Below is a message that was sent to the Nativity Worcester Community on June 15, 2022
Dear Nativity School of Worcester Community,
On behalf of the Nativity School of Worcester Board of Trustees, leadership and staff, I write to share news regarding a change in Nativity’s relationship with the Diocese of Worcester and our continued commitment to providing an excellent education rooted in the Jesuit tradition. Nativity was founded in 2003 as an independent, Catholic, Jesuit middle school that provides a quality, tuition-free education to boys from under-resourced communities. Nativity is the only tuition-free Catholic school in the Diocese of Worcester and the only school in Central Massachusetts that solely educates students experiencing economic insecurity. The school is entirely funded through the generosity of individuals, foundations, and corporations. We receive no funding from the Diocese and our governance and control of school operations are fully independent of the Diocese.
The Issue: In January 2021, Nativity started flying the Pride and Black Lives Matter flags following our students’ (the majority of whom are people of color) call to express support for making our communities more just and inclusive. As a multicultural school, the flags represent the inclusion and respect of all people. These flags simply state that all are welcome at Nativity and this value of inclusion is rooted in Catholic teaching. Pope Francis has praised the outreach and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supports the spirit and movement of “Black Lives Matter.” Both flags are now widely understood to celebrate the human dignity of our relatives, friends and neighbors who have faced, and continue to face hate and discrimination. Though any symbol or flag can be co-opted by political groups or organizations, flying our flags is not an endorsement of any organization or ideology, they fly in support of marginalized people.
The Bishop’s Position: Bishop Robert McManus, as leader of the Diocese of Worcester, indicated to Nativity and to the public that he believes flying these flags is inconsistent with Catholic teaching. In March 2022, he told the school to remove the flags. Sadly, in mid-March 2022, our flags were torn down by an unknown person, an act that caused harm to our entire community. In late May, the Bishop told Nativity that if the flags were not removed, Nativity will “be prohibited from identifying itself as a Catholic school.” A formal decree announcing the Bishop’s decision will be published in the Catholic Free Press on Thursday, June 16.
Nativity Worcester’s Response: Nativity will seek to appeal the decision of the Diocese to remove our Catholic identity through the appropriate channels provided by the Church in circumstances like this. At the same time, after meaningful deliberation and discernment by its Board, leadership team, faculty, and partners, Nativity will continue to display the flags in question to give visible witness to the school’s solidarity with our students, families, and their communities. Commitment to our mission, grounded and animated by Gospel values, Catholic Social Teaching, and our Jesuit heritage compels us to do so.
Going Forward: The past few months have been galvanizing for our entire community. We are grateful for the overwhelming support we have received from long-time and many new partners, the Worcester community and beyond and the Jesuit community. Nativity is stronger than ever because of the understanding and support of its amazing community members, benefactors and – most of all – students and their families. Please know that any decisions made by the Diocese will not change the mission, operations or impact of Nativity. With your ongoing partnership, we will continue to provide a transformational education for many years to come.