St. Bernadette’s pastor resigns after admitting to embezzling parish funds
Northborough – The pastor at St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough has resigned after confessing to embezzling more than $230,000 from parish and school funds over the past four years.
According to a letter from Bishop of Worcester Robert J. McManus to parishioners, the Rev. Stephen M. Gemme, who was appointed pastor in 2003, informed him in July that he had taken the money to support a gambling addiction.
“I immediately revoked his authorization to sign checks,” McManus wrote, and arranged a medical leave of absence for Gemme to receive treatment.
Since August, the Rev. Richard Reidy, vicar general for the Worcester Diocese, has served as administrator and will continue to do so until a new pastor is named. Associate Pastor John Hamm will continue to oversee the daily needs of the parish and the school in the interim.
Discrepancies in the parish expenditures first came to light in a letter to the Diocese from a member of the St. Bernadette Advisory Board expressing concern about an account in the school budget. A review was conducted and, according to McManus, “more than $110,000 of school funds and more than $120,000 of parish funds were used by Fr. Gemme for personal expenditures unrelated to the parish or school.”
The matter has been referred to the Worcester District Attorney’s Office for further investigation and action.
Gemme’s resignation was accepted Oct. 10.
“I am pursuing full restitution for the parish and school,” McManus promised the church community. “I also want to assure you that your overall operations are sounds and they are being managed by staff and volunteers who are dedicated to the success of the school and parish.”
McManus further asked parishioners to remember the good works of the former pastor that included, according to the parish website, spearheading a campaign to raise $800,000 for the church and school and appointing its first director of youth ministry.
“This is very distressing news that I share with you today,” McManus wrote. “It is tragic. Even in light of this serious breach of trust, we must remember that Fr. Gemme has done much good for many of you and your families, as well as for your parish and school. It will take time for us to find healing and I can only ask that you keep the parish and school community in prayer over the coming weeks and months, for with God’s help all things are possible. In Christian charity, I also ask that you pray for Fr. Gemme and for all who struggle with gambling addictions.”
Gemme was re-appointed as pastor in 2009 for a second six-year term. During his tenure, the parish grew from 400 to 800 families following the closure of two Marlborough parishes. The parish Religious Education Program now accommodates over 400 children and school has grown to 535 children in grades Pre-K to 8.
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