Rev. Joseph P. Lessard

Summary of Case:
 Admitted in 2002 to sexually abusing twelve boys in three parishes in the 1970s. Allegedly threatened victims with a gun; older victims coerced younger ones. Used camper in abuse. After a 1976 complaint Lessard was transferred to a new parish, then treated in MN. Went to NM Paraclete halfway house in 1979 and was a hospital chaplain afterward. zWas a parish priest again before retiring in 1993. Archdiocesan lawyers settled two complaints in 1996-97. A new suit filed in June 2005 alleged abuse 1985-92. It may have settled in July 2008. On the archdiocese's list in July 2019 of those against whom there were substantiated allegations. The list notes that Lessard died in 2014.

Ordained: 1952
Died: 2014


Start Stop Assignment Town/Accusations State Position Notes


St. Louis Bishop was Joseph Elmer Ritter (1946-1967).

1961 St. George's Gardenville MO

3/3, 2/3

Parish had a school with 837-1,187 students.
1961 1967 Most Blessed Sacrament St. Louis MO 2/2

Parish had a school with 460-134 students.


Ritter was replaced as bishop by John Joseph Carberry (1968-1979).

1969 Visitation-Holy Ghost St. Louis MO 1/3, 1/2 School with 134-231 students.
1969 1976 St. Mary's


Admitted to sexually abusing ten boys while at this parish, "most of them from a neighboring parish". He was transferred out after a complaint from a family to the archdiocese. (The Post-Dispatch
March 17, 2002)

MO 1/1


1976   Good Shepherd


Admitted to molesting a boy at this parish. Resigned in late 1976 and checked into a hospital. (The Post-Dispatch
March 17, 2002)

1977 1979 Incarnate Word


A man came forward in the 1990s alleging Lessard molested him in 1977 or 1978 on several outdoor trips. He received a settlement from the church in 1997. (The Post-Dispatch
March 17, 2002)

MO 3/3

School with 313-430 students.

Lessard taught religion at the parish grade school and took boys on hunting and fishing trips.

1979   Servants of the Paraclete Jimez Springs NM patient Sent to treatment for sexually offending priests.


Carberry was replaced as bishop by John Lawrence May (1980-1992).

1984 St. Joseph Hospital St. Charles MO Chaplain  
1984 1993 Jewish Hospital St. Charles MO   Lessard is not indexed in the 1985 Directory. News reports place him at Jewish Hospital. (The Post-Dispatch
March 17, 2002)
1985 1993 Holy Innocents

St. Louis

Sued in 2005 by a man who alleged he was molested as a child by Lessard from 1985-1992 at this parish. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 4, 2005)

MO 3/3, 2/2

Lessard is listed as in residence in the 1986-1988 Directories.

Parish had a school with 171-234 students.


Justin Francis Rigali followed May as bishop (1994-2003).

2002 Retired Prairie DuRocher IL  

Lessard no longer appears in the Directories after 2002.

Lessard died in 2014.  

Source: Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy & Sons, 1953-2002).

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy & Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.


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