CHICAGO (CBS) – The longtime pastor of a Catholic church in the Longwood Manor neighborhood is leaving the position he’s held for 35 years, but he’s not going quietly.
Father Dan Mallette, 80, is supposed to move out of the rectory at St. Margaret of Scotland Church at 99th and Throop Streets sometime this week, after serving as the chruch’s pastor for nearly half his life. Cardinal Francis George wants him out of the rectory this week, so repairs can be made to the residence, and the new pastor can move in when they’re done.
Before leaving for six months, Mallette was honored during Sunday mass. Also Sunday, the new pastor, Rev. William O’Donnell, officially took over Mallette’s duties.
The Chicago Archdiocese wants Mallette to move out of the rectory and stay away for six months to allow O’Donnell to establish himself in his new role.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya Reports
But Mallette isn’t happy about being forced out as pastor, or being asked to move out of the home where he’s lived for so long.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports Mallette didn’t move out of the rectory on Monday, but the Chicago Archdiocese said it expects him to do so sometime this week.
Still, he was far from anxious to go, and many parishioners were upset he has to leave at all.
Mallette left the church Monday morning to attend a wake, knowing his remaining time at St. Margaret of Scotland is very short, but not knowing just where he’s headed.
“First time since I was a baby that I don’t have a place to sleep,” he said.
But the Archdiocese of Chicago said that’s not true. Spokeswoman Colleen Dolan told WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya that Mallette has been given a number of options, including priest retirement homes and other accommodations.
Dolan said every pastor who retires must move out of the parish he ran, so the new pastor has a chance to put his own stamp on the parish. Those retired pastors are allowed to move back into the parish, if they like, after six months.
Dolan said Mallette needs round-the-clock help from a health and safety standpoint, and that moving to a new location would make that easier.
She also said the rectory is in need of plumbing and electrical repairs, but Mallette disputes that.
“No. Look at it, I mean if it’s in bad shape, I’ve been there for 40 years,” Mallette started to say, before helpers urged him to cut short his interview with reporters.
Before leaving for the wake, Mallette greeted boxer Muhammad Ali’s daughter, Jamillah, and her husband Mike Joyce, and their son, who Mallette baptized in the past year.
The decision to have Mallette leave the rectory for six months was unsettling to some parishioners at St. Margaret of Scotland, including Jean Bell, who attended Sunday’s installation of O’Donnell as the new pastor.
“We should have been very happy, but we’ve had heavy hearts, because we knew Father [Mallette] didn’t even know where he was going.
Nine months ago, Mallette was severely beaten by a pair of robbers who had broken into the rectory. He recovered and fought off his injuries, but can’t fight off change.
At 80 years old, some parishioners believe he shouldn’t have to.
Ruby Jackson said, “It’s just too much on him to try to do what he did all these years.”
Mallette will remain as pastor emeritus at St. Margaret of Scotland, and can return to the rectory after six months, but has clashed with O’Donnell since the new pastor began working there.
Many parishioners believe Mallette’s retirement could have and should have been handled more gracefully by the Archdiocese.
Many parishioners said feel they’ve been kept in the dark about the changes in leadership in the parish. They’ll be meeting Tuesday night at the parish school.