The Catholic Church has enough controversy, already. Star of the Sea is a fixture in the San Francisco Richmond District community. This is yet another sad issue to confront.
Excerpted from San Francisco Examiner 4.2.2019
A sharp decline in student enrollment is forcing an Inner Richmond Catholic elementary school to downsize and tap into parish funds after church leadership moved to push the curriculum in a more traditional direction.
Some parents have attributed the exodus of students to decisions by Star of the Sea pastor Joesph Illo, who has a history of polarizing the school community by making clear distinctions between Catholic and non-Catholic students and boys and girls.
Conflict between Illo and the community began in January of 2015 when he made a controversial decision to stop the parish’s practice of allowing girls to work as ‘altar servers,’ according to local news reports.
Two months later, Illo reportedly created controversy again by distributing pamphlets that contained sexual topics to students as young as eight.
Illo went on to ban non-Catholic students from receiving blessings at communion and reading at school Mass in November of 2015.
While some of these practices were eventually revoked, Illo continued to push for greater distinctions between Catholics and non-Catholics that attended the school, according to parents interviewed by the National Catholic Reporter.
More recently a coalition of anonymous parents sent a formal complaint against Illo, following a combative meeting between school officials, parents on March 7, 2019.
“His methods have been unnecessarily destructive, abusive and hostile; and [he] has decimated the student population at the school in the last two years,” the letter states. “Fr. Illo does not possess the leadership ability to control his temperament under pressure.”
So far only 40 to 50 students have committed to re-enrolling for the 2019-2020 school year, less than a quarter of the 220 students that were enrolled for the 2017-2018 school year, according to a school representative.
The school, which was founded in 1909 as an extension of the parish of the same name, is now considering combining grades, reducing its staff size and relocating teachers to other Catholic schools in their network, according to Mike Brown, director of communications for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.