Priest's Past Haunts Pacifica Parish
Father Lenczycki, Who Served at St. Peter, Was Accused of Child Molestation in Illinois in 80s
By Chris Hunter
August 28, 2002
When Father Fred Lenczycki left Pacifica's St. Peter Church 11 years ago, the church community couldn't find a place in town big enough to throw his going-away party, so they held it in a San Francisco restaurant.
More than 250 parishioners attended the event, heaping praise, love and fond farewells on the then-47-year-old priest who had been with St. Peter for five years.
That is not what they would like to heap on him now, as allegations have come to light that he had sexual contact with as many as nine young boys while working as a priest in Illinois, before coming to St. Peter on a temporary five-year assignment.
Father Leonard Calegari, the popular and longtime head of the Pacifica church, sent a letter to St. Peter parishioners last week, informing them of the situation.
According to the letter, in April St. Louis Bishop Timothy Dolan offered a statement about the allegations against Lenczycki, who had been working as a hospital chaplain since leaving Pacifica.
"An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in the 1980s by Father Fred Lenczycki, a priest of the diocese of Joliet, Illinois, was brought to the attention of the Archdiocese of St. Louis last month," wrote Dolan. "The diocese of Joliet was immediately contacted and he was recalled to Joliet.
"Since the early 1990s Father Lenczycki had been serving as chaplain of DePaul Health Center. Archdiocesan records contain nothing pertaining to the original allegation. There has been no evidence and are no complaints in the St. Louis Archdiocese regarding Father Lenczycki.
"The Archdiocese acted promptly when it learned of the allegation in this situation. Such action underscores our primary goal of protecting children and their families from harm by those in whom they put their trust."
According to published news reports, the Archdiocese of St. Louis did act to remove Lenczycki as a hospital chaplain in late March, recalling him to Joliet. Lenczycki was a defendant in a 1997 civil lawsuit accusing him of molesting nine boys when he served at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale, Illinois.
The incidents allegedly occurred from 1982 to 1984. St. Louis Archdiocese officials claimed to be unaware of the allegations until this year. However, according to published reports, the Joliet Diocese settled with Lenczycki's accusers in 1984 and no criminal charges were ever filed.
Father Calegari's letter to St. Peter parishioners said he was unaware of the full extent of the allegations against Father Lenczycki, although he knew the priest was undergoing therapy.
"In 1985, Father Fred signed up for 10 months of intense therapy at the House of Affirmation in Montara, California," wrote Calegari. "I agreed to accept him in 1986 and he continued extensive therapy for several years. His bishop and our Archbishop and the House of Affirmation approved my decision." The visiting priest from Joliet, who took on a variety of duties while at St. Peter, was supposed to reveal the details of his past, according to Calegari.
"In 1986, his coming to St. Peter seemed like a good idea. The entire St. Peter staff accepted him and he served here quite successfully. His candor, however, was seriously lacking.
"In any case, what seemed like a good idea in 1986 turned out to be a serious mistake because we put some of our young parishioners at risk. Since the Father Fred situation has become known through the Internet, two allegations from St. Peter Parish have been forwarded to the San Mateo County D.A. and the Archdiocese."
The increasing local buzz of concern about Father Lenczycki's time in Pacifica has grown in recent weeks. Father Calegari's letter to parishioners, and a public meeting he has scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, highlight the severity of the situation. The meeting will take place at St. Peter Church, 700 Oddstad Blvd.
"I apologize to all the parishioners for the danger, pain, anger and disappointment which my decision has caused," Father Calegari wrote. "I am devastated by this tragic series of events. We have learned a great deal since 1986 and we know now that my decision was very ill-advised. I can only repeat my sadness and regret."
St. Peter Church is offering counseling to any parishioners who may have been harmed, according to Calegari, and all allegations involving Lenczycki while he was working in Pacifica are being forwarded to the San Francisco Archdiocese and the San Mateo County District Attorney.
According to Pacifica Police Chief Ted Merritt, the San Mateo County District Attorney's office was brought into the situation at the request of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, bypassing local law enforcement.
Merritt said he did not know about the St. Peter controversy until told by the Pacifica Tribune this week. "I don't know how strong the allegations are. We knew nothing about it. Nothing was reported to us. Why they didn't contact us, I don't know, but I'm going to find out."
In his letter to his congregation, Father Calegari clearly expresses his concern about the severity of the issue. "I beg your forgiveness for not being more vigilant," Calegari wrote. "I am confident that through prayer, understanding, and compassion we will overcome this evil, which has come upon us."
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