14 January 2011
Drew Halfnight, Mercury staff
GUELPH — Father James Boudreau, a retired, former Guelph priest known for his enthusiastic personality and strong sermons was arrested and charged with sexual assault on Wednesday.
The 67-year-old served as pastor at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, on Victoria Road North, from 1978 to 1985.
He later worked at six other Ontario churches, including St. John’s Catholic Church, in Kitchener.
Guelph Police Service’s sexual assault and child abuse unit began investigating the case last month after a Guelph man in his early 40s alleged he was the victim of a sexual impropriety more than 25 years ago.
The complainant was 17 and a member of St. John the Baptist parish, in 1984, when the incident is alleged to have occurred.
“Everybody is scandalized when these things occur and we all share in that sadness,” said Vincent Kerr, chancellor of the Hamilton Diocese, which oversees diocesan churches in this part of southwestern Ontario.
Kerr said he knew the suspect personally and described him as extroverted.
“I’ve met him socially and what not, at various gatherings,” he said. “He had a particular style. He was a very outgoing person. Some people found his manner a little eccentric. Others found him amusing, I suppose.”
Kerr spent Thursday calling parishes where the retired priest served and made himself available to investigators, though by evening none had called.
“I’m following their lead. The matter is in their hands,” Kerr said, adding he had not heard from the complainant, either.
“I don’t know who the complainant is. This is what I would like to know. Who is the complainant and what is the nature of the complaint?”
Kerr said today the diocese has a panel and two reporting officers who are available to investigate allegations of abuse, and police checks are run on prospective pastors.
The man charged in the case began working as associate pastor at St. John’s, in Guelph, after being ordained in Lewiston, N.Y., in Sept., 1978.
He later served as a priest at: St. James Catholic Church, in Oakville (1985-89); Our Lady of the Assumption, in Stoney Creek (1989-96); St. Gabriel, in Burlington (1996-2002); St. John’s, in Kitchener (2002-06); and, finally, Canadian Martyrs, in Hamilton. He retired in December, 2009.
On the website of Our Lady of the Assumption, he is credited with raising money for a new parish hall and rectory.
“This enthusiastic, outgoing pastor has worked successfully to pay off our mortgage and to improve our church,” a posting in the history section of the church’s website reads. “He will be remembered for his outgoing personality and his abilities as a preacher.”
Guelph Police Sgt. Doug Pflug said the suspect resides outside Guelph, adding the service’s investigation would cover all of southern Ontario.
“We’re all extremely, you know, really saddened,” Kerr, the chancellor, said. “I mean, these situations do much harm. Whatever harm may have been done to the potential victim, it is shared by everyone, the horror.”
Anyone with information relating to the case has been asked to contact the Guelph Police Service or Crime Stoppers.
Jim Boudreau was released from custody. He is scheduled to appear in provincial court on March 1.