Combative priest Rev. Mallette not ready to step aside
BY MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org September 30, 2012 10:12PM
Father Daniel Mallette (left) and Bishop Joseph Perry, during Mass of Thanksgiving, in honor of Father Mallette retirement after fifty five years of Priestly services and now 'pastor emeritus,' as Father William O'Donnell is installed as pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, 9837 S. Troop Street, Sunday, September 30, 2012 . | John H. White~Sun-Times
Updated: November 2, 2012 6:17AM
The Rev. Dan Mallette — a gritty, tough-talking old priest — is still hopeful he’ll get a call from Cardinal Francis George to say he won’t have to relocate from his Southwest Side parish — the only home he’s known for 35 years.
On Sunday, Mallette, 80, was being honored at his last scheduled mass at St. Margaret of Scotland Church.
“I keep hoping that they’re going to call and say, you know, ‘we’ve thought it over and you can stay there.’ It’s a devastating thought tomorrow morning I’ll be walking into some house I’ve never been,” said Mallette after the mass honoring his service during which he shared the altar with the his replacement, the Rev. William O’Donnell.
The archdiocese says the rectory on the 9800 block of South Throop where Mallette lives, yards away from the church, is unsafe and needs to be repaired — and Mallette must leave by Monday for six months so the new pastor can establish himself.
Mallette will retain the title of “Pastor Emeritus” but has a strained relationship with O’Donnell and isn’t sure how often he will make it back to the parish once he finds a new home.
“The man is just so obnoxious,” he said of O’Donnell.
Mallette and O’Donnell quarrelled moments before the mass about the presence of parishioners in street clothes and baseball caps in the back of the church helping Mallette put on his robes. “He’s goofy. I don’t know what it is with this guy,” Mallette said.
O’Donnell told the Sun-Times last week, “the bottom line is that Father Dan needs to let go.”
Supporters said Mallette, who barely survived a brutal beating nine months ago at the hands of burglars who broke into the rectory, is being disrespectfully nudged into a retirement home.
Mallette has 24-hour caregivers and is frail but mentally sharp.
“We’re all concerned for Fr. Mallette,” said Bishop Joseph Perry Sunday. “If something like that break-in were to happen again, Fr. Mallette might no be so lucky. . . . And he needs someone around to remind him to take his medication.”
A friend who asked not to be named said he is looking into renting a home in Oak Lawn where Mallette could live with his Scottish Terrier, Tuffy. Mallette turned down several offers to live in retirement homes because they don’t allow dogs.
Mallette’s gruff, straight-talking fashion has endeared him to his followers, which was apparent Sunday afternoon as his flock surrounded him outside after mass. He talked about baseball and football and planted dozens of kisses on foreheads and cheeks.
A man who marched with Mallette alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave Mallette a hug and said, “What are we going to do without you?”
Like the Rev. Michael Pfleger — whose long stay at the nearby St. Sabina’s has caused similar, well-publicized arguments with the cardinal — Mallette has remained in his parish far beyond the 12 years priests are typically allowed.
Appointed in 1977, just as white flight was turning the Longwood Manor neighborhood black, Mallette’s charisma and hard work for decades kept generations of white worshippers coming back from farther afield, helping to build one of the city’s most diverse congregations, even as Catholic churches in other black areas closed, parishioners say.