Accusations of Sexual Coercion at St. John’s Soup Kitchen in Worcester

posted by Mike on March 16th, 2022

Presumably lots more about this story in the coming weeks.

Crux:

The head of a Massachusetts parish soup kitchen was placed on administrative leave on March 11 after allegations were made to the diocese that for years he has coerced vulnerable women that use the soup kitchen’s services into sex.

The complaint was made against Billy Riley, who has been the food for the poor coordinator for St. John’s Catholic Church in the Diocese of Worcester since 2013.

[…]

Nicole Bell, the CEO of Living in Freedom Together – an organization in Worcester that supports women leaving prostitution and works to end the sex trade – made the March 11 complaint to the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator. Bell, who got out of prostitution herself eight years ago, detailed her experiences with Riley to Crux in February.

Bell said she first met Riley through the soup kitchen in 2011, at which time she was homeless. She alleges that he “took an interest in her” and offered to let her shower at his house.

“I did that because I’m experiencing homelessness. I have nothing,” Bell said. “And then that leads to some kind of exchange of sexual activity for his assistance and so eventually it felt like if I didn’t do what he was requesting of me that I wouldn’t be able to access the soup kitchen.”

[…]

Crux spoke with another woman in February – who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation from Riley – that had similar experiences with Riley from 2014 until August 2021 when she became sober.

508 #376: Endemic Life

posted by Mike on March 15th, 2022

508 is a show about Worcester. This week, we talk about the City Council live commentary, Joe Petty’s campaign video, lifting Worcester’s mask mandate, our experiences getting COVID, nuclear war, endemic life, Substack, Brent Crude Oil, Metaculus Prediction Updates, Ukraine and its consequences, and COVID brain fog.


Audio: Download the mp3 or see more formats.

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Lenten Gameplan, 2022

posted by Mike on March 2nd, 2022

I must be in an ascetic mood, because it doesn’t feel like “giving things up” for Lent will be much of a challenge this year.

Time was, giving up Facebook, or the radio, or coffee, felt like a real sacrifice. But this time around, as I wonder “Should I give this thing up?” that thing transforms into a burden in my mind, a burden it would be slightly painful to set down but which pretty quickly I would be glad to have cast off.

So I’m going to give up a whole slew of things this year, things I do to distract myself or pass the time but which I don’t really enjoy. There are a lot of those things! To keep the Lenten gameplan simple, all I’m going to commit to do with the resulting free time is pray a bit more than usual. My guide will be Bishop Robert Barron’s 2022 book of Lenten reflections.

In this post Zvi Mowshowitz breaks down “the sabbath” in a detailed (and secular) way I find inspiring. It’s helping me clarify my thoughts as I make my list of sacrifices.

This Lent will be a stressful one. The Pope has called for Ash Wednesday to be a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine. “It is a day to be close to the suffering of the Ukrainian people, to be aware that we are all brothers and sisters, and to implore God for an end to the war.”

Update: From River Sims’s Ash Wednesday message:

Dorothy Day once said in the midst of society’s fear of atomic bombs and concern over the war in Vietnam: “Go clean the toilets, and worry about the rest later.” Focus upon the need in front of your eyes, about which you can do something.

This Lent our focus is on our “flock” on the street, and my on inward remembering that “I am dust, and to dust, I shall return.”

It was suggested to use the word “stardust”, in administering ashes, and my answer: “We are going to die, we are mortal, and stardust takes way from the reality of dying.”

This morning, as I moved up the street placing ashes upon people sleeping in the doorways I received no harsh remarks, and approximately twenty-five out of fifty, were grateful.

For the first time, I did not wear a collar, a stole, a habit, and so in approaching each one they saw me simply as “River”, not the Church, from whom many have been rejected and hurt.

This afternoon I will be on the Haight and wearing my “normal” clothes, and while very few will receive ashes, again it will be just me talking and giving them food. I have some bracelets my friend Cindy has given us, with a little cross and color beads, and each one loves them.

Image: Detail from Pieter Bruegel’s The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, 1559.

posted by Mike in Lent | on March 2nd, 2022 | Permanent Link to “Lenten Gameplan, 2022” | No Comments »