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Survivor Narratives

Mark Jendrysik

In the summer of 1981, 13 year old “Christina” was an active member of the youth group at Visitation, the Diocese of Joliet’s parish in Elmhurst. She enjoyed youth group meetings and events—or hanging out with friends. Father Mark Jendrysik, a young seminarian who helped lead the youth group, took a special interest in Christina and her friends. He would drive them home from meetings and events and would hug each of them to say goodbye when dropping them off. But Jendrysik always made Christina “feel special.” He let her sit in the front seat of his car and gave her extra attention.

One night, Christina was the last girl left in Jendrysik’s car. He parked in her driveway and leaned over to the passenger seat and hugged her goodbye. But this time, he kissed her, “aggressively stuck his tongue down her throat,” and roughly grabbed her breast over and under her clothing. This was Christina’s first kiss. When she made it inside her home, she was angry at Jendrysik. She had a crush on a boy at school and didn’t want her first kiss to be with Jendrysik.

Jendrysik continued to abuse Christina for the remainder of the summer. He got bolder as time went on, taking advantage of his access to her at the Visitation youth group. He was constantly pulling her aside so they could be alone where he would kiss and touch her. He would bring her into the basement kitchen at the parish to abuse her. He touched her genitals over her clothing and forced her to touch his.

Christina does not recall all the details with absolute clarity, but she believes Jendrysik did more to her. When she engaged in other sex acts as an adult, she did not feel pain; to the contrary, it felt like she had experienced them before. Christina does remember Jendrysik bringing her into the rectory where he was staying that summer. She recalls walking past the secretary into the residential area, feeling embarrassed and scared as the secretary watched her walk by. The next thing she remembers is walking out of the rectory feeling ashamed.

When the abuse started, Christina felt angry but helpless. But Jendrysik convinced her this was a special relationship and instructed her to not tell anyone. As the abuse continued, she explains, “there came a point where I felt nothing at all.” Christina did not tell anyone because she was afraid she would be in trouble. She was made to believe she “did something to make him break his vow of celibacy.” Jendrysik left Visitation at the end of the summer of 1981.

Jendrysik returned during the school year and visited Christina’s eighth grade classroom. While addressing the class, he stood behind Christina and massaged her neck and shoulders as her classmates watched. Christina was embarrassed, terrified, and frozen. Jendrysik followed Christina to her locker and said he wanted to see her. Christina refused and the other kids asked why she was “yelling at Father Mark.” At a youth group meeting later that weekend, Jendrysik showed up and tried to get Christina to spend time with him. She refused. A father of another child pulled Jendrysik aside and told him Christina had asked him to leave her alone.

In 1996, Jendrysik called Christina on her home phone and asked to speak with her. She wasn’t home but the message was relayed to her by her mother. She didn’t return his call.

In May 2009, Christina began seeking healing and felt God was asking her to forgive Jendrysik. She called Jendrysik to tell him she had forgiven him for abusing her. Jendrysik said he remembered what he had done. He said he remembered their relationship “like you remember a first love.” She told him she was a child, it was not a relationship, and he took away her innocence. He claimed he had used his experience with Christina to help other priests deal with their “mistakes.”

Jendrysik’s abuse caused Christina an emotional trauma that impacted different areas of her life. She struggles to practice her Christian faith. She is unable to feel attached to or trust others. She often feels shame in intimate relationships as she struggles to say “no” in situations. Christina says she feels “despair and hopelessness over whether my life will get better.” Depression and anxiety make her feel as if she has been “damaged to a place where” she doesn’t know if she will “ever be repaired.”

In 2017, Christina considered reporting the abuse by Jendrysik but decided against it when she had constant fear and anxiety at the thought of reporting it. In 2018, she learned of the Attorney General’s investigation into the abuse of children by Catholic clerics and “felt there’s someone on [her] side.” She contacted the Attorney General’s investigators through the hotline and email inbox for survivors of Catholic clerical sexual abuse of children and reported the abuse by Jendrysik; this was the first time she reported the abuse to anyone. Next, she filed a report with the Elmhurst police about the abuse. The police interviewed Jendrysik in response to Christina’s report, and the police report states he admitted to having “a relationship with” Christina and that there was “a possibility that I touched her breast while we were kissing.” Christina also reported the abuse to the Diocese of Joliet’s victim assistance coordinator, who offered to pay for counseling; however, Christina learned from a form provided by the counselor that by signing this she would be required to release her progress notes to the diocese and would not be protected by the federal health privacy laws. This made Christina feel deceived and caused more emotional damage. The diocese also offered to provide counseling for Christina’s mother but never returned her call to set it up.

In December 2018, the diocese informed Christina that Jendrysik had been “defrocked” and was removed from his position at the church where he served. Christina assumed he was no longer a priest. Therefore, she was shocked to learn that Jendrysik had been officially removed from the priesthood and officially laicized in late 2021, when Christina had the opportunity to meet with Bishop Ronald Hicks to discuss the abuse with him in person. Such confusion over the diocese’s response to Christina’s reporting the abuse only engendered mistrust for her.

Over the years, Christina has written about her abuse and received emails and calls from other victims of misconduct by Jendrysik. One told Christina that they had reported Jendrysik to the diocese but didn’t see anything come of it. She was also told Jendrysik has been communicating “the relationship with Christina was mutual and he is being made an example of by the diocese.” As of 2021, other parishes continued to put “Father Mark Jendrysik” on their list of prayer requests in various online and printed materials. These events have caused further trauma to Christina.

Although an internal church investigation resulted in Jendrysik’s laicization in 2021, that investigation placed undue emphasis on the public nature of Christina’s reporting of the abuse. In August 2020, the church’s investigation recommended Jendrysik’s laicization, recognizing that Jendrysik had admitted to abusing Christina to the police. The church’s investigation highlighted public reporting on Christina’s allegations of abuse in recommending laicization, noting that her allegations had “been made public by various influential news agencies.” The investigation took into account Christina’s online posts about the abuse, concluding that “the situation is no longer occult and is not possible to prevent or repair scandal without recourse to the public forum.” The September 2020 decree initiating canonical proceedings against Jendrysik for abusing Christina described how his “inappropriate conduct . . . seem[s] to cause gravest scandal among the faithful.” The church’s continued focus on publicity and “scandal” about a priest sexually abusing a child even in present day investigations demonstrates why survivors still feel the need to put their trauma on public display. They rightfully believe that the public eye may be the only way to ensure accountability for the church.

Throughout the process, Christina felt that the diocese failed to appreciate the profound impact that the abuse had on her life because she is articulate and appears physically put together. She was saddened that, despite Catholic clergy child sex abuse being so prevalent, the diocese did not appear to have educated itself or have any understanding of the “invisible” damages and the internal struggles survivors endure.

Christina retained an attorney to pursue a claim against the Diocese of Joliet. In late 2022, four years after starting the reporting process with the diocese, Christina and the diocese reached a monetary settlement. Throughout the process, Christina felt that the diocese failed to appreciate the profound impact that the abuse had on her life because she is articulate and appears physically put together. She was saddened that, despite Catholic clergy child sex abuse being so prevalent, the diocese did not appear to have educated itself or have any understanding of the “invisible” damages and the internal struggles survivors endure. The diocese’s focus on her “failure to come forward sooner” likewise evidenced the diocese’s ignorance or disregard for the fact that only a small percentage of victims ever find the courage to share with anyone that they have been abused. Christina feels that “the church only cares about moving on. They don’t care about doing what is right for victims.” Along those lines, Christina said that when she asked for a letter of acknowledgement and apology from the diocese about the abuse, it denied her request.

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Terms are defined as provided in the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Glossary of Catholic Terms, unless denoted with *.

Altar server
Individuals, usually children, who assist clerics during liturgical functions such as mass. Prior to 1994, only men and boys were permitted to be altar servers.*
The title given automatically to bishops who govern archdioceses. It is also given to certain other high-ranking church officials.
The chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province. It is governed by an archbishop.
Auxiliary Bishop
A bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese to assist its residential bishop.
The highest order of ordained ministry in the Catholic Church. The chief priests in their respective dioceses. Bishops are responsible for the pastoral care of their dioceses. All bishops have a responsibility to act in council with other bishops to guide the church.
A man who has taken vows in a religious order but is not ordained or studying for the priesthood. Sometimes he is called a lay brother to distinguish him from ordained members of religious orders.
Canon Law

A code of ecclesiastical laws governing the Catholic Church.

Highest-ranking Catholic clergy below the pope. Cardinals are regarded as the pope's closest advisors. Most cardinals are archbishops.
The chief archivist of a diocese's official records. Also a notary and secretary of the diocese’s central administration.
Clergy is a collective term referring to all those ordained—bishops, priests, and deacons—who administer the rites of the church. A cleric is an individual member of the clergy. Only men are permitted to join the clergy.
Confession or Reconciliation
The Catholic sacrament in which one makes a voluntary self-accusation of sins to a qualified priest in private in order to obtain absolution. The priest provides the confessor, also known as the penitent, with a penance to atone for sins committed. A priest who hears confession is forbidden from disclosing the contents of a confession to others under what is called the seal of confession.*
The personnel and offices through which (1) the pope administers the affairs of the universal church (the Roman Curia), or (2) a bishop administers the affairs of a diocese (the diocesan curia). The principal officials of a diocesan curia are the vicar general, the chancellor, officials of the diocesan tribunal or court, examiners, consultors, auditors, and notaries.
Dallas Charter
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People sets forth policies for each United States archdiocese and diocese to adopt as part of an effort to address allegations of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy. The Charter was formulated at the 2002 meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas, Texas. The Charter was revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018.
One of three groups that comprise the clergy, meaning those ordained for ministry. Only men are permitted to become deacons. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons. Those not planning to be ordained priests are called permanent deacons. Married men may be ordained permanent deacons, but only unmarried men committed to lifelong celibacy can be ordained deacons if they are planning to become priests.
Diocesan Priest
Priests under the direction of their local bishop. Most serve in the parishes of the diocese, but they may also be assigned to other diocesan ministries or released for service outside the diocese.
A territorial division of the Church headed by a bishop.
Extern Priest
A priest with faculties to minister in a diocese or archdiocese who was not ordained in that diocese or archdiocese. For example, a diocesan priest from the Diocese of Springfield who has been granted faculties to minister by the Archdiocese of Chicago is an extern priest.*
Church authorization, given by the law itself or by a Church superior, to perform certain official acts.
Members of the Catholic Church. Derived from Catholic teachings that clergy are like shepherds guiding a flock.*
Laicize or Defrock
The process by which a priest is returned to the lay state. It is sometimes used as a penalty for a serious crime, but also can come at the request of the priest. A laicized priest is barred from all priestly ministry with one exception: He may give absolution to someone in immediate danger of death. The pope must approve all requests for laicization. When a priest is laicized without his consent for a crime, such as committing child sexual abuse, it is sometimes called defrocking.
Any activity conducive to the salvation of souls. It can include ordained ministry such as liturgical leadership and administration of the sacraments, or lay ministry such as instructing children in the faith, serving the poor, visiting the sick, or being an altar server, reader, or music leader at mass.
An honorary ecclesiastical title granted by the pope to some diocesan priests.
A member of a religious order of women who has taken solemn or simple vows.
Ordination is the sacramental ceremony in which a man becomes a deacon, priest, or bishop. A cleric who has undergone ordination is known as ordained.*
A specific community within a diocese with its own church building and under the authority of a pastor who is responsible for providing ministerial service. Most parishes are formed on a geographic basis, but they may be formed along national or ethnic lines.
A priest in charge of a Catholic parish or congregation.
Acts performed to atone for committed sins, as directed by a priest in the Catholic sacrament of reconcilliation.*
Residential housing for clergy provided by the Church. A rectory can also contain administrative offices for a parish.*
Religious Cleric
Professed member of a religious order or institute. Religious clergy live according to the rule of their respective orders.
Religious Order or Order
An institution of men or women, at least some of whose members take solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and whose male members are sometimes ordained.*
An educational institution for men preparing for the priesthood.
A cleric who acts in the name of another cleric.*
Vicar general
A priest, auxiliary bishop, or coadjutor bishop who assists the diocesan bishop in the governance of the diocese.
Victims Assistance Coordinator

A diocesan employee who has been designated to coordinate assistance to survivors of sex abuse by clerics.*