|Bishop: Accused Priest Leaps from Church Balcony
By Brian Stanley
January 7, 2010
JOLIET -- A priest who has been accused of sexual abuse reportedly tried to take his own life by jumping from the balcony of a downtown church Wednesday.
The Rev. Alejandro (Alex) Flores, 37, was found unresponsive but breathing at 12:38 p.m. Wednesday, after apparently crashing between pews on the main floor at the former St. Mary's Carmelite Church, 113 N. Ottawa St., according to reports.
Flores was ordained in June and served as parochial vicar at Holy Family Church in Shorewood, but was removed from his position Monday.
He had been ordained as a deacon at St. Elizabeth Seton in Naperville on Nov. 1, 2008, prior to becoming a priest.
Diocese employees had filed a missing persons report with Joliet police shortly before noon, Deputy Chief Mike Trafton said.
"He had not been seen since around 9 a.m.," Trafton said.
Different sources confirmed the Kane County state's attorney's office is investigating "sexual allegations" against Flores and that detectives had been in Joliet to interview him Wednesday morning.
"On Monday morning, I was informed by another priest that he had received a call from a family late Sunday night informing him that their 13-year-old son had told them he had been abused by Father Flores," Bishop J. Peter Sartain said. Per diocesan policy, Sartain informed the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the state's attorney's office of the accusation that day.
"Additionally, I immediately met with Father Flores, informed him of the accusation, removed his priestly faculties and placed him on administrative leave," Sartain said.
Sartain noted the allegation did not involve a Holy Family parishioner and there have been no prior allegations of abuse against the priest.
Sartain said Flores had "been closely monitored" since being relieved of his duties, but was able to leave the Center Street residence he'd been staying at on foot.
"As the officers were taking the missing persons report, they were notified Flores frequents the closed church," Trafton said. The priory next to the church is still used as a residence, according to reports.
"While they were getting this information, we received a 911 call from a priest at the location who had found Flores in the pews," Trafton said.
Since the church's doors have been boarded up, Joliet firefighters and police were met by a priest at the door of the priory and led through the residences to the church next door. Flores reportedly suffered serious head trauma.
Trafton said police are still investigating to confirm Flores jumped from the balcony, but Sartain referred to the incident was a suicide attempt. The balcony is approximately 20 feet above the church floor.
Police were able to open the church doors so Flores could be taken by ambulance for "rapid transport" to Silver Cross Hospital. Sartain said Wednesday night Flores was in stable condition in the intensive care unit.
A native of Bolivia, Flores grew up in an orphanage there and began serving as an altar boy. After beginning his seminary studies and working as a missionary in Bolivia, Flores attended Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis., and worked during breaks at St. Mary's Parish in West Chicago.
Flores was the third Hispanic priest ordained by the Catholic Diocese of Joliet. "My thoughts have been to mature in my faith and continue to look for more of what God wants from me," he told the diocese magazine in an interview last summer. "Obviously my plan was not God's plan, but I'm very happy where I am today."
Sartain said the diocese "will continue to cooperate with all law enforcement agencies in this tragic situation."
"I have been deeply grieved for the young boy whose family reported the abuse and for the entire family, and my prayers for them have not ceased," he said.
"This added tragedy (of Flores' alleged suicide attempt) compounds what was already a great sorrow, and I ask you to join me in fervent prayer for the boy and his family as well as Father Flores," Sartain said. "At difficult times such as this, we rely on God's wisdom every step of the way and ask that he impart the healing only he can give."
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