Protesters: 'We're Not Going Away'

By Kate Hogan
Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise [Worcester MA]
Downloaded February 3, 2003

WORCESTER -- "We are not going to be silent anymore" was the battle cry of sex-abuse victims and their supporters Sunday morning at St. Paul's Cathedral.

The group rallied to demand that Bishop Daniel Reilly make public the personnel files of accused priests.

The group of about 20 protesters held signs and posters that told how they felt. Among the groups represented were STOPP (Speak Truth To Power), Worcester's SNAP chapter (Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests), CCCS (Coalition of Concerned Catholics and Survivors), Survivors First, and the Worcester Voice.

Bryan Smith of Fitchburg, 42, founder of the Worcester and Fitchburg chapters of SNAP, claims to have been abused by the Rev. Donald Rebokos, who was headmaster at Holy Name Central Catholic High School in Worcester when Smith was a freshman there.

"I'm here to reach out to survivors to give them options," Smith said Sunday. "It's a thing that has to be addressed, not put under the rug. That's the reason I started SNAP."

Smith said that during SNAP meetings he has heard from other men who said they were sexually abused by two different priests at Holy Name.

Smith said he no longer goes to church, and often wonders why other people attend. "I can't understand, with all the credible evidence that is out there, that they can still bring their kids to church," he said.

Bob Sidorowicz of Quincy held a sign that read "Watch your children, there are treacherous priests about."

"My main purpose is to make this world a better place for children," he said. "I got involved because I was tired of watching it on the news and reading about it in the paper."

Karen Pederson of Lunenburg calls herself a sex-abuse "survivor."

She makes the distinction very clear: "I am not a victim anymore," she said. "I am now a survivor."

Pederson was allegedly sexually abused and raped from 1974 to 1975 by the Rev. Robert Kelley, who was then pastor at St. Boniface in Lunenburg. The abuse began when she was 8 years old, she said.

She has brought a civil suit against Father Kelley, because the statute of limitations prevents prosecutors from filing criminal charges.

Kelley is currently out of jail on $10,000 bail while awaiting trial for the five counts of child rape that are pending against him.

This frightens Pederson, who says, "He's a serious risk to children."

As she watched parents bringing their young children into St. Paul's Cathedral for Sunday morning Mass, she said, "You look at these kids walking in, and in 10 years their parents are going to be out here with us."

Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.