Accused priests are living near a Lisle school, and parents are concerned
The living arrangements of two priests who have faced sex abuse allegations are raising concerns among neighbors, as well as officials and parents at the adjacent Kennedy Junior High School in Lisle.
The Revs. James Nowak, 81, and Richard Jacklin, 67, reside at the St. John Vianney Villa in Naperville, located next door to the junior high. The facility serves as a retirement home for 13 priests, according to a statement from the Diocese of Joliet.
Neither priest has been convicted of a crime or is a registered sex offender. However, Kennedy parents and community members have expressed concerns about the retirement home's proximity to the school, prompting the diocese to say it would reevaluate the priests' residency.
"The Diocese of Joliet is sensitive to the concerns raised by the school parents," the statement from the diocese reads. "While the Naperville Police Department has visited the residence, investigated the matter and determined that no laws are being violated, the Diocese appreciates that the safety of children must always be the top priority."
Nowak, who served as pastor at St. Peter & Paul Catholic Church from 2002 to 2007, is listed on the diocese's website as having a "credible/substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against minors." He was suspended by the diocese in 2012 and later was named in a more than $4 million settlement involving five priests accused of molesting young boys from the 1960s to 1980s.
Jacklin is facing criminal sexual assault charges involving a physically and developmentally disabled adult in Kankakee County. He is due in court Oct. 4.
The diocese reached out to Naperville Unit District 203 administrators last week and intends to keep up communications "until the matter is resolved," according to its statement.
Meanwhile, Kennedy Junior High is adjusting its campus usage and supervision schedules, and additional community safety officers from the Lisle Police Department will be at the school during arrival and drop-off times, Principal Brian Valek said in a note to parents last week.
Nearby resident Jennifer Bramschreiber, whose children previously attended Kennedy, is trying to gather a group large enough to launch a campaign against what she called the church's protection and relocation of predatory priests.
Bramschreiber said she and other neighborhood parents have allowed their kids to ride their bikes or go sledding near the St. John Vianney Villa, unaware that the two priests were living there. Using a Facebook group called "Stop Catholic Cover Up," she said she intends to work with organizations such as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests to call for a change in the system -- and she hopes the message will reach as high as the pope.
"They're trying to decide what to do and weighing their options (of) taking care of priests or protecting the kids," Bramschreiber said. "We need the church to decide, protect the kids."
In his note to parents, Valek encourages students to report suspicious incidents and be aware as they travel to and from school, especially if they walk or ride their bikes. Families can contact the school's main office at (630) 420-3230 or school resource officer Cindy McKay at (630) 420-2823 with questions or concerns, he said.