October 11, 2013
October 12-13, 2013
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In mid-July I received a letter from a member of the St. Bernadette School Advisory Board, expressing concern about expenditures in a single account in the school budget. The following day, Fr. Gemme met with me and acknowledged a gambling problem. I immediately revoked his authorization to sign checks, and we made arrangements for a medical leave of absence so that Fr. Gemme could receive professional, residential evaluation and treatment. I also directed that a review be made of the school and parish finances. Fr. Gemme has been cooperative with us during this review and remains in residential treatment.
Last Monday I received the results of the review of parish and school finances. It appears that during the last four years, 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. As a result of the magnitude of the misuse of funds, the matter has been referred to the District Attorney’s Office.
Father Gemme has offered his resignation as a pastor, and I have accepted that resignation effective last Thursday. I am pursuing full restitution for the parish and school. I anticipate that a new pastor will be named soon. In the meantime, Fr. Richard Reidy, the Vicar General for the Diocese, will continue to be the administrator of the parish while Fr. John Hamm continues to serve the daily, pastoral needs of the parish and school communities.
This is very distressing news that I share with you today. 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.
After having conferred with Father Reidy who has been administering the parish since early August, and from the results of the financial review, I also want to assure you that your overall operations are sound and they are being managed by staff and volunteers who are dedicated to the success of the school and parish.
Please be assured of my prayers for all of you at this difficult time. I would also invite each of you to pray that our good God will sustain and guide us as this wonderful parish and school move ahead in continuing the mission of bringing the love and hope of Christ to others.
With every prayerful best wish, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. McManus
Bishop of Worcester