Three out of 150 families at the school attend the church

100-130 fill 1,000 seats at Sunday Mass
Star of the Sea

Star of the Sea

The following comes from a Jan. 29 story by Jim Graves on Catholic World Report. See California Catholic Daily Jan. 27 story on Father Illo and altar boys.

….CWR: The CBS news story interviewed several people besides yourself, all of whom were opposed to the altar boy-only policy. It has a clip of you saying parish income is up, and then cuts to a parishioner saying that that is a “shallow argument.” Did this story strike you as biased?

Fr. Illo: It was biased. What’s going on is that we have two entities: a parish church and a parish school. The 1,000-seat church draws about 100 to 130 for each Sunday Mass. It’s a big, empty city parish. Our contributions cover about 40% of our operation; we survive by renting out the empty buildings we don’t use any more. It’s a dying parish we hope to revive.

Those who attend the church are, for the most part, fine with it. Most of the people complaining about the altar boy decision have left.

The school is thriving, but not as a Catholic school. Like Catholic universities who want to be independent of the bishops, many parish schools like to be independent of their pastors. Of its 150 families, about three attend the church. The school is only 40% Catholic. Most of the people CBS interviewed are school people from whom you heard the objections.

I must admit, the disjunction between the parish church and school and the vehemence of the school’s opposition has been surprising to me. In other parishes I’ve served at, the school loves the parish priest. When I’d go over, they’d run over and want to talk to me, or if, say, I were walking by a basketball court they’d hand me a basketball and want me to play. It’s not the case here. The priest is ignored. The school is lacking in Catholic identity.

CWR: Is this the first time you’ve had such a policy in the parishes in which you’ve served?

Fr. Illo: Yes. In my last parish we did not recruit girls, but would not deny them if they applied. Hence, we had few girls serving at the altar.

When we arrived at Star of the Sea four months ago there were hardly any servers, so we decided to only have a boy’s program. We’re the new administration, we’re building from zero, so we thought we’d start by implementing our vision.

CWR: An internet search on CBS San Francisco and Catholic news turns up headlines such as “Vatican reviewing Catholic stance of gay marriage, contraception; calls for being ‘less judgmental’”, “New S.F. archbishop riles gay rights advocates”, and “San Francisco Catholic high school apologizes for snubbing tuxedo-wearing girl’s portrait”. Is the San Francisco secular media pretty hostile to the Church?

Fr. Illo: [laughing] Of course. The media and liberal Catholics are on edge because of the new archbishop. One of the emails I received from one such person lamented, “This is the beginning of the end.” I do hope it is the beginning of the end of cultural Catholicism in the Bay area.

San Francisco is an amazing city in many ways. It has a rich history and is beautiful. But it is very secular and is a battle zone for faithful Catholics. One of our biggest problems is that it is so expensive to live in the city, that we have few families with children here. And where you don’t have families, you don’t have the Catholic Church!

At our Masses, you hardly see any children. I was speaking to one parishioner and she was crying, telling me it was so hard to raise children Catholic in a culture that is so secular. She’s afraid they’ll be brainwashed.

CWR: What have your fellow clergy said to you about the altar boy policy?

Fr. Illo: The archbishop is supportive, but it is not a big topic of discussion between us. I just saw him. He said the negative press coverage was par for the course for this kind of announcement, and we expect it to just be a flash in the pan.

Some of the priests I’ve spoken to have been supportive, but others probably think I’m crazy.

CWR: Do you wish you’d taken a more low-key approach?

Fr. Illo: If you have the support of your bishop, I think it’s better to be clear. It’s a moment of evangelization, and I think it’s great that we’re getting all the media attention. It helps us define the mind of the Church.…

CWR: You came to San Francisco to establish the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. How has it gone, and do you have any big plans coming up?

Fr. Illo: It is going well. We have two priests, and we have accepted two men as applicants. They’re living in our community now, and will be going to seminary in the fall. They’ll be going to St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park during the week, and spend the weekends at our house.

We have three key things we’re looking at doing in the near future: 1) We have a big empty convent on the grounds; we want to bring in a community of sisters to fill it up. 2) We want to start a perpetual adoration chapel; right now, there is not a single one in the City of San Francisco. We need people to keep this going, though. 3) We’ve hired a music director, and we want to start a music program to teach Gregorian chant and polyphony. We’ve talked to the archbishop about this; we want it to be a model for parishes and schools….



  1. St. Christopher says:

    Father Illo, you are truly a Man of God. Things must look very bleak now, but keep at it. You will be a target of the Evil One, but keep strong. In the end, you will be victorious.

    A thought: there was a recent campaign by Michael Voris to show support to Star of the Sea and Fr. Illo. Many of us contributed something, and the amount received is now over $40,000. But why stop now.

    This blog has often suggested that Faithful Catholics no longer simply pay out their weekly contributions as a matter of routine. How about cutting them by 1/2, and giving the remainder to Star of the Sea? Or, if you are in a truly awful parish, or under an apostate bishop, give all of it to Star of the Sea. Of course, Fr. Illo would not directly ask this, but contributions could continue to be made directly to him for the benefit of the Church, its return to Tradition, and for the school. Be sure to copy Abp. Cordlleone, and your own bishop and pastor.

    • “This blog has often suggested that Faithful Catholics no longer simply pay out their weekly contributions as a matter of routine. How about cutting them by 1/2, and giving the remainder to Star of the Sea?” — or to another orthodox parish.

      Excellent idea! I shall do so, henceforth.

  2. If the pastor of Star of the Sea himself recognizes that “it’s too expensive for families” to live in his neighborhood, then of course the church will be empty, especially when it comes to young people. The only thing he could try is evangelization, trying to share the Good News with the people who DO live there, namely the Chinese. They are the ones using the school, they are the people who own businesses in his neighborhood, they are the ones you see walking all over the place. If Father Illo wants his parish to thrive, he’s got to go out and pound the pavement — like the Mormons do!

    • Steven, it is up to you and the rest of the laity to evangelize as well.

      When was the last time you encouraged literate persons to read the Bible
      and the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition”? –
      which are the two most important books in the Catholic Church.

      When was the last time you pounded the pavement ?
      Remember to take the log out of your own eye BEFORE you try to take the log out of your brothers’ or you are a hypocrite. Jesus said so Mt 7:3-5, and
      Lk 6:41-42.
      This Priest has much work to organize this parish, your help is needed/required especially since you have such knowledge of the area. Jn 7:24.

    • Steven, I suppose the best time and place to start the evangelization of the Chinese would be in the early morning, in the various public parks where they daily practice tai chi. Maybe you could first start off like the great foreign missionaries of the past by sprinkling the park with exorcised holy water, then show up with a boom box playing Gregorian Chant while they attempt to harness the flow of “chi” throughout their pagan bodies. That should open the door to Evangelization, even if you can’t speak or understand Chinese!

      • Tracy, I suggest that you take another look at your references about Hispanics and Chinese. One is wrong and the other racist.
        Hispanic generally refers to Americans who predominantly speak Spanish as a result of the Spanish conquest of Central America and large parts of South America. What they really have in common is their language. On the other hand, many Spanish speaking people are not descendents of the Spanish, but more likely to be descendants of Native Cultures.
        You suggestions that we start converting Chinese by calling them pagans is racist in the least. The churches of San Francisco and surrounding areas are full of people of Asian heritage. Some of them even do Tai Chi for exercise. Asians are generally from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, etc. In the U.S. we also include China and Japan as Asians, although in some parts of those countries they use to call themselves Oriental to distinguish themselves from Asians. I don’t think they do that any more. Is it possible that you live in an area of the country that lacks diversity among its population?

      • Your Fellow Catholic says:

        Tracy maybe you should bring this up with Bishop Ignatius Wang, the first Chinese born ordained bishop in the US, who lives in San Francisco and served as its auxiliary for several years. I’m sure he would love to hear your thoughts on blasting Gregorian Chant at his fellow countrymen.

    • In some parts of San Francisco and, no doubt, in other large cities it is almost imperative today that the clergy ethnically resemble the bulk of the parishioners. This seems to be understood among Hispanic Catholics. Is Star a case where this has been overlooked among Asian Catholics?

      • Caroline, The term “Hispanic” refers to those who speak Spanish, but do not necessarily come from the same “ethnic” background. The term Asian refers to a race of people, who come from many different “ethnic” and “linguistic” backgrounds. You really can’t compare the two.

        Ethnic – people of the same race or nationality who share a distinctive culture

        • Anonymous says:

          Tracy you lecture people about things you know nothing about. Who ever told you “Hispanic” people all speak Spanish but don’t share ethnicity? Really?

  3. Dear Father Illo, you are in my prayers, especially after I read what you experienced at your new school. For the children in a “Catholic” school not to show respect for a Catholic priest is unthinkable!!
    However, if you think YOUR parochial school is not very Catholic, realize you are sadly not alone: my beloved nephew attends Archbishop Riordan High School in Frisco, where a newly ordained priest was viciously ATTACKED for how he helped with Confession there.
    The people who run that High School told him never to return and wrote a big letter of “apology” to the parents because this fine young priest had dared to ask the boys to go through an examination of conscience as part of Confession. The boys felt offended, and the poor priest was chided for being “too pushy.”
    Even my own nephew who is not very religios I’m sorry to say felt the attack on the priest was ridiculous — is it not his DUTY to help the students make a good Confession??
    What kind of a “Catholic” school attacks priests for trying to do a good job with Confession??

    • After the attack incident, did the bishops respond in any way to the school administrators? such as conducting an investigation not only on the violence itself but the appropriateness of the “apology letter” ? Or at least a serious talk with the school administrators?

    • Elizabeth says:


      Bless your heart I agree with everything you said. However; as a 4th generation San Franciscan could you please not call the City of St. Francis, San Francisco….Frisco!!!

      And for people who were not brought up in the Archdiocese of San Francisco growing up…..believe me, Father Illo is how it always was, everyone was on the same page. A great time to grow up Catholic!!!

  4. Michael McDermott says:

    Catholic Education should be FREE – to ‘Migs’ (Members in Good Standing) – as opposed to the Anti-Catholic Element who want to infiltrate every part of the Church they can – to wreck as much harm as possible.

    In the former City of Saint Francis (now better known as Sodom by the Sea) its considered the ‘tolerant’ thing to do.

    But then in Frisco the perpetually indulgent drag queens who make grotesque mockery of Nuns get far better press than the whole rest of the Church combined.

  5. 3 out of 150 families are parishioners? Wow, I thought I had it bad at my place!

    • Abeca Christian says:

      Lol Oh Father i love your sense of humor. Sure helps lighten up things. God bless you.

      • Catherine says:

        Laugh out loud? = Not funny

        Pay attention posters. No one who genuinely cares about the crisis turmoil taking place within the Catholic Church would post that remark.

        • Abeca Christian says:

          Oh Catherine you are working so hard. And your interpretations are not backed by facts but only backed by your absurd assumptions. Which we already now arent well. If you really care about souls you would not remain silent on SSPX their sex abuses cases nor will you condone people to go to confession to any schismstic group. If you cared You would encourage people to read the CCC, holy scripture in full communion with the Magesterium. Etc etc. Did you ever agree that both forms of Mass are holy? Remember that taking out of context peoples comments is not charity. Pax Christi. Jmj

          • Ann Malley says:

            …their sex abuse cases? Good gravy, but you have a mad on. Only you would get your dander up about a priestly society that actually kicks out those found guilty of abuse. LOL is right.

          • Abeca Christian says:

            Just like the holocaust denier

          • Anonymous says:

            Abeca, Please capitalize JMJ

          • Catherine says:

            Here is another reason why 3 out of 150 families attend Church.

            Teamwork from the Lavender mafia within the Church.

            Taken from CCD’s Breaking news Fresno Bishop

            Posted Friday, December 02, 2011 6:34 PM By Mark from PA

            “K, I really didn’t know about it until I looked it up. What Father Rodriguez did was not appropriate (as you have stated). This embarrassed the bishop. It was not wise for the priest to stir up hatred against a group of people. Bob One, I have to tell you that I think our bishop is great. I have a lot of respect for him. It is not an easy job and one can’t please everyone. We also have a very devoted retired bishop that pitches in helping with Confirmations and Masses, so we are blessed.”


          • Catherine says:

            Abeca Christian, Please do not ever undermine the CCC ….while then attacking those who do promote it. Dissenters despise the Catechism. Ask the priests and the teachers who have been removed or silenced for using one. Just place a CCC in front of their face and the exact reaction can be viewed in a Dracula film when a Crucifix is placed in front of Dracula’s face.

            Posted Friday, December 02, 2011 8:32 PM By Catherine
            There is a website called ‘A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics’ An article titled, “Who says prayers are never answered, Bishop Ochoa reassigned” The article states that Bishop Ochoa has had a troubled history in El Paso arguing for the existence of a “do over” after death to try again to win our salvation. A view entirely unsupported by Scripture or Tradition. This is important for the Catholics in Fresno to clarify, defend and support Church Teaching as taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition.

  6. How many of the parents of the School children attend Mass at any Parish each Sunday?

    The Diocese Bishop has the authority over everything that identifies itself as Catholic within his own Diocese.
    CCC: 1560; and Code of Canon Law.
    This includes Catholic Colleges and Catholic Universities. – “APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF JOHN PAUL II

  7. Why do the parents send their children to Star of the Sea Grammar School?
    Would it be possible to have a Sunday mass for the school children and make
    it obligatory to attend the mass? God Bless Fr. Illo, Fr. McDermott and all the others at SS School who are struggling to bring some knowledge of God back to the Richmond District and to San Francisco in general. Please keep them in your daily prayers.

    As far as the post from Maria about Archbishop Riordan HS, I would ask, is it a
    Catholic School? It has never had a strong Catholic Identity for many years.

    • Pete Green says:

      Father Illo states in the article that the school is 40% Catholic. So your suggestion is that all students, including the 60% who are not Catholic, should be required to travel to the Church on Sunday to attend Mass? I would surmise that there might be few better ideas to address this situation.

  8. There are 2 Chapels of Perpetual Adoration in San Francisco that I know of. One is at 771 Ashbury Street and the other is across from USF at the corner
    of Fulton and Parker. Both are beautiful chapels of prayers and have been there for many years. I am surprised that Fr. Illo does not know of them since one is not that far from Star of the Sea.

    • Linda Maria says:

      This is in response to the post of Amy. These chapels that you mentioned belong to religious orders of contemplative nuns. There is no Perpetual Adoration, at these chapels. They open and close at definite times. The Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (on Ashbury St.) have the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during the day only. The Discalced Carmelite Nuns (on Parker St.) have limited, definite hours when they have the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The nuns of both of these religious orders all originally came from Mexico, and most are Spanish-speaking. Many churches in San Francisco, have limited, regular days and times, for Adoration. However– no church exists, in San Francisco, that has Perpetual Adoration, 24 hours a day, non-stop, perpetually! I hope Fr. Illo can succeed, with his plans for a chapel of Perpetual Adoration!

      • Your Fellow Catholic says:

        Here I agree with you. It is a shame that most Churches are closed even during the day. This is a sad thing.

  9. mike magee says:

    Fr. Ilo says the school is ‘40% Catholic.” What are the underlying statistics [numerator and denominator] that form the basis of the 40% figure? This just does not square with the statement that three of 150 students attend Mass at the Church.

    If the teachings and other activities of the School are so offensive, why not have the Archbishop end the lease for the school facilities? As I understand it, the San Francisco real estate market is very tight. I would think it would be relatively easy to turn classrooms to legal apartments. Perhaps this would generate enough cash to cover the conversion cost as well as make a substantial contribution to the Pastor’s operating cash deficit.

  10. I counted 43 Elementary Schools in the Archdiocese. Somebody must be doing something right!
    Catholic Schools should be places that teach the faith, not just better educational levels. Too many use the schools, often, as alternatives to poor academics in the public schools.

  11. Linda Maria says:

    I am so sorry for poor Fr. Illo, and many other fine priests! The Catholic Church truly needs a “wake-up” call! Vatican II is a DISASTER, a FARCE, and the Church clearly needs to have a good look at all the tragic results of this historical event!! The Church is truly in the jaws of Satan, and refuses to admit to it! No one is “free,” and the results of so-called “freedom,”— ignorant, irresponsible, hedonistic permissiveness— are always a DISASTER!! Life is a big, serious responsibility! The sick, suffering, sinful world is in desperate need of Jesus Christ! The Pope and his top clergy all need to GO TO CONFESSION, and receive strong penalties for their sins, also, straight from the Church’s Code of Canon Law!! Christ suffers so much, in His people! The poor Catholic lay people and their families, receive almost NO SUPPORT, morally or spiritually (or educationally), from their disobedient, sinful Church, and are all being STARVED TO DEATH, their moral and spiritual life destroyed by their own
    Church! The modern Church is a HORROR!!

  12. Somehow it’s appropriate that this article should come out on Catholic Schools’ Week. Here’s a link that also seems appropriate:

  13. Linda Maria says:

    It is so sad– but many Catholic schools today, are not truly Catholic, except in the school’s name! They just accept anyone, as students! They do not teach the Catholic Faith to the students, and do not require it. They devise their own curriculum, and do as they wish. Very tragic!

  14. Linda Maria says:

    I will add to my post, above. Many non-Catholic parents like to send their children to Catholic schools, even those that are just “Catholic in name only,” thinking their children will be educated in a nicer environment, than the public schools. Smaller classes, a caring, friendly environment, with nice people, and warm-hearted teachers, is what they are perhaps hoping for.

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      I was one of them Linda Maria. If anything, my parents were slightly anti-catholic, but wanted the academic excellence first of all, and then the things you describe. I ended up converting to catholicism 2 years after graduating.

  15. Linda Marie – I stand corrected. The Perpetual Adoration Chapel on Ashbury Street has Perpetual Adoration on the First Friday of the Month for 24 hours. If you do a Good Search, you will find the exact information and hours as to the other days during the year when Perpetual Adoration takes place and the calendar of events.

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COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.