On a blustery San Francisco Monday evening, as evening commuters filled the streets, a crowd of nearly 400 parents, students, faculty and staff from all fourteen San Francisco archdiocesan high schools and several grammar schools gathered on the steps of Mission Dolores Basilica to begin a one-hour march to St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Pat Dunne of SHC addressed the throng, saying: “Tonight, all local Catholic schools stand in solidarity with the people of Indiana,” referencing the recent controversial and potentially discriminatory law passed in that state the very same day. Dunne publicly called on Archbishop Cordileone to withdraw his proposed changes to the CBA and handbooks of our schools and called on those assembled to walk together to the Cathedral to deliver one petition signed by hundreds of local families and another signed by members of all fourteen archdiocesan high schools.
The ensuing peaceful march, featuring a massive floral cross, dozens of white carnations, signs and banners reading #TeachAcceptance, stretched four full city blocks as it moved along Market and up Van Ness to the supportive honking of car horns and countless encouraging shouts and gestures from commuters.
As the procession reached St. Mary’s Cathedral, those marching were rewarded with the sight of an even bigger crowd of demonstrators on the Geary plaza. Some estimates placed attendance at close to one thousand peaceful angry people (to reference one of the evening’s featured songs). The vigil began with prayer and continued with the beautiful singing from members of the SHC choir. Several faculty and staff members from the ten archdiocesan high schools not directly owned by the diocese presented petitions signed by their faculty and staff, and in keeping with the trend established at Marin Catholic, Riordan, Serra and SHC, the overall percentage of signatures was well above 80%.
Kathleen Purcell, Peggy O’Grady and Kathy Curran, the lead organizers, each spoke passionately about the pain and suffering the archbishop’s proposed language is causing our community - particularly our youth - and Michael Mazzafero then announced “We will not be denied access to our Cathedral!” and asked the entire crowd to lock arms and peacefully walk to the main door steps. The entire crowd marched slowly and deliberately, stopping to kneel for a brief moment of silence before taking the final ten steps.
As the entire crowd watched with great anticipation, O’Grady and Curran posted the petition language to the Cathedral doors and Purcell held up the thick stack of signed pages and defyantly slammed them to the concrete at the base of the doors.
The evening closed as Sister Laetitia Bordes led everyone in praying for Archbishop Cordileone
Photos courtesy of Tim Allen