Diocesan review board welcomes two new members


PROVIDENCE — The Diocese of Providence places the highest priority on protecting children and minors. For more than 20 years, members of the Diocesan Advisory Board for the Protection of Children and Young People have served in an advisory capacity, aiding the bishop in this crucial work.
Kevin O’Brien, director of the Office of Compliance, works closely with its members, and said there are currently seven board members: six lay personnel and one member of the clergy.
These members serve a five-year term, which may be renewed if agreed upon. Their task is to review and evaluate policies and procedures in the diocese to ensure that these are the strongest measures being properly employed to protect young people within the Church. Of these seven members, two are new to the board this year.

Kevin Barry
Like several other members, Kevin Barry brings years of police experience to the diocesan review board, having retired from the Rhode Island State Police three years ago. During his 27 years as a state trooper — his last position that of deputy superintendent, the second-highest position in the force, with a rank of lieutenant colonel — he gained a wealth of experience investigating cases like those brought before the review board. He worked closely with O’Brien, who was himself a 23-year member of the R.I. State Police before retiring with the rank of major. His last role was Detective Commander, the third highest rank position on the state police.
“We were in the same detective unit, we’ve had a great relationship personally and professionally,” O’Brien said.
Barry also knew Diocesan Vicar General Msgr. Albert A. Kenney, and between the two men, they considered Barry to be an asset to the board.
“You’ve got a tremendous bandwidth of very qualified people on the board,” Barry said. “I’m honored and humbled to be asked to be part of it.”
Barry grew up in Hopedale, Massachusetts, and joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. After completing his enlistment, he returned to his home state to earn his bachelor’s degree before settling in Rhode Island to join the state police force. After his retirement, Barry began his own company, Fit2Serve RI. Through this, he helps candidates looking to serve as first responders or in the military as well as those respective departments by administering fitness tests to these individuals. The company also trains individuals seeking to work in those fields.
Faith has always played a role in his career. He compared his service to that of religious life.
“I think it’s a calling, and if you’re in it for the money or the benefits, I think you’re in the wrong place. You have a job to do, but you also have the ability to impact peoples’ lives in a very positive way,” said Barry, an active parishioner at St. Bernard’s Parish in North Kingstown.
As an officer who has seen the harder side of life, Barry credited his faith for keeping him strong.
“I think your faith is your foundation, at least it was for me. I don’t think I’d be where I am without that faith foundation.”
He attends daily Mass, has gone on mission trips and has visited the Holy Land. Now, he wants to give back in a slightly different way. He hopes that as a member of the diocesan review board, he can bring his knowledge to the table and help in any way he can.
“I’m just the keeper of those gifts. It’s not mine, the gifts and the blessings that I’ve been given; I’m just the keeper of those gifts and what I do with those is super important. I feel like we can squander those opportunities, or we can grow those blessings and those gifts.”
In his work with the review board, he believes that “it’s important for parishioners and folks of faith to know that there’s a lot being done to protect their children.”

Sherrie Sharp
Board-certified child psychiatrist Sherrie Sharp has long had a passion for “standing up for kids, youth and the underdog.” This prompted her to study medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, and complete a fellowship through Brown University in 2008, working with children and families in a clinical setting. Through that work, she recognized the impact positive or negative childhood experiences can have on a person throughout their entire life.
An active Catholic, Sharp currently leads a group studying Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Women,” and sees in it her own call to “care for others in a way that’s unique to women,” she said. Her work in therapy and with the diocesan review board fits that perfectly.
Baptized into the Catholic faith, Sharp left the Church for a time after the Boston Globe uncovered the sex abuse scandal in 2002. She also left the state of Rhode Island, working throughout New England and Pennsylvania. Later, her own childhood influences brought her back to both her faith and home state, moving back to Cumberland during the pandemic to care for her aging mother.
Becoming acquainted with other Catholics in the area, she expressed interest in becoming more active within the diocese, and some people suggested she consider the diocesan advisory board.
“Being asked to join Bishop Henning’s Advisory Committee is an honor that comes with great responsibility,” she told Rhode Island Catholic. “This work is important to me because I have vivid memories of the readings and worship at Mass as a pre-teen and excellent catechism classes given by a deacon in the sixth grade and parish mothers in the following years. Even though I was away from the Catholic Church for many years, those experiences stayed with me and ultimately helped me to return.”
She acknowledges that abuse can happen in any situation, but when it occurs in a church setting, that can shake a person’s faith and must be treated with utmost care by those in high authority.
“What’s important for people to know is that in the Diocese of Providence every single complaint is turned over to the police for their independent investigation. Many people don’t realize that this has been the case for many years,” she stated.
Sharp shared two gems of wisdom she gained regarding abuse, the first of which is “we don’t want to leave Christ on the altar because there is a Judas in the ranks.” The other relates to that, in that Catholics can “share our faith by teaching and mentoring and lending an ear when someone needs support.”