‘A lot of people can’t sleep at night’: Parishioners react to alleged sexual abuse by retired priest

Diocese releases info on Nolan's background
‘A lot of people can’t sleep at night’: Parishioners react to alleged sexual abuse by retired priest
William Nolan

Parishioners in Fort Atkinson used the words “disbelief” and “shock” on Friday to describe their reactions to allegations that a former priest from their area sexually abused a teenage boy.

“Our kids are kind of heartbroken because it’s somebody — it’s almost like a teacher — someone that you trust and you’ve been taught that you could go to,” said Brenda Ciske, who attends St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

William Nolan, 64, is facing felony counts after he allegedly sexually assaulted a boy in Fort Atkinson for years, according to documents filed in court Thursday.

According to the criminal complaint, more than 100 assaults took place between February 2006 and the summer of 2010, when the boy was 13 to 17 years old.

Fort Atkinson Police Chief Adrian Bump said no new alleged victims came forward Friday, but he encouraged anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse to come forward.

Nolan served at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Fort Atkinson from 2002 to 2007. Some of his parishioners told News 3 they did not want to believe the allegations could be true.

“Everyone respected him and thought he was just very personable and super nice, so I think that’s what’s even more shocking because kids would go to him,” Ciske said.

She said Nolan played a large role in the lives of her children, who are now out of college, when they were growing up in the church.

“They did a lot of sacred things with him — maybe first communion, maybe confirmation — things that will always be a part of their lives, with him stamped on their documents,” Ciske said.

Bridget Britzke’s family used to attend the Catholic church but left when Nolan retired in 2007, saying “it wasn’t the same” without him.

“Our family really enjoyed going to Mass on Sundays, just because he was going to be there,” Britzke said. “He made Mass more lifelike, more real as to how it pertains to today.”

She said that, after hearing the news, “I’ve heard a lot of people can’t sleep at night.”

Nolan’s background

The Diocese of Madison released information Friday about Nolan’s background. His assignments as a priest with the diocese were as follows:

1985-1987: St. Henry Parish, Watertown
1987-1989: St. Patrick Parish, Madison
1989-1994: St. John Vianney Parish, Janesville
1994-1996: St. Peter Parish, Madison
1996: St. Paul Catholic University Center, Madison
1996-2002: St. Pius X Parish, Cambridge
2002-2007: St. Joseph Parish, Fort Atkinson

We asked the diocese about Nolan’s assignments following his time at St. Joseph’s.

This was the statement from Brent King, director of communications for the Diocese of Madison:

“Retired priests have faculties to function as priests in the diocese, but do not have assignments. Often retired priests fill in on a Sunday, if someone is ill or taking a vacation. Fr. Nolan has assisted in this way, to various degrees, over the past 10+ years. When and where he has assisted has been negotiated by the pastors/administrators of those locations.”

Nolan has been living at a rectory of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison since 2014. We confirmed with the diocese that Nolan will not be living there while the allegations are being investigated.

The diocese also confirmed there are no outstanding allegations, besides those against Nolan, against any priest in the diocese.