I spent several years at a newspaper dealing with reports of priests abusing young people. I want to try to balance that by talking about a priest who, in my experience, was nothing but a friend to young men.
Father Duane Leclercq, now retired, was an assistant pastor at St. Mark’s Parish in the 1960s and ’70s when I was an altar boy and student there. He would engage the older boys by having us come over to the school on Saturday mornings for workouts. Those would involve running laps through the school (those stairs were rough, but we got to run through the halls without getting in trouble!), tumbling, lifting weights, doing calisthenics, and even being able to shoot the occasional hoop. Father also organized a boys schola, with after-school rehearsals in the rectory basement and performances not only at daily Masses but on the local “Mass for Shut-ins” broadcast as well, taped at the old WMBD-TV studios. He would treat the altar boys by taking us to the occasional movie (I first saw Disney’s Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea at the Palace Theater that way) and then out for ice cream afterward.
Then there was golf, which seemed to be Father’s passion in those days. I caddied (poorly) for him once at Newman Golf Course. If he needed someone to shag golf balls behind Immaculate Conception convent in West Peoria, just down the street from where I lived, he’d simply knock on our front door and I’d head there with him. He tried to coach me on a proper golf swing, too, but that was a lost cause.
I lost touch with him after he was transferred to another parish, but I’ve always appreciated his effort to be a role model in a Catholic boy’s life.