Mary Kate’s story

Mary Kate Curry

I have ruminated long and hard about raising my voice. I’ve considered outlets through which I could speak and I’ve considered silence. For a while, I favored silence, in that perhaps behind-the-scenes discussion could be possible if I didn’t make a public deal out of leaving.

I have struggled mightily not to let my anger get the best of me. To handle this challenge with grace and with dignity—to not lash out against the FLCHS administration and to not speak with bitterness about the Diocese. I wanted to encourage others to follow in the same vein of charity and mercy first, to be an example for students first and foremost that the Church is a good and a worthy place, and even when things seem irreconcilable, justice and mercy come through.

It was my genuine hope that this strategy would aid discussion and perhaps allow students a chance to engage in a real dialogue about the mission of and their place within the Catholic Church. I have absolutely put the students first in my decisions thus far, and that continues with my decision to fight this now.

Events of the past week have made it impossible for me to continue without a fight.

Beyond firing me from my teaching position, the Diocese of Orlando made the decision to bar me from assistant coaching the FLCHS girls’ basketball team. Their logic for this decision was that I had chosen to resign from teaching, therefore breaking a contract, which makes me unemployable ad infinitum in the Diocese (assistant coaching is a paid position). Whether I choose to leave or not, I cannot be paid by the Diocese to do anything.

If I could not be paid to coach, I was willing to volunteer. However, when my willingness to volunteer was brought up, FLCHS Principal Mrs. Leigh Svajko was informed that the Diocese “did not like people volunteering for positions they had previously been paid for.” This policy appears to be brand new, and it has never been applied nor mentioned elsewhere, according to the athletics administration. Because I was once paid for the position, I cannot even volunteer now.

I am a good coach. I am a more than capable and effective mentor. I have given my time, sweat, and heart towards helping these girls achieve more than they thought possible. I believe so deeply in their God-given ability, and I have never been as proud of anything I’ve been a part of before. Out of season, 4 to 5 times a week, I showed up before and after school (unpaid!) to be there to support and challenge them to be the persons God created them to be, because I believe these student-athletes to be critical parts of the Church.

In regard to coaching, the school should either name the policy for what it is—discrimination based on sexual orientation–or allow me to volunteer. Straddling the middle and offering a half-thought and nebulous ‘policy’ is disingenuous and cowardly. Hiding behind a shield of bureaucratic paper is sad and immature. This path is made even worse by the very nature of the establishment itself.Taking me away from this group of student-athletes is an absolute disservice, and puts our students and the Church’s mission at risk.

The mission of the Diocese of Orlando is: “…We are called to teach and live the Light of Christ toward Goodness, Righteousness and Truth. We respond to this call by enkindling a deeper faith in the hearts and minds of our brothers and sisters; forming leaders in Christ; and harmonizing ministries to the mission of the Catholic Church.”

When the Diocese discriminates against LGBT church workers, how is this mission fulfilled? Is it truly the Body of Christ that is speaking and acting?

What are we teaching students when we respond defensively with knee-jerk reactions and summarily dismiss those around them without care? We fail our students and our mission when we teach them to hide things and to shame and silence. They deserve more.

These past weeks have been the heaviest and hardest of my adult life. I went into Catholic education in full awareness of what has happened to other LGBTQ educators, and with a more than vague worry that this might happen to me. Knowing something is true and living that something are two very different things. And so, I was quite unprepared for this experience of profound loss and grief. The happiest day of my adult self–getting engaged to the true love of my life–was followed by the absolutely paralyzing knowledge that this commitment to a full and true marriage would also be what took me away from ministering, educating, and supporting an incredible group of students.

I am mourning that to love authentically, I have to leave my position teaching, and most likely coaching. What a damning place to be in. That a life-giving love, which knits me closer to the God who is Love, is the thing that necessitates my removal as an unfit moral guide.

My students and colleagues have been occasions of grace, and my time with my students has contained some of my greatest moments. I have learned to love better having been their teacher. And I hope that in some small measure, they have learned some of why the Catholic faith has so much of worth and value–and why those who have been cast out or marginalized still yet crave a sacramental life. .

Today, I am not asking to be reinstated as an educator of theology.I am asking why the Diocese is willing to harm student-athletes in what appears to be a punitive decision which they refuse to name for what it is.

If you feel this discrimination isn’t right, I implore you to speak out and reach out. We can do better as a church.

To communicate honestly, personally, and civilly with church officials in Orlando about Curry’s resignation, please use the following contact information:

Bishop John Noonan
Diocese of Orlando
PO Box 1800
Orlando, FL 32802-1800
Phone (407) 246-4800

President Pat LaMorte
Father Lopez Catholic HS

Originally published on New Ways Ministry’s Bondings 2.0.