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In April 2010, Kevin Gray was sentenced to three years in Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison in Enfield.
That didn’t stop some parishioners from staying in close contact with their former pastor.
Lino ColÓn, the choir director at Sacred Heart-Sagrado Corazón, visited Gray while he was in Enfield. Colon is thin, almost delicate, his voice soft and gentle, and at 51 wears his white hair in a kind of 1980s punk style. He remains devoted to Gray.
“One of the hardest things was driving back from seeing him,” Colon says, his voice trembling. “Even now, after everything, I love him more because he’s a beautiful person. You know the amount they said he took? He gave us way more than that. I always felt he protected us. Prison was a struggle for him. There were inmates there whose kids he baptized—that was beautiful. He told me that he loved Hispanics. It was a pure love that he had for us. I miss him dearly.”
Regardless of Gray’s legacy, Sacred Heart-Sagrado Corazón appears to be rising from the ashes of his deeds. The parish’s insurance company and the archdiocese have fully covered the amount he stole, though operating costs continue to outrun offertory income. But there is faith, and where faith abides, hope resides.
“Financially, we’re struggling,” Suz-lenko acknowledges, “but spiritually, the parish is alive. We’re moving forward and talking, communicating. Many have not just cast him [Gray] aside, and that’s an important piece of the process, for us as well as for him.”
Although Gray had been scheduled for release on May 23, 2013, last December the state Board of Pardons and Appeals heardd to his appeal for an earlier date and granted it to him, at least partly because he is said to have been diagnosed—for real, this time—with colon cancer.
Gray was released from prison in February and sent to a treatment facility in Maryland. The Archdiocese of Hartford has said that once rehabilitated he could receive a future assignment somewhere in the state. There is no telling where that assignment might lead or if Gray actually has cancer (he declined both a visit and a phone interview for this story).
That the 66-year-old former pastor may in fact have cancer this time doesn’t surprise lector Charles Correto Jr.
“I think life has a funny way of bestowing stuff upon you sometimes,” he says. “I don’t wish it on him—if anything, I feel sorry for him at this stage. What I’m so proud of is that he did not destroy the parish, did not destroy the spirit. He couldn’t bring us to our knees—and I don’t think that was his intent—but his selfishness did not destroy us.
“We have a happy ending,” Correto adds. “That you can have an 80-year-old woman of Anglo heritage sitting next to a Latin boy. You would think they have nothing in common but they share that pew and they’re worshipping together, in English and in Spanish. And at the end of the mass they will shake hands and go in peace.”