Embarrassed Siblings Want Brother's Name off Headstone
By Bronislaus B. Kush
Telegram & Gazette
June 5, 2013
|Elizabeth Darcy of Sturbridge stands near her family's plot at St. Patrick's Cemetery in Northbridge. |
WORCESTER — Elizabeth Darcy said her churchgoing parents, Alan and Irma Blizard, were “filled with joy and pride” when her brother, David, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1974 by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul.
“It was a glorious day for them,” said Mrs. Darcy, a Sturbridge resident. “The church was important to them and they were thrilled that one of their sons had become a priest. But a lot has happened since that day and, I think that, if they were still living today, they'd be embarrassed by him.”
Mr. Blizard, who served as a parish curate in Oxford, Worcester, Athol and Upton and taught religion at St. Bernard's Central Catholic High School in Fitchburg and at Holy Name High School, was removed from the ministry in 1988 by Bishop Timothy J. Harrington. Chancery officials determined there was enough evidence to link the clergyman to “a child sex ring” run by diocesan priests that operated out of the former House of Affirmation in Northbridge.
The Vatican last March formally defrocked Mr. Blizard, who is now living in Florida.
“I'm just glad that my parents died before all the news about what my brother did started coming out,” Mrs. Darcy said.
Now, she and her 63-year-old sister, Linda Cervizzi, are working to remove the inscription of their brother's name from the family's memorial headstone at St. Patrick's Cemetery in Northbridge.
“The family has suffered enough and we want to spare our parents further embarrassment,” Mrs. Darcy said.
The task, however, has proven to be difficult.
Mrs. Darcy said cemetery officials have refused to allow the sisters to proceed unless they get permission from Bishop Robert J. McManus.
St. Patrick's is a parish cemetery but it operates under the auspices of the diocese.
The sisters are scheduled to meet with the bishop next month.
Family members said the headstone and the plot it sits on were purchased by the sisters' parents.
Usually, when the purchaser dies, future decisions are left in the hands of the next of kin, officials said. In the case of the Blizard family plot and headstone, that would be the surviving Blizard siblings.
According to the sisters, their task is problematic because another brother, William, who lives in Florida, has raised objections about the removal of Mr. Blizard's name.
A niece, who is also close to Mr. Blizard, has also objected.
“Believe it or not, there are some in the family who think that David is innocent because he has not been found guilty of any crime,” said Mrs. Darcy, who noted that she moved out of the Blackstone Valley town of Uxbridge because she was so embarrassed by her brother's alleged misdeeds.
The sisters said they're not sure if their brothers will formally seek to block their actions.
“If necessary, we'll sue to get this done,” Mrs. Darcy said. “My job won't be over until I get that name off,” added her sister.
Raymond L. Delisle, a diocesan spokesman, said he doesn't know how Bishop McManus can help, noting the matter appears to be a legal one.
“I'd think that the decision about what could be done lies in the hands of the person or persons who has stewardship over the headstone,” he said.
He said Bishop McManus might have agreed to meet with the sisters in a pastoral role in order to offer them emotional support.
“His door is always open to victims of sexual abuse,” Mr. Delisle said.
The family said that the headstone was made and installed by Whitinsville Monumental Works.
Thomas Delfanti, the owner, said he would not remove the name unless he received permission from cemetery officials.
“Usually, the kids make the decisions, if the parents are dead, but this seems to be a complicated situation,” Mr. Delfanti said. “There would be no problem if everyone was on the same page.”
Family members said that Mr. Blizard always wanted to be a priest, serving as an altar boy at St. Patrick Parish in the Whitinsville section of Northbridge and even wearing clerical garb while trick-or-treating.
After his ordination, Mr. Blizard served as an associate pastor at St. Roch in Oxford, Our Lady Immaculate in Athol, Christ the King in Worcester and Holy Angels in Upton. He was assigned to the Catholic School Department from 1983 to 1988.
He left New England shortly after his suspension by Bishop Harrington and now resides in Howey-in-the-Hills, a suburb of Orlando.
Mrs. Darcy said that, although she was very upset, she was reluctant, at first, to seek the removal of her brother's name from the tombstone.
“I had some concerns that he might harm himself,” she said.
However, she was told by a representative of the diocesan Office for Healing and Prevention, which works with victims who have suffered abuse at the hands of priests, that she was not responsible for what course of action Mr. Blizard might take.
“I was told not to worry about being my 'brother's keeper' and that provided me with great relief,” Mrs. Darcy said.
She said she last saw her brother at her sister Marjorie's wake in 2009.
“He seemed to be edgy and on the defensive, always looking at the door to see who was coming in,” Mrs. Darcy said. “I really didn't want to talk to him because of the emotional pain I was feeling at the time.”
Meanwhile, Mrs. Cervizzi said she loaned her brother about $18,000 to help pay legal fees, and hasn't received any of the money back.
“He's not my brother. In my mind, he died a long time ago,” said Mrs. Cervizzi, who lives in Louisiana. “I still can't believe David got away with all this. People today have to think twice when they see a Roman collar.”
David and William Blizard could not be reached for comment.