Priest Quits Post; to Face Charges of Sex Solicitation
Incident Alleged at Chelsea Eatery

By Kathy McCabe
Boston Globe [Swampscott MA]
January 30, 2005

SWAMPSCOTT -- Parishioners at St. John the Evangelist Church expressed a mixture of sadness and sympathy yesterday for their former pastor who resigned Friday after accusations that he propositioned a 12-year-old girl and her mother for sex while dining at a Chelsea restaurant.

"It's a sad day," said Flo DiPietro, a 53-year-old parishioner. "He is such a good man, he lifted this parish up."

The Rev. Jerome Gillespie, 55, who had served the Catholic parish for only seven months, is scheduled to appear in Chelsea District Court on Feb. 17 to face charges of enticement of a child under age 16, solicitation of sex for a fee, and accosting a person of the opposite sex, police said.

Chelsea police issued the summons on Friday, the same day the Archdiocese of Boston said Gillespie had resigned as pastor of the North Shore parish. Gillespie is alleged to have propositioned the girl and her mother at about 9 p.m. Tuesday while dining at Floramo's, a popular Chelsea restaurant.

At 4 p.m. Mass yesterday, Auxiliary Bishop Francis X. Irwin was in attendance in an effort to reassure parishioners.

"A terrible tragedy has hit this parish," Irwin told the silent congregation. "One so full of promise and vitality is gone from our midst. There is nothing I can say."

But Irwin offered his personal support for Gillespie, whom he said he had known for years and spoke with twice on Friday. "I did admire and do like Father Gillespie," he said. "I tried to give him encouragement."

Irwin made reference to recent pressure in Gillespie's life.

"Here is a man whose brother just had heart problems. He took no days off, he worked under tremendous pressure to be a good and available pastor. I know he is the same good man after as he was before this terrible incident," Irwin said.

Police did not issue a warrant for Gillespie's arrest because he has no prior criminal history to suggest that he would not show up in court, a police spokesman said.

"He has no history of defaults," Captain Brian Kyes said yesterday. "And no [criminal] history at all as far as we know. There is not a strong likelihood that he would not appear in court."

Kyes said Gillespie, who could not be reached yesterday, is being represented by legal counsel.

Gillespie was not wearing priestly garments at the time of the alleged incident. He has cooperated with police since they first made contact with him by telephone at about midnight on Tuesday, Kyes said.

"He was very cooperative when we spoke to him, and has been since," Kyes said.

Chelsea police and the Suffolk district attorney's office are investigating. Gillespie is alleged to have asked the girl and her mother, who were seated at a nearby table, to perform a sex act. Kyes declined to say what Gillespie is alleged to have said, but said the victims are being counseled by the sex abuse unit of the district attorney's office.

While the allegations and resignation have shaken parishioners in Swampscott, Tony LaMorte, 80, said he was grateful the archdiocese sent Irwin to address the congregation.

"What he said was very comforting. We are all going through a very terrible time, Father Gillespie, too."


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