January 30, 2005

Priest quits post; to face charges of sex solicitation

Boston Globe

By Kathy McCabe, Globe Staff | 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.

Posted by kshaw at January 30, 2005 05:28 AM