Priest Pleads Guilty to Abusing Teenager
Strand Is Sentenced to 4-Year Term

By Ben Grove
Chicago Tribune
July 21, 1995

A Roman Catholic priest who served in parishes in Des Plaines and Chicago was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

Rev. Ralph Strand, former associate pastor at St. Mary's Church in Des Plaines, and who later served at St. Francis Borgia Church in Chicago, was sentenced in Cook County Circuit Court on one count of criminal sexual assault.

The teen came forward with sexual abuse allegations, saying the abuse occurred over a two-year period, beginning in January 1990.

The allegations surfaced on March 17, 1993, and Strand was placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Chicago two days later, where he has remained ever since. Strand was arrested on criminal charges May 27, 1993.

"For the victim, it is a relief," said Alison Perona, supervisor of the Child Exploitation Unit, who helped prosecute the case for the Cook County state's attorney's office. "A victim needs to go on with his life. The young man can finally close one small door to this chapter."

The victim was an altar boy at St. Mary's in Des Plaines when the abuse began, according to the state's attorney's office. Strand continued abusing the teen after he was transferred to St. Francis Borgia in Chicago.

During the two years, Strand took the boy to rock concerts and to London, according to the state's attorney's office.

Strand, 57, was ordained as a priest in 1964 and served at St. Mary's from 1986 to 1991 and at St. Francis Borgia from 1991 until he was placed on leave.

"We hope this resolution brings some healing and a sense of closure to everyone involved," said Bob Quakenbush, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Strand's case marked the first application of a new set of procedures and policies developed by the archdiocese in 1992 to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct. The policies were adopted after somewhat strained relations between the state's attorney's office and the archdiocese over sexual abuse charges.

This was the first time a priest had been sentenced after the archdiocese notified the state's attorney of the abuse.

"The archdiocese followed their protocol right down to the letter and were very cooperative," Perona said.

Perona said that a four-year sentence for a Class 1 felony was common and that the state was not disappointed with the sentence.

For parishioners at St. Mary's, Strand's sentencing probably would bring some sense of relief, said parishioner Penny Brydges, who grew up in the St. Francis Borgia parish and was married there. She and her husband have lived in St. Mary's Parish for 28 years.

"I'm glad it's finally over," she said. "I hope it means healing for both sides."

"It was a shock to the parish," Penny Brydges said. "There are people who think that kind of thing doesn't happen, who don't look at reality. I don't know how I would feel if it were my daughter."

Rev. Paul Rosemeyer at St. Mary's declined to comment about the sentencing Thursday.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.