The senior pastor of a rural Minnesota church is being accused of covering up sex abuse by his son-in-law and daughter, who both served on staff at the church.
Former members of Northridge Church in Owatonna, Minnesota, allege that Senior Pastor Mark Perryman quietly removed his son-in-law, Sean Masopust, from staff after Sean was accused of sexual assault. Then, when allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced concerning Sean’s wife, Felicia Masopust, she was allowed to resign without acknowledging misconduct.
The Roys Report reached out repeatedly to Perryman and the Masopusts for comment, but no one responded.
On Tuesday, police arrested Sean Masopust at his home in Owatonna, Minnesota. He is being held at the Steele County Detention Center on a fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge, the Owatonna Police Department and jail records indicate.
The Owatonna People’s Press reported the charge stemmed from a police report made December 23, 2021.
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A young woman, who police interviewed after getting the initial report, spoke with TRR. She alleges that Sean Masopust sexually assaulted her three years ago, when she was a 17-year-old in the church youth group.
The woman, whom we’ll call “Emily,” asked to remain anonymous. Due to the nature of the crime, TRR is withholding her identity.
Sean Masopust was fired this past fall, former board member Pat McCauley and other former church members say, and he’s no longer listed on the church website.
Calls to Northridge seeking information about Masopust and his employment status were not returned.
Masopust’s wife, youth pastor Felicia Masopust, was also accused of sexual abuse in a letter sent this month by the parents of a youth group member. In the letter, which was obtained by The Roys Report, the parents state their son received a sexually explicit text from Felicia in 2019.
Kayla Mollenhauer and other former youth group members say Felicia Masopust also failed to take concerns seriously when girls told her certain men in the church made them uncomfortable. They also accuse her of manipulating them and creating a cult-like atmosphere in which they were expected to tell her everything about their private lives.
Former church members including McCauley and his daughter-in-law, Shelley McCauley, say Felicia Masopust resigned from the church in January. However, the church hasn’t made any announcement regarding Felicia Masopust’s employment, and she remains listed on the church’s website.
The Roys Report reached out to Northridge Church for clarification about Felicia Masopust’s employment, but received no response.
The Roys Report also contacted the Minnesota District of the Assemblies of God to ask about Northridge and Sean and Felicia Masopust. Mark Dean, the district superintendent, said “the accusations have been investigated.”
“We have forwarded our findings to the Owatonna Police, as well as to the General Council of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Mo.,” Dean wrote in an email. “We have no additional comment to make.”
The McCauleys and Amber Will, a former adult leader in the youth group, allege Perryman failed to notify church board members or to investigate fully when he first learned in 2018 that his son-in-law was accused of flirtatiously texting with the teen.
When Sean Masopust left the church staff, the church was told only that Masopust had committed “conduct unbecoming of a pastor,” said Shelley McCauley, another former youth group volunteer.
“The congregation has no idea why Sean was fired, why Felicia resigned,” she added.
Now the McCauleys, Will, and others, including the young woman who says she was assaulted, say they’ve been ostracized by the church.
‘Flirtatious texts’ . . . or more?
The young woman, “Emily,” said she was born and raised attending Northridge and had worked periodically at the church’s daycare.
Emily alleges Sean Masopust began messaging her in June 2018, not long after her 17th birthday.
“It didn’t seem weird at first, because I was really good friends with their families,” Emily said. “Then the messages just kind of started to get more and more inappropriate, more sexual.”The messages included nude photos and “very sexual comments,” she said.
Emily added Sean Masopust also escalated his physical interactions. “He would want to constantly be kissing on me and touching me and stuff like that,” she said. She added that he once tried to grope her, and she had to ask him repeatedly to stop.
Masopust’s behavior continued until October 2018, Emily said.
Shelley McCauley and Amber Will say that’s when Felicia Masopust told them she found flirtatious texts between Emily and her husband.
Shelley McCauley said she recalls Felicia talking about an “emotional affair” between her husband and Emily. McCauley added that Perryman, the senior pastor, assured her a few months later that both the church board and the district had been notified of the affair.
However, Sean Masopust remained on staff as the church’s associate pastor, McCauley said. And Pat McCauley, who was recently removed from Northridge’s church board, told The Roys Report he didn’t know anything about Sean Masopust’s alleged impropriety until about a year later.
Dean, the district superintendent, didn’t reply directly when The Roys Report asked when the district learned of any allegations that Sean Masopust had behaved improperly. But he said the district had “made thorough (and) timely reports, not only to our National credentialing overseers, but also to the Owatonna police.”
Emily says no one from the church asked for her side of the story for three years.
“They didn’t reach out to me until this last October, when an anonymous letter was sent to the district council,” Emily said.
Letter reveals abuses
Richie Pettet, a former Northridge member, told The Roys Report he sent the anonymous letter to the Minnesota District council last fall. In it, Pettet expressed concern about “an adulterous relationship” between Sean Masopust and “an underage student” and asked the denomination to investigate.
Pettet also expressed concern that Sean Masopust taught in the local schools and had access to children. Chris Picha, director of human resources for the Owatonna Public Schools, said Masopust had subbed three times in 2021 through the company that OPS contracts with for substitute teachers.
Pettet said he wrote the letter to the denominational leadership because he was concerned about children with whom Masopust had contact.
Shelley McCauley said the district contacted the church after receiving Pettet’s letter. She added that she spoke with a district leader over the phone when asked to corroborate the letter’s contents.
Will said she learned about the letter’s existence from Felicia Masopust. Will added that she and her husband later confronted Pastor Perryman about the situation. She said Perryman claimed he didn’t know the extent of his son-in-law’s abuse when he first learned about it in 2018, but when he became aware, he fired Masopust “on the spot.”
“In my mind, it’s a little unacceptable that he didn’t press more (in 2018), that he didn’t get (the alleged victim’s) side of the story,” Will said. “He didn’t notify the board. This is his son-in-law. It seemed very much to me like he helped cover it up, and I don’t know how to come to any other explanation than that.”
More allegations and fallout
Kayla Mollenauer said she was heavily involved in the youth group from seventh grade until a year ago, partway through her freshman year of college. In a lengthy Facebook post in December, Mollenauer accused Felicia Masopust of creating a toxic, manipulative environment in the youth group.
“Felicia said that we shouldn’t hide anything because she would always find out,” Mollenauer wrote. “She basically (had) eyes everywhere. Those eyes were the other girls on the (youth leadership) team. We were encouraged to tell Felicia everything we knew about each other.”
“I thought that everything that was happening to me was normal,” Mollenauer told The Roys Report. “I didn’t know that . . . it wasn’t OK to spend, like, every Wednesday night at my youth pastor’s house, you know to sleep over, or to just, like, be best friends with a 30-year-old woman.”
Mollenauer and other former members who spoke with The Roys Report now say they feel shunned by the church where they spent so much of their lives.
McCauley’s father-in-law, longtime church board member Pat McCauley, has been kicked out of church leadership because of alleged “divisiveness” and attempts to remove Perryman as senior pastor.
Last week, Pat McCauley received a letter from the church board citing the church bylaws section on discipline. The letter accused McCauley of “unscriptural conduct” and banned him from church ministry, though not from membership.
“The bottom line there is I investigated,” McCauley said. “Pastor Mark was my best friend and I had to go up against him. And I asked him to resign along with his kids.”
McCauley and others who spoke with The Roys Report say the church continues to blame Emily.
Emily said everyone who’s come alongside her are former members. No one who attends at the church now has offered to help — even though she grew up there.
One church member sent a message to Emily and her roommate, she said, accusing them of destroying the church and destroying people’s faith.
Emily added that after Sean Masopust’s arrest this week, those who have been supporting Emily have received “really nasty and cruel messages” from people still at Northridge.
Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.