsense that goes with it. Now, LT defenders will say this is purely option, and it is; but is rather like the German annexation of Czechoslovakia–which is keep pushing this parallel liturgy until someone complains.

  13. Carl B. Mawhinney

    Unfortunately, I endured 5 years of living “Hell” having to go through his pre-trial conferences, listening to his attorney’s defense arguments. I was one of the “alleged” victims the State required to give a deposition when the investigation started. With that said, I pray for him to heal and go forward. The Catholic Church did the right thing. I was a product of the “Life Teen” program before it was packaged and sold to other parishes. I wish him well.

  14. Natalie

    LifeTeen is an incredible movement within the Church. Its current leaders do so much to produce solid Catholic materials for teenagers and those who are catechizing them – Mark Hart in particular writes and speaks in an engaging and informative way that helps the teens to honestly look at the Faith and all of the amazing treasures it holds. It is definitely centered on the Eucharist, and Marian devotion/devotion to the saints is stressed right alongside knowing Scripture, which is something that so many of us Catholics need to work on. Like any program or movement, the way it is upheld/carried out locally can and will shape people’s opinions of it, but the materials they put together are fantastic. I am a Core member at my local parish, and years ago, when we first started the LifeTeen program, my younger sister was in high school and able to participate as a teen. It was positive for her then, and it’s been positive for me as a Core member now. I wish my parish had tapped into it when I was a teen…my love for the Eucharist would have blossomed more fully at an earlier age, and it would have given me another resource in helping to explain the how-what-and-why of Catholic theology, life, and culture to my Protestant friends in language that is accessible to teens. Thanks for reading my post, and blessings to you all.

    1. Carl B. Mawhinney

      Hi Natalie,

      Thanks for your post. I attended St. Timothy’s parish prior to former Msgr. Fusheks’s excommunication from the Church. He founded the LifeTeen program and “sold” it to other parishes for profit. I was one of the original members of LifeTeen in the 1980’s. As a result of accusations brought forth by many people and settlements/plea bargains by this man himself, the LifeTeen program had to go through an extreme makeover in order to ensure the safety of children. I am glad the program has been revised today to ensure the safety of all children in the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world. Praise God for God’s eternal blessings and love through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen!

  15. Paul

    I am involved with Life Teen at my parish.

    The main problem here is that they have praise and worship music at mass. I think, though am not sure, that this might be a violation of liturgical law.

    I’m not sure whether Life Teen officially supports this sort of thing though.


  16. John Flynn

    I think it important to remember that the devil constantly attacks the church and in particular attacks leadership within movements that are bringing people to Christ. Without a shadow of doubt the program that he founded has done amazing things, changed a ton of lives and built up the Church. He personally has been led astray and it is our duty to pray for him and the program and not judge. Furthermore, pray for those in ministry as they are the most attacked and as we all know it is easy to fall….

  17. Zola Ingram

    I would suggest you read his book for the truth. I just met him on a visit to Phoenix. He is a good and humble priest who has been treated unfairly by his bishop and the press. He deserves justice.

    1. Michele

      Zola, I attended St. Tim’s for years. Dale Fushek is far from “humble”. However, he has reason to be meek these days.

  18. Rich

    Maybe Fushek and John Corapi can get together and go bowling.

  19. darlene

    you are right …there is a shark on the back….the fish must represent God..why put the shark that represents evil in a book that it suppose to be “religous” or in God sense…lets pry for him…

  20. Pam

    I’m reading these posts to determine whether or not LT would help or hinder our parish teen’s Catholic identity. I’ve had an aversion towards LT earlier and pray for an open mind/heart. I like that core members identify weaknesses (LT Mass) and strengths (passing on the Faith) and attribute the results/direction upon the parish itself.

    1. Elizabeth

      @Pam – If you want the best information on Life Teen, call and talk to their staff. I was in the same boat as you. I heard a lot of different opinons about Life Teen and wanted to see for myself. I decided to call and ask my questions and I am glad I did because it cleared many things up for me.

    2. Elizabeth

      Pam – I have heard a lot of the same things mentioned below and just called up the staff because I was on the fence as well. Calling the offices and asking some of these tough questions got a lot cleared up for me and the priest at my parish.

      Hope your discernment of your youth programming goes well!

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