Catholic School Bars Father of Suspended Lesbian Church Worker from Retreat Programs

Pat Fitzgerald demonstrating peacefully in support of his daughter, Shelly

The father of a lesbian Catholic school counselor who was suspended over her same-gender marriage has been barred from assisting at the Catholic school where his daughter worked.

Shelly Fitzgerald announced that after 26 years assisting Roncalli Catholic High School’s senior retreat, her father, Pat Fitzgerald, was informed by administrators he may no longer participate in the annual event. She posted a letter from her fatheron Facebook with an explanatory note. The post has since been deleted, but WBIC captured part of it, in which Shelly wrote:

“Last week, my dad was informed by Roncalli that he will no longer be working the Senior Christian Awakening Retreats. He has worked at least one every year for the last 27 years. He has touched many lives, been touched by many lives and it has been an integral part of his faith life for decades.

“He just wanted to publicly let people know, although he is hurt, he is not mad. And is walking away thankful for the gifts this has provided him.

“If you want to know where I get my peaceful heart, it was gifted to me by my parents. For those if you who know him from retreats, this letter is from him for each of you. And he wanted the opportunity to thank you.”

Mr. Fitzgerald wrote that his heart was “broken” over the ban, which he claimed was related to the employment issues his daughter has had with Roncalli since last summer. Shelly Fitzgerald posted later on Facebook that the letter from her father was “not intended to be a news story” or to “make people mad again,” but was a simple expression of gratitude.

Roncalli administrators have not commented on the incident.

In related news, Shelly keynoted the Indianapolis Women’s March earlier this month. She told the crowd gathered amid freezing rain, “We have to forget our differences for now and focus on our similarities. . .When we are divided into smaller groups, we are simply not as strong.”

Last August, administrators at Roncalli gave Fitzgerald the choice of divorcing her wife or losing her job, but ended up placing her on paid administrative leave while the situation was adjudicated. Since then, Fitzgerald and another employee at Roncalli have filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She also appeared on The Ellen Show last year, bringing national attention to her case. Locally, students have organized in her defense, wearing rainbow gear at school and forming a group, Shelly’s Voice, to promote LGBT inclusion.

Without knowing more details, it is hard to know exactly what happened between Pat Fitzgerald and Roncalli. Neither side seems inclined to provide more information than what has been made public to this point. But if indeed the school excluded Pat as part of the larger employment dispute with his daughter, it would be deeply troubling as a particularly punitive development.

In the last decade, more than 80 church workers have gone public about losing their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes. You can find a full listing of these incidents here, as well as New Ways Ministry’s resources on church employment and LGBT issues here. For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of church employment issues, click the “Employment” category on the right-hand side of this page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 28, 2019

9 replies
  1. Steven Stencil
    Steven Stencil says:

    The Catholic Church continue to demonstrate its lacking in understanding & compassion and no longer been the church of all God….only those willing to be among the so-called pharisaical “remnant of the faithful” filled with judgment and hypocrisy!

    • Lulu
      Lulu says:

      I’m searching for a new home as well and have been visiting different churches but still seeking. Would you share what denomination/church you’re in fellowship with? Thank you and many blessings to you.

  2. David Kiester
    David Kiester says:

    I was received into the Episcopal Church at Easter. Although my Parish is the Cathedral of one of the seven Bishops who will not sanction same sex marriages, the people and our priests do. Under the new rules, the decision lies with the Pastor and congregants, not the Bishop. I searched multiple traditions before settling here.

    • Ruth Ayres
      Ruth Ayres says:

      God bless. I’m an “inconsistent” Catholic and am hoping to have the strength to stay in the RCC open hearts and minds ; please keep me in your prayers.


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