(CBS) – He stepped off the pulpit while he was investigated for allegations of molesting a boy 20 years ago.

The sheriff’s department could not find sufficient evidence to prosecute.

So, on Thursday, for the first time, Father Michael O’Connell returned to face his parishioners at St. Alphonsus in Lakeview.

They gave him a standing ovation, CBS 2’s Brad Edwards reports.

“We believe in Father Mike,” supporter Jackie Faber says.

After the toll of a more than four-month investigation, O’Connell’s life in the priesthood was thrown into limbo in December. He faced an allegation that 20 years ago in Orland Park he sexually abused a boy, now a grown man.

Investigating agencies found the allegations could not be supported.

After the warm welcome he received Thursday, the first words to his parish: “It is good to be home.”

One thing Father O’Connell said at a press conference earlier this week was he has learned to be more thankful.


Brad Edwards