On Thursday, March 26, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on a meeting at San Francisco’s Star of the Sea Parish. The meeting was between a group of parents and press and Star of the Sea’s pastor, Father Joseph Illo, and parochial vicar, Father Patrick Driscoll. The article, titled “Parents ask S.F. Archdiocese to remove school’s leaders,” began: “In an emotional and at times angry meeting with representatives from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, more than 100 parents of Star of the Sea school children pleaded Wednesday night for the controversial leaders of their school’s church to be removed from their posts.” The brouhaha stemmed from Father Illo’s “boys only” policy for altar servers.
On March 29, Palm Sunday, parishioners at Star of the Sea responded. At all the Palm Sunday Masses, concerned parishioners collected signatures in support of Father Illo and Father Driscoll. Total signatories to the petition of support numbered almost 500. The signatures supporting Father Illo and Father Driscoll will be presented to Archbishop Cordileone this week.
By quantifiable measures, Illo appears to be revitalizing the parish. Star of the Sea has met its assessment for the 2015 archbishop’s annual appeal in slightly over one week. The Oratory of St. Philip Neri, which is hosted at the parish, has two seminarians studying for the priesthood. The parish has been host to parish missions with well-known priests. From March 1-3, Star of the Sea hosted noted Mariologist Monsignor Arthur Calkins for a three-day parish mission. In June of 2014, the church hosted Father Paul Nicholson who has been “given the ecclesiastical office of Missionary Preacher” by his bishop, Ronald Peter Fabbro of London, Ontario. Nicholson’s mission was The Eucharist: the Source and Summit of Catholic Life.
Father Illo has started a monthly parish barbecue open to all. The girls of the school are engaged in an ongoing project to collect toiletries for the elderly at the nearby St. Anne’s Home for the elderly, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. On Palm Sunday, when the petition signature gatherers were waiting for Masses to end, they congregated in the school’s playground and parking lot, at tables hosted by the parish’s Legion of Mary. The tables are there each week, and the older ladies of the Legion provide coffee, donuts, and Chinese pork buns.
After Masses ended Fathers Driscoll and Illo were in the parking lot, mingling with parishioners and fulfilling requests. Father Driscoll went into the rectory and returned, carrying the aspergillum to bless one family’s car and a lady parishioner’s dog.