Pastor of St. Bernadette in Evergreen Park resigns amid sex abuse claim
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org September 25, 2012 9:12AM
The St. Bernadette Catholic Parish sign asks for prayers for Rev. Gary Miller at St. Bernadette in Evergreen Park, Illinois, Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Miller resigned as pastor. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
The Rev. Gary
1972 to 1978: St. Leonard in Berwyn
1978 to 1983: St. John Bosco in Chicago
1983 to 1988: Queen of the Rosary in Elk Grove Village
1988 to 2001: St. Pascal in Chicago
2001 to 2012: St. Bernadette in Evergreen Park
Source: Archdiocese of Chicago
Updated: October 27, 2012 6:12AM
The Archdiocese of Chicago said the former pastor of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Evergreen Park is “residing in a private setting away from the parish” after being removed from the ministry amid allegations he engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor more than 30 years ago.
The Rev. Gary M. Miller resigned as pastor of St. Bernadette on June 30 after the archdiocese received the allegation that he abused the minor while assigned to St. Leonard Parish in Berwyn in the 1970s, archdiocese spokeswoman Colleen Dolan said Tuesday.
She had no further details about the age or gender of the victim or how Miller came in contact with the victim, other than it occurred while he was serving at St. Leonard.
“The Archdiocese’s Independent Review Board determined there is reasonable cause to suspect that sexual abuse of a minor had occurred and recommended that Fr. Miller be withdrawn from ministry,” according to a statement from the archdiocese.
Dolan said Miller was removed from ministry last week, but she did not know where he is now.
“He is out of the parish and he’s out of the ministry,” Dolan said.
Reactions to the news
Kathy Zawisza lives in a house across the street from St. Bernadette Catholic Academy at 9311 S. Francisco Ave. Her grandson goes to school there, and she supports the parish with a yard sign in her front lawn.
She said Tuesday she “wouldn’t think twice” about sending her grandson there regardless of the claims against Miller.
“I don’t necessarily believe it, but it doesn’t have to do with the school,” Zawisza said. “Why take it out on the rest of the school?”
Maureen Panatera, who teaches in the school’s after-school program, said the news was saddening.
“I feel bad for whatever happened and the people it happened to,” Panatera said.
Jay Carr, a parent of a second grader at the school, said that parish officials have been “hush hush,” about releasing details to parents.
“To tell you the truth, there’s so many stories with the Catholic schools that you hear all the time,” Carr said. “You don’t know what to believe.”
Allen Young has girls in eighth grade and third grade at the school. He said he’s worried that Miller continued as a priest and was a pastor at St. Bernadette so long — years after the alleged incident took place.
“I’m just glad it didn’t happen to my kid,” Young said. “It makes me sick.”
Barbara Blaine, president of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she had not heard of allegations against Miller until he resigned.
Still, Blaine said she was disappointed with the archdiocese’s handling of his case and wanted to know where Miller has been since he resigned. She also said Cardinal Francis George should personally stop by all the parishes where Miller worked to encourage potential victims to come forward.
“I think Cardinal George made a promise to do better, and he’s not living up to the promise,” Blaine said.
‘A good person’
Roy Forsythe, a lector and longtime member of St. Leonard, defended Miller, saying he is “a good person,” before declining further comment.
Additionally, church Eucharistic minister LaVerne Smith said Miller was included in the prayers of the faithful portion of Sunday’s Mass and that two priests from the archdiocese were available afterward to take questions about Miller.
Multiple messages left for St. Leonard Pastor Roger Corrales-Diaz were not returned.
The archdiocese statement said the allegation against Miller was immediately reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County state’s attorney. Miller has agreed to enter the “Prayer and Penance Program” administered by the archdiocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, the statement said.