From February 18 – 21, 2014 Notre Dame de Namur High School in Belmont, California presented a student retreat, Personal Growth as a Blessing to Others. The event was described on the school’s webpage: “Come join us on a four-day retreat to learn new ways to discover who you are and how expressing yourself fully can be a blessing to others! Improve your self image and get in touch with who you are through journaling, meditations, nature walks, art projects and more.” Notre Dame’s webpage for the retreat continued “Surprise guest facilitator for one day – Gregg Cassin!!!” Gregg Cassin, who lives in San Francisco, is a widely known homosexualist activist. His extensive website includes this self-description: “He is an LGBT rights activist helping to organize and emcee anti-Prop 8 rallies since 2008.”
Two members of the Notre Dame Faculty were listed as instructors for the retreat, one of whom was a Ms. Sequeira. Notre Dame’s religious studies webpage identifies Barbara Sequeira as the school’s campus minister.
Mr. Cassin’s website contains a section of photographs of events in which he has taken part. The section is headlined “BRINGING ALL THE WORDS TO LIFE: Photos of my work as a facilitator, speaker, and LGBT activist.” Included are photos captioned: Prop 8 Rally-Speaker; Menlo College Gay Straight Alliance-Speaker; Day of decision-LGBT Activist; March for Equality-LGBT Activist; and Notre Dame Belmont High School-Speaker.
The photo titles are modest on Mr. Cassin’s part. As noted, he was actually the co-organizer and MC of the March 25, 2013 March for Equality in San Francisco, which drew an estimated 5,000 people to the city’s Castro district in support of same-sex marriage.
The lack of additional identifying information about Mr. Cassin in Notre Dame’s retreat flyer, just the bare “Surprise guest facilitator for one day–Gregg Cassin!!!” indicates that he is already known at the school. And that is indeed the case—apparently he has been visiting Notre Dame for a while. A Pinvents webpage called “Diversity and Acceptance at the Notre Dame Prom,” which agitates for allowing same-sex dates at the school’s prom, says “Gregg Cassin speaks to Notre Dame religion classes every year of his struggle being gay and how hard it is to be accepted.”
Mr. Cassin’s own webpage also contains a section called “WHAT’S GOING ON: Some of the projects I’m passionate about (But I’m open to others!).” The section includes, again, the March for Equality and the LGBT Day of Decision, and includes: “Notre Dame Belmont High School. September 2012. Like most of my presentations at high schools and universities, themes of self-acceptance, owning one’s own life story, and the appreciation of differences in the communities in which we live. Simply by telling my own story – a journey towards self-acceptance – students get to reflect on their own journeys and what a powerful opportunity it is to work on self love and appreciation. It’s the perfect antidote to bullying and negativity in our schools.”
While Notre Dame de Namur High School is under the control of a religious order, meaning the power of the local bishop is limited, the school is still listed as a Catholic school on the archdiocesan website and on the website of the San Francisco Department of Catholic Schools.
The Leadership Team of Notre Dame De Namur’s California province consists of: Sister Louise O’Reilly, SND; Sister Georgianna Coonis, SND; and Sister Virginia Unger, SND. All may be contacted at: Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Province Center, 1520 Ralston Avenue, Belmont CA 94002.
For the archdiocese of San Francisco, contact: Maureen Huntington, superintendent of Catholic Schools; Laura Held, assistant superintendent, Faith Formation and Religious Instruction; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone; all at the Archdiocese of San Francisco, One Peter Yorke Way, San Francisco CA 94109.
Most important is to contact the principal of your local Catholic elementary schools. Almost all enrollment to Catholic high schools come from Catholic elementary “feeder” schools. The elementary principals may be unaware of the catastrophic state of religious education in Archdiocesan high schools, and they are the persons with the greatest ability to effect change, by their willingness to steer students towards or away from prospective high schools.