Priest stole $1 million from parish, church officials say

Chicago Sun-Times/September 13, 2004
By Monifa Thomas

A Catholic priest who resigned earlier this year has admitted to stealing more than $1 million from his Southwest Side parish over a five-year period, church officials said Sunday.

During weekend services, parishioners at St. Bede the Venerable were told the Rev. Brian Lisowski had misappropriated $1,144,380 in church funds between January 1999 and July 2004.

Lisowski, who was named pastor in 1999, resigned in July after acknowledging he had relapsed into alcoholism and been stopped by police with an alleged prostitute in his car, Chicago Archdiocese spokesman Jim Dwyer said. He was not charged with wrongdoing in that incident.

"As we usually do, we audited the parish accounts [after Lisowski's resignation] and noticed some irregularities," Dwyer said. "Some things didn't seem to make sense."

Lisowski admitted to taking the money after church officials confronted him about a sudden increase in the parish's collections account. Last week, Lisowski returned the amount taken plus interest, giving St. Bede a total of $1,226,369.

Dwyer said Lisowski, who could not be reached for comment, is in a private setting dealing with his alcoholism.

"He's trying to get his life together," Dwyer said. "He's a broken man by all this."

The archdiocese reported the matter to the Cook County state's attorney's office. Officials in that office have not said whether they will pursue charges against Lisowski.

Many parishioners told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday they were stunned and saddened by the news.

"He was such a wonderful man," said Dolores Graczyk, a member of St. Bede for 19 years. "I feel very sorry for him. He gave up everything."

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