Local Priest's Name Could Be Pulled from Augusta Bridge: Decision Comes after He Was Accused in Sexual Abuse Case

By Jason Claffey
Foster's Daily Democrat
July 24, 2008

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Allegations of sexual molestation by a priest who served two local churches prompted members of the Augusta City Council to recommended removing the priest's name from a bridge there.

Rev. John J. Curran served at both St. Michael's Church and St. Ignatius, in Sanford, during his 41 year career and at one point had a bridge in Augusta named in his honor, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

On Wednesday, the Augusta city council unanimously supported a resolution urging the state Legislature to change the name of the bridge, a little more than a year after Robert Dupuis, of East Lyme, Conn., said he was sexually abused by Curran in 1961 at St. Joseph's Church in Old Town.

Any name change to the bridge would have to be approved in the form of a bill. The Legislature is currently out of session for the summer and will reconvene in December.

In an address to the council Wednesday, Dupuis said Curran "took from me my spirit, (and) my trust in humanity," according to the website of the Magic City Morning Star newspaper.

Curran, who died in 1976 at the age of 76, served in seven churches over his career.

The bridge in Curran's name runs over the Kennebec River, and was dedicated to him in 1974 for "his untiring efforts in uniting a city of good people," according to a plaque near the bridge.

Sue Bernard, a spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said Wednesday that Curran helped "bridge two separate worlds" while serving at St. Augustine's Church in Augusta, smoothing relations between parishioners of French Canadian and New England descent.

Bernard said Bishop Richard Malone sent a letter to the city council favoring the name change.

The city council recommendation comes after two scholarships in Curran's name, one by the Franco-American Le Club Calumet and another by the University of Maine at Augusta, had his name removed from the awards, according to the Morning Star.

Gloria Roberge, 80, a South Berwick resident who was baptized at St. Michael's and knew Curran while he served there from 1952-1960, said she was devastated when she heard the news of the alleged abuse.

"I was just struck," she said. "I couldn't believe that."

Roberge said Curran worked to paint the inside of St. Michael's and oversaw the reconstruction of its roof and foundation. She said she heard dozens of his sermons.

"It breaks my heart," she said.

Bernard said Curran, who was ordained in 1927, served at St. James (Woodland) in 1927 and from 1937-52; St. Patrick (Portland) in 1928; St. Joseph's (Old Town) in 1929 and 1960-62; St. Mary's (Lewiston) in 1930; St. Ignatius (Sanford) from 1934-37; St. Michael's (South Berwick) from 1952-60; and St. Augustine (Augusta) from 1962-72.


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