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Beaten priest, 80, returns to South Side parish, cracks jokes

Father Daniel J. Mallette returns say Mass give Christmas gifts students weeks after being beaten robbed his South Side church

Father Daniel J. Mallette returns to say Mass and give Christmas gifts to students, weeks after being beaten and robbed at his South Side church, St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, 9837 S. Troop Street, Tuesday, December 20, 2011 . | John H. White~Sun-Times.

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Updated: January 22, 2012 8:10AM

Walking with a cane and still in obvious pain, the Rev. Dan Mallette returned to his church to a standing ovation from his flock Tuesday morning.

Making his first public appearance since he was brutally beaten by robbers who broke into his home on Dec. 6, the feisty 80-year-old priest even managed to crack a few jokes.

“Make Dan Mallette a monsignor!” he hollered, to laughter. “It’s great to be back.”

Mallette wasn’t yet well enough to lead mass at his St. Margaret of Scotland Church, which is at 98th and Racine in Washington Heights. The mass was instead given by the Rev. George Clements of Holy Angels Church.

Instead, wearing slippers bearing the logo of his beloved Chicago Bears, he helped hand out Christmas gifts collected by Cook County Sheriff’s police, the Fraternal Order of Police and Walgreens. He said he loved seeing “the looks on their faces and the expectation that every day is a new day.”

He told reporters that he’d wanted to be a priest since he was 6 years old and that he still hopes to be ready for Christmas mass. Until he suffered two broken ribs and black eyes in the callous attack earlier this month, he’d “been to mass every day since May 4, 1940,” he said.

Mallette did not discuss the attack at the church’s nearby rectory, but according to accounts he has given close friends and aides, one of the two masked men who beat him asked for a prayer before he fled.

Sheriff Tom Dart, a parishioner at St. Margaret, said Tuesday that he remains confident the attackers will be caught, adding that Chicago Police are pursuing “so many leads.”

Parishioner Ruby Jackson said she hopes Mallette will be more cautious who he chooses to help in the future, but she added, “I don’t know if he will — he just wants to help everyone.”

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