Holy Thursday April 14 at 7:00 p.m. (English)
Good Friday, April 15, at 7:00 p.m. (English)
Easter Vigil, April 16 at 8:30 p.m. (English)
As I came into the office on the Tuesday of Holy Week, I was greeted with an incendiary Email from a Parishioner who took great offense at a prayer to our Patroness St. Therese. This prayer had appeared as an insert in the Bulletin prepared for Palm Sunday. As the tone of the Email was aggrieved, I immediately asked the author of the prayer, Stella Armstrong, for a copy. Sometimes parishioners can be somewhat zealous in expressing their displeasure at things which upset them, so I read the prayer with that in mind, hoping that they had exaggerated the issue. They had not.
I quickly became concerned as I read through the prayer’s many petitions. They were both personal in tone and filled with disdain. Alarmingly, they seemed to evidence a desire to attack our teachers here at St. Therese School. I was stunned by the nature of the missive and found it hurtful in its content and absolutely baseless in its accusations. I was taken greatly aback also by its source. Stella has been in charge of producing the weekly bulletin and keeping our website current for well over three years. Many parishioners have had glowing things to say about both throughout this time. Never has our bulletin been better. I had full trust in Stella’s understanding of her remit and of her ability to draw appropriate boundaries in carrying it out.
The publication of this prayer has somewhat conditioned my trust. My discussion with Stella in the wake of its publication and of our meeting with the teachers has convinced me that she meant no harm in the manner in which the communication seemed to so obviously indicate. There is a very real cultural gap here: in her country collective issues are addressed to everyone and can be quite personal in tone. In the United States, by contrast, a collective prayer which takes a personal focus gets everyone upset. As Pastor, although I myself would never have even dreamt of offering up or printing such a prayer addressed to anyone, much less to our Patroness, I accept and trust that Stella never meant to harm any of the teachers personally and was addressing issues which, in her mind, apply at a deeper and more general level. I do, of course, fully repudiate the content and tone of this prayer in its entirety and have apologized directly to the teachers as a group at their most recent staff meeting.
As your Pastor, please accept my heartfelt apology for this prayer and for the harm that it has caused to many of our teachers, parents and their children, parishioners and staff. Sometimes you can only appreciate the effect of such things by listening to those who have been hurt thereby. At their staff meeting, many teachers and others shared their very real pain at being tarnished by a woman they had come to trust and now felt betrayed by. Some present even suggested that the term “prayer” was inappropriate for such a communication. I think I understand where they were coming from. It was simply too much for them to wrap their minds and hearts around the fact that such hurtful words had been presented to our community as a prayer.
Please pray for all of us here at St. Therese Parish and School. We need now, more than ever, the guidance and healing touch of the Holy Spirit. St. Therese of the Child Jesus – Pray for Us!
Fr. Stephen Geer
What follows is Stella’s own apology, one that she felt too tongue tied to offer at our meeting:
Dear Teachers, Parents and Staff,
Thank you for your grace and understanding extended to me. I deeply hurt each one of you. It is a remorse that I will carry deeper each day. Although the words of apology and regret remain the same, I know that their depth and intensity will change and get deeper as I reflect more on the pain I have inflicted on you. I have not been here long enough to truly understand the deep conviction that each individual takes individual accountability seriously and deeply for what they do. The letter that I wrote, although addressed to a collective group resulted in a serious wounding of each one of you. In my upbringing the joy of one is the joy of all and the pain of one is the pain of all. In my short-sightedness I failed to see such a grievous mistake in being insensitive to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of each one of you. I am sincerely sorry.
The letter was not written to single out anyone or each one of you. Each one of you, even with my restricted/limited direct interaction with you, shows commitment above and beyond what you have been mandated to do. Your full support, individually and collectively, has been a continuing delight. If direct communication between us had been completely facilitated, encouraged and enabled from the start, you would have known from the start of the current administration my joyful thanksgiving for each one of you. I look forward very much to the first day of a new beginning in our school where communication and common good are uppermost.
Stella Armstrong, D.A.
Liturgy and Faith Formation Coordinator
St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church