Suit Names Rev. Devlin, Diocese

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette
June 4, 2003

A civil suit was filed this week in Worcester Superior Court against the Worcester Catholic Diocese and the Rev. Chester J. Devlin alleging that the priest sexually abused a boy in the late 1970s at Holy Name High School.

Joseph M. Laconte of Worcester said in his suit that he first met Rev. Devlin in the 1978-1979 academic year at Holy Name because the priest taught one of his classes. The abuse, which allegedly included touching and fondling, started late in the academic year and continued throughout Mr. Laconte's time at Holy Name "and for a short time thereafter," according to the suit.

Parishioners of St. Bernadette parish, Northboro, were informed this weekend that Rev. Devlin has resigned as pastor and Bishop Daniel P. Reilly intends to appoint a new permanent pastor.

Rev. Devlin, who was also diocesan pro-life activities director, was pastor of St. Bernadette, which also has an elementary school, until he was removed last year by Bishop Reilly after an allegation of sexual abuse was made to the diocese and later turned over to Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte.

Rev. Devlin is the third priest to be named by former male students of Holy Name as an alleged sexual abuser. Allegations have also been made by area men against the Rev. Norman Jalbert and the Rev. Donald C. Rebokus, who have since died. Rev. Jalbert and Rev. Rebokus were also at Holy Name in the late 1970s. Rev. Rebokus, a former state police chaplain, was headmaster there.

Mr. Laconte, who is represented by Michael C. Wilcox of Aloise & Wilcox P.C. of Worcester, said he did not understand the harm that was done to him until about June 8, 2000.

According to the suit, Rev. Devlin gave Mr. Laconte alcoholic beverages and "used his position as a priest and a teacher" to gain Mr. Laconte's confidence.

Mr. Laconte alleges that the diocese "knew or should have known that Devlin was a pedophile" and he should have been removed as priest and teacher of minor children.

The high school also "knew or should have known" that Rev. Devlin was taking Mr. Laconte and other students to a camp and was regularly providing alcoholic beverages to Mr. Laconte. Holy Name, located on Granite Street, is a co-educational high school under the jurisdiction of the Worcester diocese.

Rev. Devlin was ordained in 1971 and was named to the Holy Name faculty in 1972 and left in 1979 to become headmaster of Notre Dame Academy in Fitchburg. He was named headmaster of Marianhill High School in Southbridge in 1987.

Monsignor Thomas J. Sullivan, temporary administrator of St. Bernadette, told parishioners in a letter he was "confident that an excellent pastor will be appointed, one who can readily deal with the complexities of shepherding a growing parish as well as the diocese's largest Catholic elementary school."


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