Parish in Dark about Missing Money

By Milton J. Valencia
Telegram & Gazette [Fitchburg MA]
Downloaded April 11, 2003

FITCHBURG- Left with only rumors and speculation, some parishioners at the Immaculate Conception Church are calling for the Diocese of Worcester to explain why there's a criminal investigation into missing church money.

"We're pretty upset. We're a relatively small parish and a close-knit family,' said David Bouvier, who is one of five parishioners appointed to a finance committee to oversee church funds. The committee was formed last month, less than two weeks after the Rev. Donald Ouellette, pastor of the church, left on what was called a medical absence.

Elizabeth Stammo, a spokeswoman for District Attorney John J. Conte, confirmed this week that her office has begun a criminal investigation into missing church money. She would not say who was the focus of the investigation, or how much money is missing.

Parishioners say the diocese contacted Mr. Conte's office and set the investigation into motion.

"It's devastating to all of us to hear this,' Mr. Bouvier said. "It's only fair that the parish family knows what's going on here.'

Some fear that the money missing is from what was raised though different parish events, such as a yearly yard sale, a fall harvest fund-raiser, and a Christmas fair. Parishioners have been raising money over the last several years - since before the Rev. Ouellette arrived - for an elevator at the church. Some of the money in the Walnut Street church's restoration account has been used for refurbishing an organ and for renovations.

Mr. Bouvier, who is chairwoman of the church's fund-raising arm with his wife, said more than $20,000 is raised every year.

"It'd be nice to know what's going on,' said Rose Frechette, a parishioner who was also appointed to the finance committee. "Someone from the bishop's office should come and tell us. This is so sad for the parish.'


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