Priest Barred Because of Parents' Concerns

By Susan Dodge
Chicago Sun-Times
March 14, 1997

Parents concerned about the risks posed to their children led a Roman Catholic parish in Winnetka to bar a priest accused of sexual misconduct from living at the church.

A 16-member ad hoc committee at Saints Faith, Hope and Charity Church decided early Thursday not to allow the Rev. Thomas Swade to live in the rectory after hundreds of parishioners spoke out for and against the idea.

The Archdiocese of Chicago proposed in February that Swade live in the rectory, assist with sacramental duties in the parish and work at the ethnic ministries office downtown. He was to have no contact with children.

Many parents were concerned that their children might come in contact with Swade, said the pastor, the Rev. Thomas Ventura. The parish comprises about 5,000 people in Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth and Northfield.

Some parents also worried about how to explain the situation to their children, said Mark McGuire, chairman of the board at Saints Faith, Hope and Charity School, which has about 390 students. Some parents threatened to pull their children out of the school if Swade came.

About 70 percent of parishioners who expressed an opinion favored Swade's living at the rectory at 191 Linden, Ventura said. The 30 percent who opposed him constituted a "significant voice" that could not be ignored, he said.

Parishioner Mary Ashenden said Swade's residency would have divided the parish. However, the mother of two said, "What was good about the process was that we all had a voice."

The archdiocese removed Swade from St. Dorothy Roman Catholic Church, 750 E. 78th, in June, 1992, after a 25-year-old male parishioner accused Swade of touching him improperly when the he was 14. No criminal charges were filed.

After his removal, five other people accused him of sexual misconduct. Swade, 61, has been in a rehabilitation program for four years.

The archdiocesan review board plans to discuss possible residences for him, according to a statement released Thursday. If an appropriate residence is found, Swade will be assigned to work in the Department of Evangelization and Christian Life at the pastoral center downtown.

Ventura, who attended the seminary with Swade and was ordained with him in 1961, favored Swade's acceptance at the Winnetka parish. But he said he declined to use his veto power as pastor to override the committee's decision because he wanted the parish to have the final say.

He said he broke the news to Swade early Thursday.

"Father Swade is deeply disappointed, but he also has gratitude toward the people of the parish for the time they took in making this decision," Ventura said.

Swade could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Contributing: Tom Sheridan


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