July 29, 2005

Diocese names sex-abuse unit leaders

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Bishop Robert J. McManus yesterday announced a change in operation for the Office for Healing and Prevention resulting from the resignation of director Patricia O’Leary Engdahl.

Sister Paula Kelleher, S.S.J., currently vicar for religious, will serve as co-director with Frances Nugent, the licensed social worker who is also the victim services coordinator. The office, which was founded three years ago as the clergy sexual abuse scandal raged, started with Ms. Engdahl, a lawyer, as director and Ms. Nugent as the victim services coordinator.

Ms. Engdahl recently took a new job at Anna Maria College in Paxton.

Sister Kelleher will be responsible for training and education involving safe environments and other topics for workers and volunteers for the diocese, the Catholic schools and the 126 parishes. Ms. Nugent will continue in her role of giving support to victims.

Sister Kelleher, a sister of St. Joseph of Springfield, has been vicar for religious here for more than 10 years. She will remain in that role and will continue oversight of the Annual Retirement Fund for Religious.

She is also a member of the diocesan review committee and years ago was one of the contacts for a hot line set up by the diocese where people could report clergy sexual abuse.

“I am grateful to Sister Paula for accepting this important responsibility for our diocese and thereby assisting in the healing ministry we offer through this office. I am confident that her experience will give us the necessary direction to continue to expand our already extensive education efforts as we seek to protect all children and youth in our programs, our schools and in our parishes,” the bishop said.

Raymond L. Delisle, diocesan spokesman, said more than 10,000 people either work or volunteer for the Catholic Diocese of Worcester through parishes, agencies and ministries and have been through background screening with the state, and by law are mandated reporters of suspected child neglect and abuse.

Most have attended mandatory awareness seminars on identifying signs and symptoms of abuse. The diocese also provided “Train the Trainer” classes so parishes have resources available within their communities.

More than 30,000 children and teenagers are enrolled in parish religious education programs, and nearly 10,000 students attend Catholic elementary and secondary schools in Central Massachusetts.

Posted by kshaw at July 29, 2005 07:56 AM