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Shock As Sex Scandal Hits Wayland Priest

Jul 1, 2002 | The Boston Herald Shocked and saddened parishioners of St. Zepherin's Church filed into church Sunday seeking support, after the priest sex abuse scandal has claimed one of their own.

The Rev. Ronald Bourgault, the pastor of St. Zepherin's, was placed on administrative leave last Wednesday by the Boston Archdiocese after an allegation of sexual abuse surfaced from more than 30 years ago.

"All I can say is that I am praying for Father Ron and the alleged victim," said St. Zepherin's parishioner Elanor Robinson. "The truth will set him free, but I am saddened and am praying."

"It's one of those things that you never expected," said Darrell Simpson of Wayland. "All we can do is pray - for Father Ron and the alleged victim. We are all really just awaiting the outcome of the investigation and are just as anxious to find out."

In a statement from archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey, the allegation was recently made regarding the 30-year-old incident by an unnamed victim.

While the investigation is under way, Bourgault will continue to receive his salary and medical benefits.

"Should the allegation prove to be groundless, efforts will be made to restore the priest's reputation," the statement said.

Bishop Richard Lennon, regional bishop of the archdiocese, will attend weekend Masses to inform parishioners and provide assistance, according to the statement.

The removal comes a month after Bourgault helped lead a Mass of Healing and Compassion of the victims of sex abuse at the hands of the clergy. The joint effort between St. Zepherin's and St. Ann's Parishes in Wayland, the service brought together Catholics from throughout MetroWest.

"I feel that there is an unwavering concern for the victims and that is why we needed to come together tonight," said Bourgault after the Mass on May 28. "This is a time when we all need support in light of recent events."

Bourgault's words still hold true, according to the Rev. Frank Silva, who has maintained a friendship with the accused priest throughout the past few years.

"I am certainly very much agonized, knowing Father Bourgault as I do," said Silva. "I feel that I have every confidence that the truth will be made known. It's difficult because it is one case from decades ago and we don't know the party involved and don't know what happened."

"This is unbelievable," said Silva. "The church will provide a formal announcement and provide emotional support by means of counseling to help people deal with these accusations."

Other parishioners, like Tom Fay, said he will continue to cling to his faith.

"The parishioners of St. Zepherin's are saddened by the news. We will continue to pray for the reported victim and Father Ron during this difficult time," said Fay. "We are all trying to deal with these accusations together."

Disbelief among churchgoers is common, said Silva.

"The community reaction is the same in so many of these cases because people come to know and have great respect and trust (for priests)," said Silva. "To have accusations made challenges that devotion."

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