Star of the Sea, Pray for Us!

Update: Somebody has nicely put together the events often alluded to by the parents at the school and dissenting people in SF. The only explanation missing is the adult version of an examination of conscience given to a teacher who requested them for the children but that was covered in the link to a full piece on it on this blog post. I just thought I would put I would link to it since the the obnoxious parents have their own website full of less than honest depictions of events.

Please also note the description sent today by a parent who also attended the meeting found in the comment section following this post. It corroborates the accounts I have already heard.  Not pretty.


Oh no, they don’t! Star of the Sea Parish is one of THE best things about the San Francisco Archdiocese, and many are excited about the classical (AKA not dumbed down) curriculum that’s being instituted in the school. Finally, students will be taught to think critically unlike, from all outward appearances, some of the parents.

Parents, citing pastor’s hostility, plan to pull their kids from school

Mar 29, 2019

by Dan Morris-Young ParishPeople

In a rapidly escalating confrontation, parents of at least nine of the remaining 20 seventh-grade students at San Francisco’s Star of the Sea School say they will remove their children from the Catholic school this week.

The dramatic move follows:

A contentious March 7 meeting of school parents, the school principal, some faculty and pastor Fr. Joseph Illo during which heated exchanges led to some persons walking out and charges of near violence.

A 1,200-word March 11 complaint filed with the San Francisco Archdiocese’s vicar for clergy asking for an investigation of Illo’s behavior at the March 7 gathering.

Indications that fewer than three dozen students have been committed to return for the 2019-2020 academic year at the 110-year-old K-8 school.

According to informed sources, at least three other seventh-graders were withdrawn earlier this month, others might be leaving before the end of the school year, and still others do not plan to return for 2019-2020 term.

First of all, if you’ve ever met Fr. Illo, you’re probably laughing hysterically about the “near violence” comment. If there was going to be violence, I’m pretty positive it wouldn’t be due to his actions. Quite frankly, I wish he would be more passionate about his defense. Heck, I wish I could sit in on some of these meetings because I’d have, oh, just a few words for the conniving parents giving him a hard time.  He’s just one of those guys who’s going to keep plugging away and doing what he thinks to be right and positive for the church and the school.

Nobody has been quoted having any specific arguments against a classical curriculum, but that seems to be where their problems start. They might have found, if they bothered to do any research, that failing schools that scrap the same old same old for a classical curriculum come back to life. Of course, that’s not anywhere in this club’s arguments. They are still harping on the fact that Fr. Illo is going forward with faithful Catholicism. That’s really what’s offensive to them. He’s just not going to compromise there.

Rather than blame Fr. Illo, how about you blame the parents who simply wanted a private school instead of a Catholic school and were willing to call the likes of the National catholic Reporter any time their wishes were not granted. The implementation of Catholicism in the school a few years ago ticked off those who really weren’t interested in a Catholic school. They’re the ones who burnt the place down. How many parents want to contend with the mob mentality they’ve got going on at the school? 

David Gallagher, school principal, told NCR March 27 that Illo would be presented with “various class combinations for the next school year” and that “a decision will be made Monday (April 1) as to whether the school will be open next year and what form it will take.”

Gallagher declined comment on the March 7 gathering that apparently led to some of the parents deciding to withdraw their children.

At that meeting raw emotions exploded over the dramatic enrollment drop in recent years at the school.”

Shocker. Exploding raw emotions are the norm there.

“Four days later, an anonymous “collective group of parents” submitted what they called a “formal complaint” asking for an investigation of Illo’s actions during the assembly of an estimated 40 to 60.

The complaint stated it was being submitted by parents who were among those who had “stated in our last survey that we wanted to return to the school” in the fall of 2019.”

“Collective group of parents.”  Well that sounds kind of Orwellian.  Can’t you just see shirts with “The Collective” on them? Please. They wanted to return only if they could get rid of Fr. Illo and run roughshod over the next guy/gal to come along. They’re having trouble intimidating him and they can’t stand it.  They’re just a whiny bunch of narcissists who want to insist that everyone in their lives cater to their whims and ideas.  

“We now fear for the safety of our children in the school after Fr. Illo’s behavior at the meeting and wish to remain anonymous in submitting this document but will eagerly participate in a widespread investigation,” the text concluded.

@#$%&! This is a load of hooey! In a city where children are a very small minority, families flock to this parish. I know several families at this parish, and the only ones who push the drama are the ones who resent, well, Catholicism in general.  Let’s not forget, these drama laden parents have zero problem with slandering Fr. Illo. I’ve covered it here and here. And, remember the kids who showed up at the sacristy door wanting to see what the back of the Church looked like? The parents immediately called the press claiming Fr. Illo led the kids into a “secret room.” Ridiculous. Thankfully, there were other people in the sacristy who witnessed the tour of the “secret room”, so that was a scandal bust. Did they apologize when they were caught trying to insinuate the worst?  Nope. They just got very quiet.  The rest of us were just disgusted that they would use children in this manner, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise. If we have to fear anything on behalf of the children, it’s people like these who would play their kids like poker chips.  Geez.

Mike Brown, archdiocesan communications director, wrote in an email to NCR March 27 that the complaint was referred to the Department of Catholic Schools which “did many phone interviews with attendees at the meeting and has summarized those and sent them to [Jesuit] Fr. [John] Piderit for his consideration.” Piderit is the archdiocese’s vicar for administration and moderator of the curia.

Brown said Piderit plans a response to the complaint, even though it was anonymous. “Though the communication plan is still in development, there will be a public communication to the school community and beyond after next week, when final heads for the next school year will be counted; though be mindful that marketing of the school will continue going forward.”

How about this? From now on, you guys live stream these meetings. Seriously. That idea might bring about a little more civility. I’m pretty sure that Fr. Illo has nothing to hide. Challenge thrown down.

Please understand, the parish was waning for many, many years before Fr. Illo arrived. Attendance has probably quadrupled since Fr. Illo implemented many liturgical reforms. The school, likewise, had declining attendance for decades, but now that the focus is on improving the curriculum and Catholic identity of the school, it’s sure to have the same bounce. That bounce would be a complete threat to those who do not wish to toe the Catholic line.

The written complaint alleges that Illo “attempted to instigate a fight” with a couple during an angry exchange and “sought to publicly humiliate” a mother who had “directed several statements towards” the pastor, accusing him “of being responsible for the decimation of the school.

At one point, the document said, “Fr. Illo got up from his seat and began to walk in the direction” of the woman and her husband “then aggressively stared at him in a manner that can only be described as attempting to challenge the husband to a fight.””

“Fr. Illo then sought to publicly humiliate the couple by demanding that the husband order his wife to apologize to him for her previous comments,” the complaint continued.

Apart from that document, eyewitness accounts varied.

Hah! I bet the accounts varied. It would seem that the people there publicly humiliated themselves, but now they’re trying to blame Fr. Illo because a certain faction of parents at that school have ZERO scruples. I cannot believe the tall tales and drama being injected into the school.  My gosh.  These folks instigate fights on a daily basis over nothing. It’s insanity. Honestly, I think an exorcism should be performed before every meeting at the school. It’s disgusting.

One mother who attended the meeting told NCR, “It did not necessarily look like Fr. Illo was going to throw a punch, but he was certainly confrontational, and it was after that that a number of parents walked out.

The complaint’s characterizations of Illo and the March 7 event “are entirely inaccurate,” according to school board president and parish council member Marcus Quintanilla. The pastor “was not aggressive toward anyone,” he said.

A trial lawyer, Quintanilla said the gathering “was not as well structured as it should have been” and “spiraled a little bit out of control” into “a kind of open mic” format.

While “a rather heated exchange between a couple of different parents” took place, Quintanilla told NCR, “Fr. Illo was pretty passive throughout the whole thing.”

I probably wouldn’t have let these petty people talk at all, but that is, of course, me.  I’d probably disagree with Fr. Illo about the hope he has for an honest conversation.  Just one of the reasons I would never be a priest even I was the right matter for the job.  I just don’t have that much hope.

Might I remind you, once again, that these are the parents who call the press whenever they think they have a “gotcha” moment? As I said, disgusting. They hang on the spit ball method. Something’s gotta stick, right? Here’s something I can tell you. I’m positive Fr. Illo spends a good amount of time praying for patience and wisdom in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Do you think the parents here do the same? Do you think the parents even know what the Blessed Sacrament is? Inquiring minds would love to know.  Fr. Illo is well aware that he’s in charge of souls, will be held accountable for his actions and inactions, etc.  These parents think of nobody but themselves.

Quintanilla said he has “become quite close” to Illo in the three years he has been a parishioner, despite initially being cautioned about the priest by some at the school. His wife, Mariana, told NCR she was hired about a month ago as liaison to help market and incorporate an integrated classical curriculum.

“Fr. Illo is not perfect,” he said. “He is sometimes not as cautious as he should be, but the guy loves the community, and he loves the church, and he is deeply a man of prayer.”

Well, I’d agree on perfection. Which of us attains that? Geez. That said, I’m quite sure Fr. Illo is very thoughtful about his imperfections. However, he knows how to build a thriving parish. I’m sure he’s also consulted with others who have done it themselves. He loves his parish and the school, and he is definitely a man of prayer. And, quite frankly, he’s got more patience in his little finger than I do in my entire being. I really don’t care what people say about me, but I’m going to give you a tongue lashing when you try to smear a good priest. This guy took a parish on the brink of extinction and revived it. The parents at the school should be kissing his feet, since he was their only hope of ever keeping the parish and thus the school alive. It was bleak.

“The conflict and personal attacks he has taken in connection with the school have been a Calvary for the man … yet he has persevered,” Quintanilla said.

“The complaint is accurate, and I support it,” said Jim Tolley, parent of a seventh-grader who will not be returning to Star of the Sea next fall, partly as a result of the March 7 meeting.

I’d have to say the complaint seemed to say a whole lot of nothing other than Fr. Illo is a great big meanie.  Hey, Jimbo! Let’s just cut to the chase.  Do you believe in sin? Confession? Everlasting life? And while we’re at it, what in the heck is your real beef?  I mean, what has Fr. Illo done that was so darn offensive to you? Let’s get a little history here.  Are you one of those bent out of shape over altar boys? Were you traumatized when Fr. Driscoll accidentally gave the examination of conscience for adults to the teacher who asked for something for the students? You know, that other MAJOR scandal? Or is it just the fact that you really hate Catholicism and just want your kids in a private school that doesn’t conflict with your morality?  Hmmm???

“Certainly Fr. Illo is within his purview to assert his vision upon the school, but this is no longer the school to which we sent our children. We stuck with it, and we believed in the community and loved the kids and the families, but the school has been hollowed out in terms of families and now in terms of faculty,” Tolley emailed NCR. “It is sad to leave something that has been such a part of our lives and our children’s lives.”

I think you might be confused about why Catholic schools exist.  They exist to transmit the Catholic Faith.  Sadly, that has been an issue for you and some of your buddies.

And, by the way, don’t you love how Mr. Tolley and his buddies went running to the National catholic Reporter? Yeah, not too telling. These parents have no clue what a classical education would do for their kids. Or maybe they do? 

“The “shared values” of the school community “changed from underneath us,” Tolley wrote, “and so we are now looking to other communities and a school that does not look at us with contempt.”

There it is, the martyr card. You just knew it was coming.  Shared immoral values aren’t Catholic values. Heaven forbid a Catholic school teaches CATHOLIC values.

In a note to school parents written the day after the March 7 meeting, Illo did not mention its contentiousness, but wrote: “I regret that some parents are implacably opposed to the new direction our school is taking, but I was encouraged to hear from many parents last night that want to move forward. I respectfully ask that those who do not want to move forward to allow the rest of us to do so unhindered.”

And that’s kind of what I’d expect.  It’s not like Fr. Illo is going to call the press and play the martyr card. He’s just going to plug away.

Based on a returning student body of 60, the message went on to outline class consolidations, curriculum objectives, and financial issues, including mention that the parish would “put in $250,000 in subsidy and use existing scholarship funds to balance the budget.”

“Enrollment will increase over the next three years to reach a balanced budget by 2022,” the pastor projected.”

This is also what I’d expect from Fr. Illo. Seriously, liberal parents who apparently don’t want their kids attending the local public school, the priest you hate so much has done such a great job reviving the parish that he can give the school $250,000.  Honestly, he doesn’t have to bail you out.  He could just let the school wither away but, even though some people very literally hate him, he’s going to try to provide for them. Me?  I would have just cut them all loose, left them to their demise and simply focused on the church’s catechetical program. I’m not high on patience or hope when it comes to diocesan schools, but thankfully Fr. Illo is.

“The “new direction” in Illo’s March 8 message is adoption of an integrated classical program which, he has written, “will enrich our academic program with critical thinking skills leading to a sense of wonder, based on the Great Books of Western civilization.””

Oh, my gosh! The horrors! Great books? The nerve!  Please, please do some research.  This is what that ever so evil idea does for waning Catholic schools.

Persons close to the situation told NCR that it is questionable if there are 30 or more students firmly committed to return for 2019-2020.

Then say bye-bye, “persons close to the situation!” Look at the schools in the diocese. The ones using the same old liberal approach are dying!

New school parent Doug Atkinson was drawn to Star of the Sea, he said, because of the new “classical approach” which had a significant impact on his own education.

At this moment, Star of the Sea School is clinging to life. There have been so many complaints as to Fr. Illo, valid or not, I cannot see how the school will survive if he remains at its head,” said Atkinson, who is not Catholic.

That’s what they said about the parish, too, Doug, and remember who’s subsidizing the school? Hang in there.

We plan to re-enroll,” said the father of a first-grader, “but it’s unclear if the school will even exist.”

He declined comment on the March 7 meeting. “There have been a number of meetings with distressed parents and, let’s say, words have not been minced. Things have been a struggle.”

Don’t you wonder, Doug, if the problem might just be the obnoxious parents on a mission to destroy?  My guess is yes, but who’s going to say that when you could wake up to a horse head in your bed??? I can’t even imagine being a level headed parent in this school.  Must be agonizing.

“Illo and supporters view the remaining students as “essentially a new school,” seeds of a re-focused campus “committed to growing our school as a pioneer in Integrated Classical Catholic education,” in his words.”

He’s completely right!

To advance that agenda, Mariana Quintanilla’s role includes assisting the principal with such tasks as “communicating with stakeholders, developing a marketing and business [plan] with the parish staff and parent volunteers” and “finalizing schedules and curriculum for the classical integrated program.”

“My general observation is that the school has been through a change in leadership and the parents want to keep the status quo. Many of the parents are not Catholic, about 50 percent, and Fr. Illo is a traditional priest that is very serious about the Catholic Church teaching. He welcomes everybody but also expects his faith to be respected,” she said.

To which I would have to give a big ol’ “Duh!” This, however, is the problem with some of the parents of the school!

“The school is a ministry of the parish,” she added, “and it is moving in that direction. Changes create resistance, and a new school culture is developing under new leadership. The … parents are used to running the school, so having structural organization and a faithful Catholic school community is not appealing to them.”

She hits the nail on the head there! The patients have been running the asylum for far too long.

She said her “recollection of the [March 7] meeting is a bit fragmentary,” but “emotions ran high and things got very tense.”

“My perspective is that everyone except for three to five parents were quite calm and reserved throughout. The notion that the priest was abusive … or aggressive is simply not true,” she said.

So, again, somebody is telling some very dramatic tales here.  Do you think it’s the ones who believe hell exists?  

Illo, a priest of the Stockton Diocese, was named administrator of Star of the Sea in August 2014, a month before its school would open the academic year with more than 240 students.

Many protest that the roughly 200 students and their families who have left have been treated as acceptable collateral damage in an effort by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to remake Star of the Sea under Illo’s direction into a destination parish for Catholics who embrace a pre-conciliar model of Catholicism.

Baloney. It has nothing to do with pre-conciliar models. Geez. It’s Catholicism that has been the problem all along, and it is seriously lacking in the majority of parishes. And the schools? As a survivor of Bay Area “catholic” schools, I can tell you Catholicism is lacking in most of them, too.  That ship is very hard to turn around because you have to have a pastor who is willing to endure the torment.  This school will be better for the patience and love of Fr. Illo.

Many current and former school families lay blame for the enrollment demise squarely on Illo, now pastor, charging he has doggedly sought to purge the school of those who do not align with his strong traditionalist bent.

[Dan Morris-Young is NCR West Coast correspondent.]

Blech. Sorry.  It’s called Catholicism. I know it’s strange to some (including the Star of the Sea parents who are not Catholic) but it is what it is. I have little doubt the school will see the last of its departures and a wonderful, authentic Catholic school will take its place with an awesome classical curriculum to boot!

Star of the Sea, pray for us!