Rev. Messier Removed from Pastor Assignments

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
June 8, 2002

The Rev. Raymond P. Messier, who has been the subject of investigation by the Catholic Diocese of Worcester, was removed yesterday from his assignments as pastor in Athol and Petersham.

"They did the right thing," said Carmen Durso, a Boston lawyer who brought the allegation of sexual abuse by the priest to the attention of the diocese.

Rev. Messier is the sixth priest that Bishop Daniel P. Reilly has removed from an active parish assignment since February in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct. Others were the Rev. John J. Bagley of North Grafton; the Rev. Lee F. Bartlett of Worcester; the Rev. Gerard Walsh of Oxford; the Rev. Chester Devlin of Northboro; and the Rev. Peter J. Inzerillo of Leominster.

The mother of the alleged victim said that Rev. Messier was caught sexually abusing her 9-year-old son in 1980 at a camp in Charlton that was owned by the priest's family. The mother, who lived in Worcester at the time, reported the alleged abuse to a Worcester police officer who, she said, declined to act. She then called for a meeting of the boy's therapist at Worcester Youth Guidance Center, Rev. Messier and then-Bishop Timothy J. Harrington.

The woman, who declined to be named publicly, said that Bishop Harrington assured her and the therapist that Rev. Messier would never be in a position to have contact with children again and would receive treatment. The priest was removed from Sacred Heart Parish in Worcester, but later was assigned to three other parishes. He has been serving at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Athol and St. Peter's Parish in Petersham. He also is chaplain of the Athol Fire Department.

The therapist, who also has not been named, agreed with the woman's account, according to Mr. Durso. The therapist said he learned about the abuse when the boy drew for him a picture of a skeleton with skull and crossbones and labeled it "Father Pig."

Raymond L. Delisle, diocesan spokesman, said Rev. Messier will not be engaged in "any public ministry in the diocese or elsewhere." He added, "In keeping with our policy, we will cooperate fully with the district attorney's office in their investigation of this allegation."

Deacon James Couture will oversee the Athol and Petersham parishes. Bishop Daniel P. Reilly said he will confer with parish leaders to "determine what additional assistance is needed by each of the communities."

"I ask for your prayers and support for the person making the allegation and (for) the person's family. Please pray for the parishioners of St. Francis and St. Peter, whom Father Messier has served since 1984. In charity, I also ask for your prayers for Father Messier and his family during this investigation," the bishop said.

The mother said yesterday that children are placed on Earth by God with parents "whose role is to protect them and raise them." She said she remains a devout Catholic.

She noted that she was a single mother when the abuse allegedly occurred and that Rev. Messier offered to help her by taking her son to the camp in Charlton. "They have betrayed that trust that we had in them," she said of priests who sexually abuse parishioners.

The woman said she will not allow her identity to be made public until she receives permission to do so from her son. She said she would like to help other victims of abuse by priests.

Rev. Messier, 60, a native of Auburn, prepared for priesthood at the Seminary of Philosophy in Montreal and the American College of Louvain, Belgium, and was ordained in 1968 at Holy Name of Jesus Church, Worcester.

He was first assigned to St. Paul's Cathedral and later sent to St. Joseph's Parish in Worcester. In 1970, he was transferred to Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Gardner. He moved to St. James of South Grafton in 1971 and was named associate pastor of Our Lady Immaculate Parish in Athol in 1974. He first became fire chaplain for the Athol Fire Department in 1975.

He became associate pastor of Joan of Arc Parish, Worcester, in 1976. He was moved to Sacred Heart of Worcester in 1978.

From there he moved to St. Roch's Parish of Oxford and was transferred from there to St. Peter's of Petersham in 1984. He was named pastor in 1985. He was named pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Athol in 1990.


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