Priest Accused Of Misusing $75,000

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BURLINGTON - When someone donates money to their church, they trust the money is going to a good place. But now, the priest at St. Mary's Church in Burlington has resigned after being accused of spending church money improperly.

Father Jeffrey Thielen has not been charged with a crime.

Father Thielen's problem started when parishioners and staff started asking questions about where church funds were going.

The Milwaukee Archdiocese began an investigation and found that at least $75,000 had allegedly gone missing.

The Archdiocese claims the money was not properly documented. The review says Father Thielen may have used the money to increase his own salary, and he allegedly spent thousands on gift cards that he gave to parishioners, staff and volunteers.

After the review, Father Thielen and three other staff members resigned.

"It's disappointing because we really do, as an archdiocese, take the stewardship of donations from parishioners very seriously," said Milwaukee Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf.

Jim Prailes goes to St. Mary's Church every Sunday. He just heard the news his priest is being investigated for stealing from the church.

"Very unfortunate, and I just hate to see something like this happen because it's very hard on the community," Prailes said.

"It seems out of character for any pastor," said Prailes.

Bishop William Callahan has stepped in at St. Mary's until a replacement is named.

"I'm here to reassure the people of the parish that everything will continue as it always has," Callahan said.

Father Thielen has resigned from his parish, but he has not been suspended by the archdiocese.

The Racine County District Attorney's office is investigating and will determine whether Thielen will be charged with a crime.