Reporting Frank Vascellaro
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A former Catholic school teacher and campus minister opened up Wednesday night after losing her job at a school she still loves.
Kristen Ostendorf still has strong feelings for Totino-Grace and her religion, even though she was fired after revealing her relationship with another woman.
“I want to tell my story and don’t think having told the truth should cost me my job,” she said.
Ostendorf is an educator and a life-long Catholic. She grew up in a big family attending parochial schools, and spent the last 18 years teaching at Totino-Grace.
She’s also gay, and had misgivings about going back to school this year after former principal Bill Hudson was forced out for revealing his own same-sex relationship.
She said the emotions boiled over when she was leading a workshop for the entire faculty.
“I heard myself saying to everybody, ‘Most of you know I’m gay — I’m in a relationship with a woman and I’m so happy,’” she recalled.
Ostendorf immediately knew the impact. She wasn’t trying to be a flag-waver for gay rights, or throw down a gauntlet. But she knew there would be consequences.
“I was given the option to resign or have my contracted terminated,” she said. “And I did not resign.”
The school terminated her contract, she said.
Ostendorf met with her lawyer, thought about the financial and professional benefits of resigning, but couldn’t do it.
“It was about claiming my own voice and my own integrity, and that doesn’t seem commensurate with resigning,” she said.
It was a statement of conscience, but it comes with a price.
“My happiest days have been at Grace,” she said. “I’m sad that it ended that way.”
She said she’ll miss the kids, and working in Catholic education, but looks ahead to the future.
“I’m not ashamed of having said, ‘I’m gay, I’m in a relationship and I’m happy,’” she said. “I’d like to work at a place where that’s good and that’s OK.”
The Archdiocese said, in a statement, that the Church treats everyone with respect and dignity and does not discriminate against people based on sexual orientation. But it added that “Employees whose public actions and statements are counter to [the teachings of the Catholic Church] may be subject to corrective action or other consequences, including dismissal.”