Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle
The Chronicle reports that on Wednesday night, more than 100 parents of Star of the Sea School students asked the San Francisco Archdiocese that the controversial leaders of their school’s church be removed from their posts.
It’s been a rough start to the year for the Star of the Sea community as Father Joseph Illo, the new head priest at the Star of the Sea Church, has come under fire for new policies and practices.
In January, Father Illo instituted a new policy banning girls from being altar servers. This despite girls had been allowed to serve alongside boys since the 1970’s.
Illo told the media that he had “no choice but to exclude girls because the future of the Catholic Church is at stake.”
“The specifics of serving at the altar is a priestly function,” Illo said. “And the Catholic church does not ordain women.”
Then in February, Illo was criticized again after another church leader, Father Driscoll, handed out pamphlets to young students at the adjoining Star of the Sea school that many parents felt were inappropriate.
In preparation for their first confession, second graders were given a pamphlet asking questions about sexual topics like “Did I practice impure acts on myself or masturbate?”
“It talked about some pretty serious things, that pamphlet,” said parent Meghan Parent. “So yeah, obviously we want to protect our kids as much as possible.”
The Star of the Sea School and the adjoining church share a name and real estate, but not leadership and members. The two organizations are technically separate, and most of the students and their parents are not members of the church.
At Wednesday night’s meeting, parents “took turns at a microphone and cited examples of how they believe the men had disrupted the open, tolerant atmosphere of the school,” wrote the Chronicle.
Some parents feel that Father Illo’s new policies and attitudes have excluded many children from participating in the school’s spiritual activities.
At Wednesday’s meeting, which was organized by the school parents’ club, speakers said recent policy changes have shaken their school community and left many children confused about their role in the school and the church.
“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.” SF Chronicle
Father Illo and representatives from the Archidiocese’s office were present at Wednesday night’s meeting, but did not speak. The representatives told parents that their concerns would be taken to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who would ultimately be the one to make any decisions about the Star of the Sea religious leadership.
Father Illo acknowledged to the Chronicle that it’s a difficult situation and that there is a lot of tension and anxiety between himself and the school parents
“It was a good forum,” Illo told the Chronicle. “It’s important to hear their perspective.”