Father Bernard Bissonnette was born on October 8, 1931, and ordained on May 15, 1958, in the Diocese of Norwich (Connecticut). He then worked as a priest at parishes in the Diocese of Norwich, where he was transferred multiple times amidst allegations that he engaged in inappropriate conduct with minors.
In approximately 1963, the Diocese of Norwich bishop sent Father Bissonnette to be treated at Via Coeli, a Servants of the Paraclete facility in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Father Bissonnette was transferred to Our Lady of Snows in Nevis, Minnesota (Diocese of Crookston), a Servants of the Paraclete facility, in approximately 1964. In 1965, Father Bissonnette began working as an assistant pastor at St. Cecelia’s Church in Nashwauk, Minnesota (Diocese of Duluth). Father Bissonnette had difficulties in Nashwauk and was transferred to St. James Church in Duluth, Minnesota after a few months in Nashwauk.
Father Bissonnette left the Diocese of Duluth in approximately 1966. It is believed he returned to Via Coeli in New Mexico and subsequently worked – on duty outside the Diocese of Norwich – at various parishes in New Mexico, where he was again accused of inappropriate conduct with minors. Father Bissonnette is accused of sexual abuse in lawsuits filed in 2015 in New Mexico. Father Bissonnette is also believed to have worked in Michigan.
Father Bissonnette is included on an official list of clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse made public by the Diocese of Duluth in late 2015. According to the Diocese of Duluth, and our research, Father Bissonnette worked in the following parishes and assignments:
• 1958 Ordained – Diocese of Norwich, CT
• 1959-62 All Hallows, Moosup, CT; St. Joseph, Sterling, CT (mission); Oneco, CT
• 1963 St. Mary, Putnam, CT
• 1963-64 Sent to Via Coeli, Jemez Springs, NM by Norwich bishop due to conduct
• 1964-65 Our Lady of Snows, Nevis, MN
• 1965 St. Cecilia Church, Nashwauk, MN
• 1965-66 St. James Church, Duluth, MN
• 1966 Left Diocese of Duluth
• 1966-68 St. Anne, Santa Fe, NM;
missions in Agua Fria, NM, Cienega, NM, Cieneguilla, NM
• 1969-79 St. Anne, Santa Fe, NM
• 1980-82 St. Bernadette, Albuquerque, NM
• 1983 St. Eleanor, Ruidoso, NM
San Patricio (mission), San Patricio, NM
Various stations in Alto, Tinnie, Sunset, Riverside, Arabela, Angus,
Ruidoso Downs, Glencoe, Hondo, Biscuit Hills
• 1984 St. Eleanor, Ruidoso, NM
St. Jude Thaddeus (mission), San Patricio, NM
St. Joseph (mission), Picacho, NM
• 1985 Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Las Cruces, NM
• 1986-87 St. Jude, Alamogordo, NM
• 1988-92 Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Truth or Consequences, NM
St. Joseph (mission), Cuchillo, NM
San Miguel (mission), Rancho San Miguel, NM
San Isidro (mission), Las Palomas, NM
St. Ignatius (mission), Montecello, NM
San Lorenzo (mission), Placitas, NM
St. Gregory (chapel), Chise, NM
San Miguel (chapel), Rancho San Miguel, NM
St. James (station), Eagle, NM
St. Jude (station), Winston, NM
• 2005 Laicized
• 2008 Deceased
Efforts to unseal the secret documents regarding clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Duluth and the Diocese of Crookston began with the first lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act in June 2013. Since then, survivors have taken numerous actions to make the files public.
In October 2015, a jury verdict was handed down against the Diocese of Duluth in a child sexual abuse case in Ramsey County involving Fr. James Vincent Fitzgerald. Several documents regarding Father Bissonnette were introduced into evidence at the trial.
FATHER BERNARD BISSIONNETTE DOCUMENTS
On December 7, 2015, the Diocese of Duluth filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. More information on the Diocese of Duluth bankruptcy can be found at: