St. Bernadette Parish pastor Fr. Stephen Gemme has resigned amid allegations that he stole $230,000 from the Northborough church and school, the Rev. Robert J. McManus, bishop of Worcester, said in a letter to the parish this weekend.
Fr. Gemme has been on a medical leave of absence from the Roman Catholic church, at 266 Main St., since July, the bishop said.
"In mid-July I received a letter from a member of the St. Bernadette School Advisory Board, expressing concern about expenditures in a single account in the school budget," the Rev. McManus wrote.
"The following day, Fr. Gemme met with me and acknowledged a gambling problem. I immediately revoked his authorization to sign checks, and we made arrangements for a medical leave of absence so that Fr. Gemme could receive professional, residential evaluation and treatment.
"I also directed that a review be made of the school and parish finances. Fr. Gemme has been cooperative with us during this review and remains in residential treatment."
Last Monday, the review indicated that "during the last four years, more than $110,000 of school funds and $120,000 of parish funds were used by Fr. Gemme for personal expenditures unrelated to the parish or school," the Rev. McManus wrote.
The Worcester County District Attorney's office is handling the matter now, McManus wrote.
"Father Gemme has offered his resignation as pastor, and I have accepted that resignation effective last Thursday," the bishop wrote.
"I am pursuing full restitution for the parish and school."
Fr. Richard Reidy, vicar general for the diocese, will serve as administrator until a new pastor is chosen, the bishop said. Fr. John Hamm will continue serving the parish and the school's daily needs.
"This is very distressing news that I share with you today," the Rev. McManus wrote.
"It is tragic. Even in light of this serious breach of trust. we must remember that Fr. Gemme has done much good for many of you and your families, as well as for your parish and school. It will take time for us to find healing and I can only ask that you keep the parish and school community in prayer over the coming weeks and months, for with God's help all things are possible. In Christian charity, I also ask that you pray for Fr. Gemme and for all who struggle with gambling addictions."