Lester: Convicted priest moving to Mount Prospect parish
Pope Francis has proclaimed 2016 the "Year of Mercy" for Catholics, and that theme is being vividly demonstrated at a Mount Prospect parish.
In the coming weeks, St. Raymond de Penafort parish will begin housing a retired priest who was convicted of theft in 2008 for stealing roughly $40,000 from a Chicago church and using the money on vacations, laptops, massages and personal training sessions.
Cook County prosecutors said the Rev. Steve Patte, who formally retired last year, issued checks and wired money to his personal accounts as reimbursement for expenditures that never occurred. He was sentenced to four years of probation.
<h3 class="leadin">Love and support
An announcement in the parish bulletin about Patte's arrival made no mention of the crime, but said he was in need of love and support from parishioners.
Pastor Ed Panek tells me he was asked about bringing Patte on board by a senior priest at St. Raymond, who pointed to the parish's largely empty rectory. "I interviewed him and talked to him twice already," Panek said. "It's something in his past and a bad time in his life."
Panek says Patte attends regular meetings and is in a program to address emotional issues he's being treated for.
"I look at our parish ministry as a kind of mutual thing," Panek said. The church's motto has long been "all are welcome."
Panek says he expects Patte will have a supportive role at the parish that involves saying Mass.
Remember Carl Miller, the Downers Grove teen who's made it his mission to meet every single presidential contender? Well, the Timothy Christian Academy student checked in this week to let me know he's in Iowa working as a Ted Cruz volunteer for caucuses today. Interactions with the Texas senator who he describes as a "friend" include three personal meetings, to date. Miller's met every candidate except Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republicans Chris Christie and Rand Paul.
<h3 class="leadin">Iran dealbreaker
Curious just why U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin chose to endorse Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering over former Congressman Brad Schneider in the 10th District Democratic primary? I'm told by party operatives close to Durbin that it was because of Schneider's opposition of the Iran nuclear deal. Democratic icon Abner Mikva made a similar move last fall.
Three suburban businesses have landed on Forbes' list of 25 "best small companies." Elk Grove's Tasty Catering - the smallest of the firms on the list - was honored for its near nonexistent staff turnover rate. Abt Electronics in Glenview was recognized for exceptional customer service at its 70,000 square-foot Glenview store. Burr Ridge's Integrated Project Management was highlighted for "implementing state-of-the-art management disciplines."
<h3 class="leadin">Open meetings violation
The Illinois Attorney General's office has ruled that the McHenry County Board violated the Open Meetings Act when it allowed two members to participate by phone in its Oct. 6 vote to reject a township consolidation initiative.
In a three-page decision released Jan. 26, the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Bureau concluded it was "improper" for the board to allow members Mary McCann and Michele Aavang to participate remotely. However, because both members voted with the 13-9 majority, the attorney general's office found that no action was required by the board to remedy its violations. The vote was against putting referendums on the March 15 ballot asking McHenry County voters if they wanted to consolidate their particular townships based on a map developed by a task force.
<h3 class="leadin">Gifted expansion
Elgin Area School District U-46 is expanding its gifted program from five middle schools to all eight of its middle schools next year. The expansion, spokeswoman Mary Fergus says, reflects a philosophy that students needs be met at their home schools.