Eighty-year-old Father Dan Mallette was in good spirits as he handed out gifts to children Tuesday morning.
This was Father Mallette's first public appearance since he was attacked in the rectory of St. Margaret Scotland Church.
Father Mallette did not lead Tuesday's Mass, and he is still having trouble getting around, but the toy giveaway is something he does every year, and it was obvious his parishioners and the children appreciated it.
A standing ovation greeted Father Daniel Mallette At st. Margaret's Catholic Church during Mass Tuesday morning. It was the pastor's first public appearance since being brutally beaten by two masked robbers in the rectory of St. Margaret's on December 6.
Still visibly weakened, Mallette did not lead the service, remaining seated during most of it. When he did stand, it was only with the help of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart that he joined Father Clements at the pulpit.
"Father Mallette is doing better," said Dart. "He is every day. He is getting a little better...Father is 80 years old. Even before the attack, that is a lot for him to be doing."
Following Mass, students from St. Margaret's grammar school lined up to receive the Christmas gifts that Mallette hands out every year. The children clearly animated the 80-year-old priest.
"It feels great being back," said Mallette. "Just the looks on their faces. The expectation that every day is a new day. Every day is a gift."
Father Mallette did not talk about the attack. So far, no one has been arrested.
Sheriff Dart, however, expressed confidence that this will soon be resolved.
"Numerous times when I've been here physically at the rectory there have been people coming, telling me leads, calling me at the rectory with leads. They are coming in fast and furious," Dart said.
As for Father Mallette, who says that until now he had never missed a day of mass since 1940, he is just glad to be back.
"It's wonderful. I always say, I got the job that I wanted when I was 6 years old. I'm 80, and this is the job I always wanted," said Mallette.
No arrests have been made, but there is a reward, which is now up to $8,000 for anyone with information that leads to the perpetrators of this attack.
Father Mallette said he hopes that he can lead Christmas Mass this weekend.