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Priest quits after alleged theft

Review finds $230k missing

A Northborough parish priest has resigned his post after allegedly embezzling more than $230,000 over four years, according to a letter posted on the parish website.

In the letter, Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester said the Rev. Stephen M. Gemme, who has left his pastor position at St. Bernadette Parish, spent more than $120,000 in parish funds and more than $110,000 from the parish school “for personal expenditures unrelated to the parish or school.”

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McManus said the Worcester district attorney had been notified of the alleged embezzlement at the parish, which is 10 miles east of Worcester.

McManus first learned that money was missing in July when a member of the St. Bernadette School Advisory Board came to him with concerns about spending from an account in the school budget, he said.

The next day, McManus met with Gemme, who admitted he had a gambling problem, the bishop said. The bishop then revoked Gemme’s check-signing privileges, requested a review of parish finances, and arranged a medical leave for Gemme to undergo residential treatment.

“Father Gemme has been cooperative with us during this review and remains in residential treatment,” McManus said in the letter.

After the financial review showed that Gemme had allegedly taken more than $230,000 from parish and school funds, Gemme offered his resignation as pastor, McManus said.

McManus is “pursuing full restitution for the parish and school,” he said.

Since early August, the Rev. Richard Reidy, the diocese’s vicar general, has been administrator for the parish, while the Rev. John Hamm, associate pastor, has assumed daily pastoral duties for the parish and the school, McManus said.

Both priests will continue in those roles until a new pastor is soon named, McManus said.

McManus said the operations at the parish and school remained sound despite the thefts, and he asked parishioners to remember to pray for Gemme and all those with gambling addictions.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.
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