Priest Charged with Sexual Abuse of Girl

By Fred Marc Biddle
Chicago Tribune
February 15, 1987

A Roman Catholic priest in Woodridge was charged Saturday with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse for allegedly assaulting a 14-year-old girl last year.

When police arrested the priest Friday night, they found 16 handguns, rifles and shotguns, some loaded, in the parish rectory near St. Scholastica Church, 7800 Janes Ave., Woodridge.

Rev. Edward Stefanich, 48, allegedly committed the sexual acts in the rectory last August, according to Woodridge police Chief James Keys. Stefanich is pastor of the church, overseeing nine other priests.

According to the girl's account of the incident, the priest used no threat or force, Keys said.

The girl's parents came forward to police last Wednesday, Keys said, and Stefanich was arrested in front of the rectory about 11 p.m. Friday.

The girl told police "almost exactly" where the 16 guns were located in Stefanich's bedroom and a rectory office, Keys said.

"They were out of sight, but easily accessible," stuffed in chair cushions and other easy-to-reach places in the rectory, Keys said.

Stefanich had handguns, semi-automatic rifles, pump shotguns and a semi- automatic shotgun as well as "numerous handweapons such as knives" and a large supply of ammunition, Keys said.

The firearms included .45 automatic pistols and a .44 magnum, he said.

"He was better armed than we are," Keys said.

Stefanich has a valid Illinois firearm owners registration, and no weapons charges were filed.

Other priests in the rectory, who were questioned by police, said they had no knowledge of the weapons, Keys said.

Stefanich appeared in court Saturday on the charges and was freed when he paid $10,000, the required 10 percent of the $100,000 bond set for him, Keys said.

Stefanich had been assigned to the parish for 10 years, Keys said.

The girl, now 15, graduated from the parish grammar school in June, he said.

"A tragedy has taken place in our parish, and we ask that prayers be offered for all involved," Rev. John Palmer said at the church's 6 p.m. mass Saturday.

Dennis Sopata, 36, who attended Saturday's 4:30 p.m. mass, said, "There will be a storm and we will weather the storm."


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