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Hubbardston man tells of long-ago abuse by priest

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette Staff

WORCESTER-- Bryan Smith says he would not have gotten through the last few years without the support of friends, family and members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests as he came to terms with sexual abuse by a former headmaster at Holy Name High School.

The Rev. Donald J. Rebokus, who died during the 1980s, subjected Mr. Smith on several occasions during the mid-1970s to sexual abuse sessions that involved a toy slot machine, wrestling and super hot showers in his apartment at the school, Mr. Smith said in an interview.

Rev. Rebokus, who served in several area parishes, was also a chaplain for the Massachusetts State Police and gave the eulogy at the funeral of Trooper George L. Hanna, who was shot to death in 1983. Rev. Rebokus died of illness a few weeks later.

Mr. Smith, of Hubbardston, said his devout parents, who lived in Auburn at the time, wanted him to have a Catholic education, so he was enrolled at Holy Name in 1975. “Sex was something never discussed in my family and I was pretty naive," Mr. Smith said. He believes his innocence of sexual matters may have set him up to be a victim.

Father Rebokus would invite me to his apartment to do some odd jobs,"he said. The priest had a toy slot machine and would tell Mr. Smith to insert some quarters. “And then he would want to wrestle," Mr. Smith said.

After wrestling, Rev. Rebokus would claim to have a bad back and need the youth's help. “He'd get into the shower and have me rub him with this brush really hard. The water was so hot I was surprised his skin didn't come off," he said. Mr. Smith was then told to start rubbing his body with creams. The massaging then led to requests that Mr. Smith masturbate him. Mr. Smith said he was not raped but was subjected to masturbation by the priest.

It wasn't anything I chose to do. I was forced into it," he said. "I was just confused. I was a young kid and didn't know what to do."

He had been taught never to question the actions of a priest, he said. "And besides, even if you did question him, who was going to believe you?"he said.

I felt very uncomfortable about all this. But like I said, I was pretty naive and I was pretty embarrassed about what was happening,"he said.

There were about a dozen sessions like this, he said, and then Rev. Rebokus moved out of the school to St. Mary's parish in Uxbridge.

Rev. Rebokus took the toy slot machine with him to Uxbridge, he said. “It was like it was used to hypnotize me," he said.

The abuse ended during his junior year at Holy Name after a wrestling match. "I had gotten bigger and I overcame him in that match. I saw the fear in his eyes," he said. Mr. Smith told him at that point the abuse had to stop and it did, he said.

According to Rev. Rebokus' obituary, he was assigned to Sacred Heart parish, Gardner, from 1957 to 1961 and served at St. Leo's in Leominster from 1961 to 1969. He was assigned to the former St. Stephen's High School from 1969 to 1971, when he was transferred to Holy Name, where he served until 1976.

He was assigned to St. Luke the Evangelist parish, Westboro, from 1976 to 1977 and then went to St. Louis in Webster, before going to St. Mary's in Uxbridge in 1978.

Mr. Smith has emerged as the leader of a new chapter of SNAP that has organized in Fitchburg, drawing in victims from around the area.

He is not pursuing legal action, but filed a report several months ago with Trooper Thomas R. Ryan of the Massachusetts State Police, he said. "I want it known what happened to me because I think there are other victims out there. I know of at least one other but he is not ready to go public," he said.

As far as I'm concerned, the church is a criminal enterprise. I'm just surprised that the district attorney hasn't done more to investigate the diocese," he said.

Plans are under way to hold a meeting in Worcester before the end of this month, Mr. Smith said. David A. Lewcon of Webster, an alleged victim of the Rev. Thomas A. Teczar, helped launch Mr. Smith's group and is now looking to start a SNAP chapter in the Springfield area.

There are still a lot of victims from this area out there," Mr. Smith said. "The people at SNAP were always there when I needed help and support. It's my turn to help out and try to give that support to others."

Since the first meeting two weeks ago at the Fitchburg Public Library, which drew about 25 people, Mr. Smith has gotten three or four e-mails a day from people seeking help with past abuse by priests, he said. He also gets telephone calls. “It's pretty hectic right now but that shows that people out there are looking for help," he said.

Mr. Smith said he got help from people within SNAP when he was having a difficult time. “I have a lot of anger, but I'd rather use that energy to help someone else,” he said.

Raymond L. Delisle, spokesman for the diocese, said he could not comment on alleged abuse by Rev. Rebokus because it happened so long ago and the priest has since died.

In cases where priests have died, the diocese stands ready to offer counseling and support to any of the victims who come forward,' he said yesterday.

The new Office for Healing and Prevention for the diocese is prepared to offer services to any alleged victims, he said.



Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org

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