The Rev. Timothy Keppel was overseeing two parishes near San Bernardino, Calif., when a man told the diocese there that, while in his teens, he’d been repeatedly sexually abused by the priest.
The abuse happened decades earlier, he said. And Keppel was never charged with a crime.
But the Resurrectionist religious order of Catholic priests, brothers and deacons that Keppel belongs to determined the accusations were credible.
So it barred him for life from public ministry. And it later included him in its online posting of members found to have been credibly accused of child sex offenses.
Yet Keppel — who was moved to the order’s Chicago region, its U.S. headquarters — continued to have a role with the Resurrectionists, despite being ordered to dedicate his life to “prayer and penance” as a church-imposed sanction.
Since being banned from ministry, he has taken part in fundraisers in the Chicago area for the order, including being on the organizing committee for a 2017 fundraiser in Des Plaines that raised more than $100,000 to benefit “our seminarians, brothers and senior religious,” according to a Resurrectionists’ newsletter.
Neither the Resurrectionists nor the top Catholic cleric in Illinois, Cardinal Blase Cupich, will say where Keppel has been living.
Based on interviews and records, though, he has lived next to two high schools in the city and suburbs, neither which appears to have been told of the child sex abuse accusations.
In 2013, Keppel swapped his California driver’s license for an Illinois license, giving his address as a Crystal Lake home owned by his order.
The house is next to Prairie Ridge High School’s athletic fields. But Prairie Ridge and McHenry County Community High School District 155 officials weren’t “made aware of the individual or the allegations against him,” according to district spokeswoman Shannon Podzimek.
Another priest who lives at the Resurrectionists-owned home told a reporter Keppel had lived there but moved to the city.
In 2015, Keppel renewed his driver’s license, giving a home address in the 3600 block of North California Avenue. That’s a residence for his order that was part of DePaul College Prep’s campus until the school moved to a nearby site in August 2020. Records show Keppel renewed his license at an Illinois secretary of state facility in McHenry County in September, again giving the Chicago address.
Keppel, 71, whose voter registration since 2015 shows the same address, didn’t respond to calls or emails seeking an interview.
The Resurrectionists aren’t as well known as some other male Catholic orders in the Chicago area, where the Jesuits, Augustinians, Franciscans and Christian Brothers all have a significant presence. Yet the order, whose clerics serve in 15 countries, staffs 11 churches in Chicago and the suburbs, including the historic Polish parishes St. Hyacinth Basilica, 3636 W. Wolfram St., and St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 1351 W. Evergreen Ave.
For decades, the order also ran Weber High School, an all-boys institution on the Northwest Side that was closed in 1999, and what formerly was known as Gordon Tech High School at Addison Street and California Avenue and is now DePaul College Prep.
Another order, the Vincentians, who run DePaul University, now sponsors DePaul College Prep, which moved last year to a new North Side campus.
Mary Dempsey, president of DePaul College Prep, says she hadn’t heard of Keppel. Dempsey says that, during the period the school shared a campus with the Resurrectionists, “I did ask and receive assurances that nobody living in the residence was under any restrictions.”
The Rev. Paul Voisin, superior general of the order, who’s based at the group’s international headquarters in Rome, says he visited just before the COVID pandemic last year and saw Keppel in Chicago.
“I did see him on occasions during the day at what was Gordon Tech,” Voisin says. “As far as I know, he was residing” in Crystal Lake and “did not sleep there on California Avenue.”
Voisin confirms Keppel has been involved in recent years with fundraising for the order. He says he doesn’t know all what that entails, suggesting asking the Rev. Steven Bartczyszyn, leader of the Resurrectionists’ U.S. province and a former Weber principal.
Asked about Keppel and others on his order’s list of clerics found to have been credibly accused of child sex offenses and listed as having lived in Chicago, Bartczyszyn won’t comment.
Bartczyszyn was installed as provincial superior in late 2019.
A predecessor, the Rev. Gene Szarek, held that post when the order made public a list of its members with an “established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in this country since 1950.”
“The USA Resurrectionists are publishing this list in the spirit of transparency and reconciliation,” Szarek wrote then.
“There are seven names on our list,” he wrote. “All but one are deceased. The living member is permanently removed from active ministry and lives a life of prayer and penance.”
That list — which, according to the order, was inadvertently removed from its website and reposted after a reporter asked about it — includes no details about the priests, only their names.
That’s a more limited disclosure than what some orders operating in Chicago and the Archdiocese of Chicago provide.
Bartczyszyn, based at St. Hyacinth, won’t disclose the abuse accusations the men on his order’s list faced or say where those clerics were assigned.
Through interviews and records, though, the Sun-Times found Chicago-area connections to credibly accused Resurrectionists clerics, in addition to Keppel, including:
- Rev. Konstanty Przybylski, who was convicted in Canada in 2006 of sexually abusing two boys between 1995 and 2000 while assigned to an Ontario parish, including assaults during travels to the Chicago area, where Przybylski previously ministered at St. Hyacinth, records show.
“Przybylski sexually abused the minors at his home at the time in Ontario and on trips to Chicago, Rome and Poland,” according to a 2019 report by Jeff Anderson & Associates, a law firm that’s filed numerous lawsuits against church authorities over abuse accusations.
In 2006, the London Free Press newspaper in Ontario reported that a Przybylski abuse victim, then 22, testified at a sentencing hearing that the priest asked him when he was a boy whether he masturbated. He testified that, when he said yes, the priest told him that was a sin — unless they masturbated each other.
The victim testified that, as a boy, he traveled with Przybylski to Rome and met Pope John Paul II, according to the newspaper. But it reported what should have been a joyous experience to meet the worldwide head of the Catholic church was “tarnished because, during the trip, just minutes from the Vatican, Przybylski abused him.”
Przybylski was sentenced to five years in prison. He has since died.
Robert Talach, a Canadian attorney who has sued the church over Przybylski’s sexual abuse of children, filed suit against church authorities in Canada last year for a man who said Przybylski “repeatedly sexually abused, assaulted and molested” him in the 1990s when the victim was a young man.
- Rev. Adalbert Kowalczyk, who was accused in a lawsuit nearly 20 years ago of molesting a girl in the 1960s at a California parish. The suit was eventually settled.
Kowalczyk, previously stationed at Chicago churches, was sent back from California and again assigned to serve Chicago churches, including St. Stanislaus, records show.
Kowalczyk died in the early 1970s. He’s buried in Niles at St. Adalbert Cemetery, where his order has a crypt and burial site.
- Rev. Charles Mrowinski, who died in 2008. In 2013, Mrowinski was accused of abusing a minor in the Chicago area in 1984, according to church records. From 1982 to 1986, he was pastor of St. Hedwig Church, 2226 N. Hoyne Ave., which Szarek now serves. Mrowinski previously ministered in Missouri and Canada.
- Rev. Lawrence Kurlandski, who records show taught at Gordon Tech in the 1950s and 1960s and at Weber in the 1980s. He was accused in a 2003 lawsuit of molesting a girl in the 1940s in California, according to records that indicate he died in around 1990.
Catholic religious orders operate semi-autonomously. That means Cupich has no direct authority over those operating within the archdiocese — the territory of Cook and Lake counties he oversees. But they need his authority to operate on his turf, for instance, running churches or schools.
Pope Francis has left it to individual orders and dioceses whether to disclose any information about abuse by their clergy. The Archdiocese of Chicago gives details about the accusations against diocesan priests — who directly reported to Cupich or his predecessor bishops. But, though Cupich for years has demanded that orders operating in Chicago inform him of any clergy members accused of abuse, he doesn’t include order priests in the archdiocese’s list.
So Keppel isn’t on the archdiocese’s list. Nor is he on the Diocese of Rockford’s list. Its territory includes Crystal Lake.
A Rockford diocese spokeswoman says Keppel “is not on our list because he is not present and/or ministering here.”
Beyond being named on his order’s list, Keppel — who was ordained a priest in 1977 and still goes by the priestly title “Father” — is on a list maintained by the Diocese of San Bernardino. That’s where he led two parishes when the first abuse accusation was made against him.
John Andrews, a spokesman for the California diocese, says Keppel faced accusations involving “multiple incidents” between 1977 and 1983.