Diocese Holds Workshop after Priest's Conviction
Three Decades of Abuse LED to Prison Term

Guelph Mercury [Canada]
January 18, 2007

More than 165 people gathered in this small town yesterday afternoon for a sexual abuse workshop.

The workshop for priests, pastoral workers and victim support professionals was organized by the Catholic Diocese of London in the wake of the Father Charles Sylvestre scandal.

Gladys Charbonneau, mother of a victim of Charles Sylvestre, prays with Bishop Ronaldo Fabbro yesterday during a break from child sexual abuse educational workshop. Sylvestre is an 84-year-old retired priest who pleaded guilty in August to indecently assaulting 47 female victims over three decades.
Photo by The Canadian Press

Sylvestre, an 84-year-old retired priest, pleaded guilty in August to indecently assaulting 47 female victims over three decades while serving at southwestern Ontario parishes in Chatham, Pain Court, Sarnia, London and Windsor.

He was sentenced to three years in prison in October.

Kelly-Anne Appleton, who was abused by Sylvestre while a student at St. Ursula's School in Chatham, said it was difficult for her to attend.

However, she called it important to confront her anguish head on.

"Uncovering a wound that's been buried for 30 years is a colossal task," she said.

"My dream is to turn that pain into hope."

Appleton said she was pleased with the turnout and believes Bishop Ronald Fabbro has been keeping the issue in the forefront.

Father Eugene Roy of Immacul?e Conception Parish in Pain Court said it was the biggest meeting he has taken part in.

"It's a real sign of support to the bishop's efforts in dealing with such a sensitive matter," he said.

Fabbro required all diocesan leaders -- such as priests, deacons and laity -- to attend.

Connie Pare, regional co-ordinator for the Chatham-Kent/Sarnia-Lambton Deaneries, said it was an emotional experience for everyone.

"(Abuse) happened in the church and it happened in society," she said. "For anyone involved in pastoral ministry, this is going to touch them very deeply."

Chatham-Kent Crown attorney Paul Bailey prosecuted the Sylvestre matter and told the workshop people who suspect a child is being abused are required to report it themselves -- and not delegate the responsibility.

"It's time for the bishops to stop being neutral," he said.

Another session is scheduled for Jan. 31 in London.


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