The choir sang with all their might as excited parishioners sat anxiously for the opening procession of Sunday morning mass at The Faith Community of Saint Sabina in Chicago, IL.
After five months, the Sunday of rebirth and renewal had come for his long-awaited arrival “home.”
The Rev. Dr. Michael L. Pfleger was on fire for the Lord with his triumphant return to the Faith Community of Saint Sabina Church. Pfleger received a joyous standing ovation for returning to his position as senior pastor. He has remained at this Catholic parish for 46 years.
Delivering two emotional, teary-eyed sermons during the three-hour service, Pfleger said he was going to exceed expectations to conquer violence and increase community service.
“I want to thank you for not running and hiding,” said Pfleger, who greeted guests to the church, such as Chicago Sun-Times Pulitizer winning columnist John W. Fountain and Emmy award-winning director and writer Spike Lee, among many others, who came to show their compassion and love for him. Pfleger spoke about the years that he had police officers assigned to his security unit, as the number of death threats encircled his life.
The Chicago Archdiocese head, Cardinal Blase Cupich, cleared the path for Pfleger, 72, to return to St. Sabina in May. Cupich said the accusations against him were unfounded. State agencies such as DCFS also found the charges untrue earlier in the year.
In January, two brothers said Pfleger had sexually abused them as youngsters when he was in seminary school. The men reside in Texas, but someone sponsored their case against the priest and paid for their legal fees. Then a third man came forward to accuse Pfleger of enticing him 41 years ago. After Pfleger appeared before an administrative board, all three cases were dismissed.
Pfleger said he was given two hours to find an apartment, pay for his own attorneys, and live a nightmare in isolation since January 5th. Pfleger said the painful isolation has ruined his name for life, but he’s not backing down from his diligent stand against injustice.
Pfleger has always maintained his innocence, although he could not speak out against his accusers.
Pfleger said that he is still praying for them but will continue to launch forward with his summer plans for change and improvement in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood.
Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Fountain wrote a May 10th column, encouraging Pfleger to go “rogue” in the way he addresses issues in the community. During Pfleger’s absence, crime increased, money for programs was withheld, free grocery distribution was halted, and children have been terrified, as shootings against young people have tripled.
Pfleger will begin community engagement with free Pfizer shots and free groceries on June 9th, while Friday summer peace walks will begin June 25th.
The church will not require advance reservations anymore, as Chicago opens up on June 11th. Pastor Pfleger said all visitors and members are welcome back. People can choose to wear a mask if they would like, but it is optional in the sanctuary.
Spike Lee flew in for the service and sat in the fourth row, joining the rest of the 500 celebrants.