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Former Orland Park Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor

Rev. Michael W. O'Connell served at Our Lady of the Woods Parish from 1997 until 2012, where the misconduct was claimed to take place.

Rev. Michael W. O'Connell's bio from St. Alphonsus Parish.
Rev. Michael W. O'Connell's bio from St. Alphonsus Parish.
By Ben Feldheim and Emily Stone

A former Orland Park priest was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor while serving locally.

Rev. Michael W. O'Connell has stepped down from serving at St. Alphonsus Parish in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. The alleged sexual misconduct was reported to have happened while O'Connell served at Our Lady of the Woods Parish in Orland Park. He was pastor at Our Lady of the Woods from 1997 until 2012.

"The investigation by the Archdiocese has begun," said Susan Burritt, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago. 

The allegation was received by the Archdiocese of Chicago last week and was reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, according to the Archdiocese's statement.

O'Connell also agreed to move away from St. Alphonsus parish until the investigation has ended.

According to St. Alphonsus’ website, O’Connell served at Our Lady of the Woods immediately prior to St. Alphonsus. The website says he was born in Chicago and grew up in the northwest suburbs. According to the church’s website, he was assigned to the Church of St. Mary in Lake Forest from 1989 to 1993. Before Lake Forest, O'Connell served at St. Michael Parish in Orland Park from 1983 until 1989. He started at St. Alphonsus last year.

ABC7 has a copy of the letter sent to St. Alphonsus parishioners announcing the allegation. “The investigation is ongoing and will take some time,” it says.

You can read the full letter here.

Read the full statement put out on O'Connell by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Suzy December 10, 2013 at 07:46 AM
Father Mike was a trusted leader and friend to his congregations at St. Michael's and Our Lady of the Woods for many years. He was there for our family in difficult times. He has always demonstrated the highest character. I pray that his name is cleared.
McQue December 10, 2013 at 10:40 AM
I second that Suzy. Father Mike has been a great priest at OLOW. I hope this story proves to be false. We should NOT assume him to be guilty without a trial.
Kasey I. December 10, 2013 at 03:20 PM
You know...I have mixed feelings on this. While I did not know while he was out here in Orland, I do feel for him. I know that in this day and age, it is easy for someone to accuse a priest of sexual misconduct. Even the accusation of this is almost guaranteed to bring a big payout for the accuser and the assumption of guilt on the accused. If the priest is guilty...then he deserves everything that he has coming to him. Unfortunately, if he is not the priest is still sullied with the accusation. I know and understand what happened in the past as far as the church harboring these pedophiles,. This has to stop and it looks like they are reporting accusations more and the police are actually involved more. If guilty...arrest him...put him in jail and pay the victim for damages. But if he is innocent and the victim himself of someone just trying to make some money off him...I hope that comes out also and the person who falsely accuses him is also prosecuted for making false statements
Rachael Stockwell December 16, 2013 at 09:42 AM
Do you think the victim took so long to come out because of the church's history? The church is one of the oldest Roman Catholic parishes in Chicago. In my opinion, I think that the victim choose to keep things hidden for so long, knowing what publicity was going to occur if it became public. http://www.lane-lane.com/library/chicago-archdiocese-to-investigate-sexual-abuse-case.cfm

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