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The Beginning of the End?

There’s a shake-up happening in San Francisco — and we’re not talking earthquakes.

The epicenter is the City by the Bay’s Star of the Sea parish. A November 2014 decision by recently installed pastor Fr. Joseph Illo and associate pastor Fr. Patrick Driscoll to allow only boys to serve at the altar has sent shockwaves through the region and across the nation, even rating a write-up in the New York Daily News (Jan. 28). It’s been called “discriminatory,” “disturbing,” and “a step in the wrong direction.” At a parish meeting this March, a group of attendees called for the priests to be removed, prompting a wave of clapping and cheering.

When the two priests arrived at Star of the Sea in August 2014, they took over what Fr. Illo has called a “dying parish.” In an interview with reporter Jim Graves (CatholicWorldReport.com, Jan. 29), Fr. Illo said the 1,000-seat church typically draws only 100-130 people for Sunday Mass — a measly one-tenth of its capacity. It is “a big, empty city parish,” he said, but one the two priests “hope to revive.”

At the time of their arrival, the parish had “hardly any servers,” Fr. Illo said. “So we decided to only have a boys’ program. We’re the new administration, we’re building from zero, so we thought we’d start by implementing our vision.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle (Jan. 26), adults had been serving at the Church’s regular Masses. Altar boys and altar girls both served at Masses held for the parish school. Those girls will continue to be allowed to serve, but their use will be phased out over time, and no new girls will be admitted. Fr. Illo envisions the boys-only policy as part of a larger father-and-son program at the parish — the only parish in the archdiocese that restricts altar service to boys.

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