In an emotional and at times angry meeting with representatives from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, more than 100 parents of Star of the Sea Schoolchildren pleaded Wednesday night for the controversial leaders of their school’s church to be removed from their posts.
The Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor at Star of the Sea Church since August, and Father Patrick Driscoll, the parish’s parochial vicar, sat mostly blank-faced as 15 parents, some of them breaking into tears, took turns at a microphone and cited examples of how they believe the men had disrupted the open, tolerant atmosphere of the school.
“Father Joseph preaches intolerance. And that’s preaching hate,” said Brian Wu, who has two children at Star of the Sea, a K-8 school in the Richmond District. [...]
“It is with such great sadness and such a heavy heart that I find myself right here, right now,” said parent Brenda Kittredge, who went to school at Star of the Sea herself and now has four children at the school. “It frightens me that for a second I actually thought about sending my children somewhere else.
“Too many hurtful things have happened. We are way, way, way past apologies being enough,” Kittredge said. “They are just not a good fit.”
In other words, Wu, Kittredge, and the other 98 parents (100 parents? And the media showed up?) want to pick their own pastors and leaders. Preferably with spiffy rainbow vestments emblazoned with “Barney” on the front, and lots of talk about being inclusive and honoring diversity, and not so much of this “Christ suffered and died to save us from our sins, so we should repent and believe in the Gospel and not, you know, go out on Facebook to talk about our favorite Sin Pride parades, and whatnot...” stuff. And if they don’t get exactly what they want, they’ll pick up their ball and go home.
In Kittredge’s case, literally--she is the school’s athletic director.
Clicking around at Star of the Sea’s website reveals what may be at the root of the problem:
For instance, from the mission statement:
Star of the Sea School is a unique, loving Christian community of caring persons who enthusiastically strive to instill Christ-like values and academic excellence in a way that challenges ourselves, our students and our parents.
Our school is about people. With the rich ethnic backgrounds of those entrusted in our care, we strive to bring out the uniqueness and potential of each child.
Or from the “Our Philosophy” page:
We see effective education as stewardship. As gifted individuals, we share the knowledge and resources available in order to make the world a better place. Through our academic curriculum we strive to call forth the very best each student has to offer. Our students’ gifts find affirmation through our holistic educational program that addresses religious, intellectual, social, aesthetic, emotional, and physical needs.
Or from the “Faith & Outreach” page:
Star of the Sea embraces students of all faiths. We strive to create an environment where our young people will experience and appreciate a values-based education every day. Our students learn how faith plays a role in their own lives and are encouraged to become faith-filled moral people. Our young people experience not only a love of learning, but also an appreciation for the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church, and most importantly, how to put their faith into action.
Well, would you look at that! The words “Catholic Church” finally showed up. Oh, in a nonthreatening, inclusive, vaguely syncretistic way, but still--they’re there.
In fact, if you search for the word “Catholic” on the website, it comes up in the principal’s letters, in places where the school’s full title is used, and in a handful of other places. One quite depressing place it pops up is here:
Complementing the students’ academic instruction, the Star of the Sea community readily embraces students of all faiths and cultures, making our student body incredibly diverse. 42% of our student body is Catholic, while the remaining 58% consists of students of other faiths. The student body reflects the many cultures of the Bay Area: 3% African-American, 35% Asian, 38% Caucasian, 2% Latino/Hispanic and 22% multi-ethnic. [Emphasis added--E.M.]
You know, maybe these parents have a point. Maybe when the majority of your student body is non-Catholic, having priests as leaders isn’t a good fit. But maybe the part that’s really not a good fit is the whole “Catholic School” part. Maybe it’s time for Archbishop Cordileone to close that parish school, put the funds to good use in an inner-city neighborhood’s soup kitchen or homeless shelter, and let the handful of actual Catholic students at Star of the Sea take their seats at actual Catholic schools elsewhere (if any actual Catholic schools exist at all in San Francisco--myself, I rather doubt it).
Because to me a bigger question than “Why did the archbishop send us a meanie pastor and a meanie parochial vicar who won’t let us keep downplaying the Catholic stuff to attract wealthy non-Catholic parents and benefactors?” is “Why the heck is the Archdiocese of San Francisco subsidizing a school where the majority of the students aren’t even Catholic?"