Chelmsford priest steps down after arrest

BRAINTREE -- A Chelmsford priest has voluntarily accepted a leave of absence and restriction from public ministry after being caught in a police prostitution sting.

Father William Ventura was arrested along with seven other men April 9 at a Nashua, N.H. hotel on a charge of solicitation of an adult female. According to Capt. Scott Howe of the Nashua Police Department, the men arrested were responding to an advertisement on Craigslist posted by the Nashua Police Department.

“This leave of absence will remain in effect while the case is investigated and adjudicated,” Terry Donilon, spokesman for the archdiocese, said in an April 13 statement. “The archdiocese is cooperating fully with law enforcement’s investigation.”

Under New Hampshire law, prostitution is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000, according to Capt. Howe.

Father Ventura, 31, was released on bail following his arrest. He is scheduled to be arraigned on April 22 at the Nashua District Court.

Father Ventura has served as parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Chelmsford since his ordination in 2006. Prior to serving at St. John’s, he was a deacon at St. Joseph Parish in Needham.