SAGINAW, Mich. — The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw is encouraging sexual assault victims to come forward after a priest who served for decades in Michigan was charged with sex crimes.

The Saginaw News reports Bishop Joseph Cistone recently spoke to parishioners at St. Agnes Church in Freeland, where 71-year-old Rev. Robert DeLand served as pastor. A transcript of the bishop’s remarks was posted on the website of the Saginaw diocese.

Cistone told parishioners that the allegations against DeLand were “the first indication we had of this issue.”

DeLand was charged last month following allegations from two male accusers, ages 17 and 21, and police say they’ve received other complaints since his arrest. Charges include second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

DeLand’s lawyer has said the priest has dedicated his life to service.

Information from: The Saginaw News,