Far South Side priest says he's being forced out

September 27, 2012 7:11:12 PM PDT
A longtime priest at a Roman Catholic church on Chicago's Far South Side is upset over the way he says he is being transitioned out of the parish he loves.

Father Daniel Mallette has been the priest at Saint Margaret of Scotland Parish for more than three decades.

Mallette life's resume is remarkable: A civil rights activist, anti-poverty champion. Legions of friends. And the pastor at St. Margaret's of Scotland Parish for 35 years -- far beyond a priest's traditional length of stay.

But Father Dan Mallette is now being transitioned out, and it has not gone smoothly.

"I would love to stay where I'm at, and I thought when you became a pastor emeritus, this new pastor would come in and run the parish and I wouldn't interfere with anything," said Mallette.

Mallette is 80. His health is fragile. Nine months ago, burglars broke into the rectory, and beat the priest so severely that -- for a time -- it was touch and go.

But he came back, and amidst ensuing talk about retirement, Mallette says he was given the clear impression that the rectory here would always be his home. That, church officials say, is a misimpression.

Mallette contends he is being forced to leave and that his successor is being less than respectful.

"And I said, 'You want me to say mass?' And he said 'No.' ... and he said, 'I'm the pastor,' and he was shaking a bulletin in my face, and I said, 'Get that bulletin out of my face.' "

Among Mallette's legions of friends is the sheriff, a long-time member of the parish, who says he understands the need for a transition, but believes some of the decision makers have misplaced their sensitivity.

"My God, let's be sensitive here and thoughtful in how we transition, and not act as if we gotta do it right now this way because those are the rules," said Sheriff Tom Dart. "Slow it down."

When he moves from the rectory, Father Mallette -- at the very least -- wants to live near the church he loves.

What's the lesson learned from this?

"Don't get old," said Mallette.

Attempts to reach Mallette's successor for comment were unsuccessful.

Father Bill O'Donnell will be officially installed as pastor at Saint Margaret of Scotland Parish this Sunday. At the same service, Father Mallette will be honored and given the title of pastor emeritus.

Statement of the Archdiocese of Chicago Regarding Rev. Daniel J. Mallette

Fr. Daniel J. Mallette, who is 80 years old, retired in 2009 as pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Chicago. Since that time the parish has had three administers, Fr. Jim Flynn, Bishop Joseph Perry and Fr. Michael Pfleger. Fr. William O'Donnell, CPPS, has been named the new pastor by Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago.

Fr. Mallette has been residing at St. Margaret of Scotland's rectory since his retirement. The Archdiocese has been providing round the clock caregivers for Fr. Mallette in order to help take care of his needs. Archdiocesan officials have evaluated the rectory and have concluded that numerous repairs are needed to make it safe and inhabitable. For this reason, the rectory will need to be shut down so that a complete assessment of the building can be done and repairs initiated.

The Archdiocesan Vicars for Priests are responsible for assisting elderly priests when the often difficult issue of retirement must be faced. The Vicars are continuing to work closely with Fr. Mallette to identify an appropriate living circumstance that will meet his health needs yet allow him to safely continue his ministry in some constructive way.

Everyone at the Archdiocese who is involved in this situation is deeply motivated by respect for Fr. Mallette and his many years of fine service to the Church and the community.


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