People could see this coming

Parents, teachers react to closing of Star of the Sea School; some were seen leaving the front door with tears in their eyes

Star of the Sea School principal David Gallagher spoke to Catholic San Francisco after school recessed April 4, a day after Star pastor Father Joseph Illo and the archdiocese announced that the K-8 school would suspend operations at the end of the school year to give time to develop a classical education model. (Photo by Christina Gray/Catholic San Francisco)

Star of the Sea School parents and staff expressed shock and sadness at news that the more than century-old parochial school in San Francisco’s Richmond District will temporarily close at the end of this school year.

An announcement by the school and the archdiocese late in the day April 3 cited “unforeseen circumstances” stemming from the school’s transition to a classical education model.

“I’m disheartened they made a final decision about this without talking to parents about it first,” Ashwin Bhat told Catholic San Francisco at the start of the school day April 4. “The kids are the losers in this.”

“I’m Hindu but I send my children here because the community is so strong,” Bhat said.

Star principal David Gallagher appeared at the door as the paper was speaking with an interviewee. Still surprised by the news, he had just come from a school general assembly and parents and teachers were seen leaving the front door with tears in their eyes.

“People could see this coming,” Gallagher said. “Students have been trickling out and trickling out. The writing was on the wall.”

He said the archdiocese “made the final call and said this is not going to work right now.”

Two preschool parents – a father and a mother, both Catholic – stopped to drop their kids off and agreed to be interviewed without giving their names or being photographed.

“One person is to blame,” shouted the father from the school gate.

The woman said the announcement was “extremely sad” and that her family had been part of the school for seven years. “It is a wonderful community of amazing families and wonderful teachers who are close to one another,” she said. She described a schoolyard “packed with happy parents and happy students” every day. “Then Father Illo came.”

“One person destroyed a community of over 100 years,” she said, referring to Star pastor Father Joseph Illo.

The preschool father said he had no issue with the curriculum change but rejected what he called the authoritarian manner of handling it. “Our position is that it is not a rejection of faith but of the manner it has been forced upon us,” he said.

In response to a request for comment from Catholic San Francisco, Father Illo said, “Many parishioners and other parents eagerly want what the parish has to offer in the way of Catholic education,” he added. “They are expressing hurt and frustration over the negativity that has led to the suspension of classes.”

Father Illo also said that many parents were excited about a classical curriculum “but what some could simply not accept was reintegrating the school as a ministry of the parish.”

Full story at Catholic San Francisco.


  1. Those complaining simply are not interested in a real Classical Catholic education. They prefer Catholicism on their terms, not Christ’s or the Church, their’s.. God Bless Father Illo

    • “They prefer Catholicism on their terms.” If I may: I have read many a comments here, including yours, where the clear, valid, indisputable teachings of the Magisterium on certain important matters (such as capital punishment) have been disregarded. I dare say, “preferring Catholicism on one’s terms” is rampant not only on the left but on the right too. “The measure with which you measure shall in turn be measured out to you.”

      • jon, these parents who :”prefer Catholicism on their terms”– are not Catholic at all! The pastor said that they only have about three or four Catholic families with kids who attend the parish school!

    • That’s not what the parent said. No problem w classical ed; problem w authoritatianism.

    • records this saga “The deal breaker, for at least a vocal group of parents (who do not attend the parish), was restoring the school as a ministry of the parish…But, God willing, it is not the end of our School. The search has begun for an educator with experience in starting a classical school eager to meet the particular challenges at Star of the Sea. We are welcoming resumes, and, with God’s help, will build on our fully-enrolled preschool to resume upper classes with an Integrated Classical Program beginning August 2020.” Fr. Illo is a Holy priest, he touched my life.

  2. christine says

    hard to know what’s true. lots of fake news and lies. much like politics. so much of life has become fake. so sad. people don’t tell the truth. they just say what they think will advance their agenda, what they want to be true and what they want others to believe. so sad.

  3. So the story gets more complicated.

  4. Anonymous says

    A Catholic school should be an institution totally under Church leadership. All teachers should be practicing Catholics, in good standing with the Church. Parents and children should be obedient to the Church and her decisions. Only about 2-3 non-Catholic students should be admitted, and these few should come from families that accept the Church’s teachings, and raise their child with similar beliefs— and good Christian morals.

  5. Anonymous says

    Perhaps Father Illo could stop talking AT people and start having conversations WITH them. Just a suggestion.

    • Anonymous says

      Anonymous–most of these parents are NOT EVEN CATHOLIC!! And have they even the right to criticize him? Why not listen to him and follow his plans for his Catholic school? What if you sent your kids to a Jewish school– and you and a bunch of non-Jews (Gentiles) who never set foot in a synagogue– went and bullied the Rabbi, when he announced his plans for his Jewish school?

      • anonymous, from what I understand, it’s not about people who aren’t catholic. It’s also not about the “classical education”, but about his repeatedly authoritarian ways of doing things. Remember that Father Illo was removed from the school several years ago, and now he seems to be back with his same heavy-handed style.

        • Anonymous says

          Why waste your time criticizing this priest, based on gossip regarding “who likes his personality??”. Useless! You would get mad too, if you were in this situation!!

    • Anon… Ah yes more calls for “dialogue” in other words. Father Illo should just give up and bow down to the parents

      • Anonymous says

        Yes! No respect left in our country! Your parents, teachers, leaders, police, clergy, and all “authority figures” are stupid! Instead– despise them, and “pray, pay, and obey” the leftist “Me” Generation “politically correct” dictators!

  6. Brave reportage CalCatholic. Good work.

  7. It appears the pastor is very determined to run the parish and the school using an “old fashioned” approach: pay, pray and OBEY! Additionally, he seems to have an “old school” understanding of the priesthood: authority not be questioned, dictatorial instead of collaborative and special treatment for the ordained and religious. Good luck with these approaches! After all of the substantiated cases of abuse by priests and the scandals associated with these cases, no informed and thinking lay Catholic will support this type of parish administration for the foreseeable future.

  8. Elizabeth T. says

    I Had a Priest friend of the family that had such a hard time with parents at a parish school in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Many Priests DO NOT want to be Pastors of a Catholic Church with a school. Dealing with the parents of this day is a whole different ball game compared to my parents and other of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

    Also these parents probably are part of the 2 generations that were not taught catechism like we were back in the day. They were never taught about Mortal Sin, Hell, etc……they want ‘Catholic light’.

    I support Father Illo he is a true Priest of Our Lord Jesus Christ!!!

    • Exactly! Elizabeth T., and many faithful Catholics take their children out of Catholic schools and home school them themselves because the Catholic schools have been over ran by non Catholics or even non Christians. Fr. Illo is trying his hardest to keep the Catholic identify of his school while others are busy pulling the rug out from under him. There can only be so much “dialog”before it becomes a merry go round to nowhere.

      God bless him for his efforts.

    • West coast says

      Agreed. Tell these whiners to not let the door hit them on the way out. The school will soon be free to run itself with new customers who want legitimate Catholic education.

      • Anonymous says

        What, with all those “orthodox catholic large families” that populate sf??? Lol Chasing away families for “purity” and control was a #fail

        • Fast track says

          Fine, then close the school permanently. Let your friends go to the public schools where they belong. But faithful Catholicism cannot compromise.

  9. helen wheels says

    democracy is an inferior form
    of government and culture.
    everyone has so many “rights,”
    we’re gagging on them.
    runs so deep i’d say it’s

    • Anonymous says

      Pray, pay, obey, and bow down to the “Me-Generation’s” “politically-correct” dictator-gods!! It takes a great deal of maturity and sacrifice, to properly run a democracy! In ancient Greece, democracy only succeeded for three generations– about 150 years. Rome, too, went from a Republic to a dictatorship.

  10. From afar, I get the impression that Fr. Ilo is using his legitimate authority as Pastor to decide how the school will be run. The problem that any leader faces when he/she relies on legitimate power is that he/she has it only so long as his/her followers allow it. Good leaders almost never rely on legitimate power – military and similar groups excluded. Today’s leaders must work cooperatively with their stakeholders, communicate with transparency, and bring people along through the exercise of expertise, achievement, and people skills. That applies to Pastors as well. Saying Mass land giving good sermons gets you in the door but that isn’t leadership.

    • Anonymous says

      If the choice is an open school that isn’t catholic or a closed school, I go with the closed school. Rich parents who want a private education but care nothing about the catholic church can go elsewhere.

    • Anonymous says

      Bob One, the Pastor has a responsibility to run a good Catholic school — and it should rightfully be a ministry of the parish he is in charge of! No one should bully him and tell him what to do. Instead– people should cooperate with the sacred mission of the Church– and give the Pastor respect!

  11. What exactly are these parents upset about? Fr. Illo’s “authoritarian manner”? Specifically, what is it he did which they think is “authoritarian”?

    • You’d have to ask the dozens of families (both Catholic and not) who decided to leave over the years and finally in the last year. Two of them comment in the above article. Here is an article from patheos w the backstory of parents re parish/school management:

      • People leave churches and synagogues all the time for various reasons.They do not like the pastor, or the rabbi or the music or the ethnic combo and on and on. This church is no exception.

    • He didn’t let them have their way. That’s what was “authoritarian”. This was not a problem of who was in charge – Fr. Illo. It was about who was not in charge – self-absorbed, privileged people who did not want a truly Catholic school. They were not interested in communication, dialogue or whatever what one wants to call it. They wanted their way!

      • You call all these parents, Catholic and not, classical interested or not, “self-absorbed, privileged.” Thats a very broad brush over a lot of diverse people you don’t know. And somehow others are spotless.

        If this is the perspective of the “powers that be” — that they alone have “entitlement” to Catholic faith -due to their superior “holiness”, you have the shoe on the wrong foot. You may have just described the problem exactly.

        • Anonymous says

          The Catholic Faith is the responsibility of the priest and his Church– the Catholic Faith is certainly not a “dialog” between the priest and the “man on the street” Want to go over to the local hospital, and tell all the doctors how to run their medical practice? Of course not! If you decide to join this parish and send your kids to the parish school– your job is to cooperate with the sacred mission of the Church– and listen to what the Pastor has to say. If you want something else– you can certainly go find it elsewhere.

  12. The Owl ~ ಠvಠ says

    The pertinent point of the frustration is made at the end of the article “but what some could simply not accept was reintegrating the school as a ministry of the parish.”

    Catholicism is a hierarchical religion and parochial schools must not function independently from their associated parish. You need this oversight otherwise you wind up with either a school that, in trying to get students to attend, is non-denominational in belief, or veers into cliquish cultish territory. Integration with parish ministry is a must.

  13. You hit the nail right on the head, Helen Wheels. We have so much “diversity” that we are drowning in it,

  14. helen wheels: democracy is an inferior form of government? What do you propose to replace it? Dictatorship? Communism? King or Queen? Democracy – while far from perfect- is the best form of government to date!

    • Historically speaking, benevolent total dictatorships are the best forms of government. They’re just not sustainable.

      • I think we’re seeing in our day that democracy isn’t sustainable either. At least not without a virtuous populace.

  15. Ed Williams says

    Let’s be solution oriented. Fr. Ilo must restart the school on his terms and the parents who want such for their children will attend. Let the others go to the public schools if that is what they want in morality.

    Abp Cordeleone must show some spine here and back Fr Ilo to the nth degree.

  16. helen wheels says

    best form of government
    hint: feast of Christ, the KING
    president, prime minister or committee chairperson

    • helen: in a pluralistic country with freedom of religion like the USA your suggested approach would not work.

      • The country is falling apart so what we have now is not working. You have no proof of what would or wouldn’t work. You simply love sin and want to preserve unhindered access to it!

  17. helen wheels says

    how’s democracy workin’ for y’all ???

    • Its working fine for me, I am assuming you prefer a monarchy? I’ll pass thanks. You are basing your preference that the monarch would be moral, well you know what power does….

  18. helen wheels says

    you basing your assumption on
    the PEOPLE bein’ moral ??
    by the way, WHICH people?

  19. Trumpovsky says

    helen wheels: democracy works great when it isn’t subverted by the money of the very rich or some foreign government. America has become an oligarchy. Three families have more wealth than the lower 50% of families. The laws are written to benefit the very rich…and keep the rest of us in our place. God save us.

  20. Michael McDermott says

    KCBS ‘news’ Radio ran the story, or at least the AntiCatholic parts of it, giving repeated air time to one disgruntled parent who was outraged that Father Illo wanted Boys as Alter Servers in Church – denouncing him as promoting mysogyny

    Doesn’t sound like a curriculum issue at all – although I am sure that various other Rad-Feminist issues are at play.

    • I figured that was part of the problem.

      Heavens no, by all means do not get fathers and their sons involved in the church, that would be a disaster. (Said “tongue in cheek”, of course.) Then there would be no room for women priestesses.

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