Controversial pastors removed from leadership at Star of the Sea school

Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle

The Examiner reported yesterday that two head priests at Star of the Sea Church, Rev. Joseph Illo and Rev. Patrick Driscoll, were removed from their leadership positions at the Geary Boulevard school.

The change comes after several months of controversy since Father Illo took over at Star of the Sea Church in Summer 2014. After taking the helm, he implemented an unpopular new altar server policy that excluded girls. At the time, Illo told the media that he had “no choice but to exclude girls because the future of the Catholic Church is at stake.”

Rev. Joseph Illo (L) and Rev. Patrick Driscoll

Rev. Joseph Illo (L) and Rev. Patrick Driscoll

Church leadership was again heavily criticized by parents from the adjoining school when they distributed a pamphlet about sexual topics to students as young as eight.

“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.

In March, 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. Parents were concerned that the church’s new policies and attitudes have excluded many children from participating in the school’s spiritual activities.

To further fuel the controversy, details surfaced about a civil case, settled in San Joaquin County Superior Court in 2005, which found that Father Illo inflicted emotional distress on an 11-year-old girl while at St. Joseph’s Parish in Modesto. The incident occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, when the girl reported alleged sexual misconduct by another priest working under Illo.

It appears that the Archdiocese shared the concerns of the Star of Sea parents, and has removed both Father Illo and Father Driscoll from their leadership positions at Star of the Sea School. The two will remain as leaders of the Star of the Sea Church.

According to the Examiner, the Rev. Vito Perrone is serving as the interim chaplain at Star of the Sea School, an arrangement that keeps Illo and Driscoll “away from the school,” said Christy Brooks, a parent of two sons at the Richmond district school. Brooks added that Perrone has made an effort to meet with parents at the school.

Sarah B.


  1. WRONG!!!! As far as I know Fr’s Illo and Driscoll will stil be in charge of the Parish and church. Fr. Vito will be the priest for the school only for the rest of the year. All the problems could again raise their ugly heads in September

  2. This story is inaccurate. Illo has been removed as chaplain of the school, not as pastor of the parish.

  3. @Greg Smith @Gibbons – Thanks for the clarification, we have updated the story to reflect their removal from the school’s leadership.

    Sarah B.

  4. I attended Star of the Sea Church, grammar and high school. So any news about Star of the Sea’s community sparks my attention.
    Though I’m living in Alaska now for 40+ years; I’m appalled about the leadership role these two priest has displayed. You would think with changing time girls would be allowed to be altar servers. These priest need to be removed completely from the church. They are not the role model God would want herding his flock

  5. This is to be expected when a pre-Vatican II congregation (Oratory of St. Philip Neri) takes over a parish. This was one of Cordilione’s parishes that had strayed away from “pure” church doctrine. The tenor of the church leadership changed from welcoming all people in the diversified neighborhood to one welcoming devout Catholics only. Cordilione personally blessed this change by giving a full Latin Mass on his annual visit to one selected parish. Now that he’s been hit politically and the Oratory been given the heave to, wonder how long it’ll be before Illo and Driscoll are reassigned.

  6. I am not Catholic and originally came from Modesto. Isn’t Fr. Illo the man who told his Modesto congregation that anyone who voted for President Obama couldn’t take communion? He needs tar and feathering if it’s him!

  7. Actually, he needs to be assigned to a parish without a school where most of the parishoners yearn for the days of pre-Vatican II.

  8. Ip the role of altar server was always intended to be a preparation for priesthood and to,discern a priestly vocations. Unfortunately, political correctness requires girls be allowed to serve as altar servers, but it is really not appropriate. S.F. Is very liberal and I applaud Father Illo for,sticking to his guns. However, he might have been able to avoid this battle which has already been lost, and fight to retain the integrity of the Church in other ways. We will be traveling a long way to provide support for this priest and his parish at the Latin Mass. We are not reactionary, but many people love the quiet reverence of the old liturgy, under which our beloved Catholic Saints flourished and which was the only form of,the mass for 1500 years

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