By Christopher White
The Tablet’s National Correspondent
California’s first Catholic school has recently removed its Catholic statues on campus in an effort to be more “forward looking.”
Shannon Fitzpatrick, a parent of a student at San Domenico, who recently submitted a formal complaint about the removal of the statues, took issue with the institution’s willingness to dismiss its Catholic identity.
“Articulating an inclusive foundation appears to mean letting go of San Domenico’s 167-year tradition as a Dominican Catholic school and being both afraid and ashamed to celebrate one’s heritage and beliefs,” she wrote.
San Domenico identifies as both a Catholic and independent institution and in a recent interview, head of school Cecily Stock noted that an overwhelming majority of the school’s 660 students are not Catholic.
“Over the last few years we’ve had fewer Catholic students as part of the community and a larger number of students of various faith traditions,” she said. “Right now about 80 percent of our families do not identify as Catholic.”
San Domenico’s director of marketing and communications noted that the recent decision had been approved by both the school’s board and the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. The decision “reflects our commitment to continuing a 167-year tradition of inclusive education,” she said.
In 1998, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., the nation’s oldest Catholic university, decided to place crucifixes in every classroom on campus –with the exception of one – in an effort to balance the institution’s Catholic identity with its diverse student body.
Unlike Georgetown, a Jesuit institution, San Domenico is no longer owned or operated by a religious order.
According to Sister Maureen McInerney, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael who founded the school, the Sisters are no longer involved in the daily affairs of the institution.
“I try not to get into the details of the operation. That really isn’t my place,” she said. “So if there has been a reduction in the number of statues but there are still many statues around the campus, I think that would be fine.”