METHUEN — Members of St. Lucy Parish received some surprising news in the bulletin this weekend.
In his weekly letter to parishioners, the Rev. Richard Burton, pastor at St. Lucy Parish, admitted that he has an alcohol problem.
"For my own health and to answer God's call to the holiness of the priesthood with which I am blessed, I have asked for help," he wrote.
Tomorrow, Burton will go to the Guest House at Rochester, a treatment center for Catholic clergy in Minnesota. According to its web site, Guest House is a nonprofit, charitable organization opened in Michigan in 1956. Its mission is the treatment of Catholic priests, deacons, brothers, seminarians and — since 1994 — nuns with alcoholism, other chemical dependencies and related problems.
Burton did not speak of the contents of the letter in his homily during yesterday's 4 p.m. Mass. At the end of the service, he told parishioners the Rev. William Kremmell will serve at St. Lucy while he is gone. Kremmell, a priest since 1966, retired from St. Athanasius parish in Reading.
In an interview after Mass, Burton said he was keeping a promise he made to the Rev. Dennis Nason before Nason died on Oct. 4. Nason, the long-time pastor of All Saints Parish in Haverhill, sponsored Burton when he entered the priesthood.
"He told me, 'I can't tell you what to do, but I'll pray for you,'" Burton said.
Burton then told Nason he would seek professional help, to which Nason responded, "It's a good idea."
"There's no scandal, but if I disappear, the first thing people were going to wonder was, 'What did he do?'" Burton said yesterday. "I just wanted to be up front and deal with it. In this day and age when so many thing things are happening in the church, I didn't want anyone gossiping about me."