NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) – A pastor at St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough has resigned after he confessed to embezzling parish and school funds to feed his gambling addiction, the Bishop of Worcester said in a letter to parishioners.
In the letter dated this weekend, Bishop Robert McManus informed St. Bernadette parishioners Fr. Stephen Gemme had come to him in July to admit he had a gambling problem. Bishop McManus said he immediately revoked his right to authorize checks and made arrangements for the pastor to go on a medical leave of absence.
Additionally, Bishop McManus ordered a review of the school and parish finances. The results of the review came back on Oct. 7, and it appeared that during the last four years, more than $100,000 in school funds and more than $120,000 in parish funds were used by Fr. Gemme for personal use.
As a result of the review, the matter was turned over to the District Attorney's Office for further investigation.
Bishop McManus said he will pursue full restitution for the parish and school, but in the meantime, Fr. Richard Reidy will continue to be the administrator of the parish while Fr. John Hamm will continue to serve the daily, pastoral needs of the parish and school.
"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," Bishop McManus said in his letter.
Bishop McManus was first alerted to the parish's finance issues by a member of the St. Bernadette School Advisory Board, who raised concerns about expenditures in a single account in the school budget.
Fr. Gemme offered his resignation, which went into effect last Thursday. He is currently in residential treatment.
According to the parish's website, Fr. Gemme was appointed pastor in 2003. He was part of a capital campaign which raised $800,000 and was also named the Director of Youth Ministry.