My irritation split evenly between Annunciation parents and Father Brian Park after I finished reading Nate Gotlieb’s story “Annunciation’s response to video frustrates parents” in the paper’s Aug. 22 issue.
Had the grown-ups forgotten how their former archbishop, John Nienstedt, wanted to deny state recognition of civil marriage between same-sex couples? Did they forget that Annunciation read Nienstedt’s letter endorsing that marriage amendment at a special children’s mass packed with parents and grandparents?
I remember I stopped volunteering at Annunciation to raise money and awareness to defeat the measure. And although Minnesota voters soundly rejected it, the campaign exposed a gaping fault line among parishioners.
My wife and I contemplated pulling our children from the school that year. It helped that the faculty appeared insulated from the partisanship and that our kids roughly grasped the contempt behind the amendment. So we kept them enrolled, but as full participants, we were done.
Park’s predecessor, Father James Himmelsbach, appeared at school for scheduled events only. Beyond that he kept busy at the church.
Before he entered the St. Paul Seminary in 2007, Park spent four years at NET Ministries, an organization dedicated to evangelization. By the time he arrived at Annunciation in 2015, Park had twice the experience preaching the gospel to youth than he did working as a parish priest.
In his second year, he started to involve himself more with the school administration. He gave no heads-up to parents before he doubled the number of all-school masses on the academic calendar. My kids needed more time for academics, lunch and recess, not mass. When I talked to him on the phone and explained this was an academic matter and that I was already in touch with the principal, he cut me off and replied, “I’m in charge of the school.”
It wasn’t a surprise that some parishioners welcomed his involvement and evangelization. But many parents gently pushed back. His ministry style was forced and out of sync with the greater school community. He ignored social cues and continued shaking the fault line.
It’s tempting to conclude that his most recent enforcement of the Justice in Employment Policy was retaliation for pushback. Park now gets to approve the replacements for every Annunciation educator he forces out. Are there other teachers who feel the clock ticking? Will fashioning a school in the likeness of NET Ministries take precedence over things like open-mindedness, curiosity and academics? It’s starting to look that way.
Our older children graduated from Annunciation. But two years ago, we enrolled our youngest daughter at our neighborhood school for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which was the constant state of alert I was in since Park arrived.
If you’re a frustrated Annunciation parent, you’ve got excellent public and private alternatives nearby. Stop supporting backwater policies that harm women, people of color and LGBTQ people in your community.