Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What is the Lesson?

By Rev. Michael V. Tegeder

I have no direct connection with Totino-Grace High School in Fridley but I was very affected by this Catholic high school's firing a teacher after she told coworkers that she was gay and in a committed relationship. The teacher, Kristen Ostendorf, also served as a campus minister, English teacher, and coach. She has responded: "I am profoundly sad to have to leave a job I have loved for more than eighteen years in a community that was like family to me." She also stressed that the story was not about her former school but about the larger institution. Indeed the firing was done according to our Archbishop's policy. This is what affects me as a priest and member of our Archdiocese.

We live in a changing society. Totino-Grace’s own diversity and inclusion policy states that the “entire community of students and staff [strives] to become more welcoming of diversity and more inclusive of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, academic ability, sexual orientation, or economics.” This is an admirable policy but practice has yet to catch up with it in our Archdiocese. What a great learning opportunity was lost. And what lessons are being taught to the students who find a beloved mentor yanked out of their lives?

While it might seem a double standard, this policy is thankfully not being enforced at other Archdiocesan institutions such as the University of St. Thomas and Catholic Charities. And some parishes are under the radar for now. Happily we now have a pope who is asking us to reassess our judgments in the area of sexuality. We need to talk and to listen.

Rev. Michael V. Tegeder is the pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Minneapolis and of the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri in Minneapolis. This commentary was originally published as part of Fr. Tegeder's "Pastor's Comments" in the September 15, 2013 parish bulletin of St. Frances Cabrini Church.

Related Off-site Links:
Fired After She Came Out to Colleagues, Totino-Grace Teacher Leaves Dissonance and Silence Behind – Jim Walsh (MinnPost, September 11, 2013).
Thoughts on the Firing of Kristen Ostendorf – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, September 12, 2013).
Fired Minnesota Teacher Speaks Out on the Danger of Silence – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, September 13, 2013).
Quote of the DayThe Wild Reed (September 13, 2013).

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