St. Mark Church Official: Stop Talking to The Argonaut

Editor’s Note: During a tense meeting of more than 160 parents and parishioners on Tuesday, Father Paul Spellman announced that he will resign as pastor of St. Mark Church in June but will not waver from his decision to dismiss St. Mark School Principal Mary Ann McQueen, also as of June.

The parish’s pastoral coordinator urged attendees to stop publicly voicing concerns about McQueen’s dismissal and specifically asked parents not to talk to The Argonaut, which published an exclusive news report about the controversy last week. Following publication, a number of St. Mark’s parishioners have written letters or posted online comments in defense of Spellman and his removal of McQueen.

Parents who attended the meeting said Spellman’s prepared remarks cited personal health concerns and turmoil involving the school as reasons for leaving the parish. Plans for a moderated Q&A shifted after parents began openly vocalizing questions or concerns, and Spellman soon left the meeting after a private discussion with its organizers.

Asked by a reporter to discuss his decision to leave the parish, Spellman emailed Wednesday: “Please do not write an article about me. I don’t want any more negativity in the press.”

Joe Piasecki


St. Mark School Built a Wall Around Itself

Re: “Parents Paint Pastor as a Schoolhouse Bully,” News, Feb. 28

Mary McQueen came to St. Mark with an agenda — to build a fiefdom analogous to the upper-crust, prestigious ambiance of Marymount High School, where she had been an academic officer. Of course, savvy and self-interested parents caught on and dovetailed her scheme with a vengeance. This myopic vision had the intended effect: It attracted a new constituency with expectations of royal treatment, snobbish disregard for others and deep pockets. Their sole objective was to ensure the funding of programs and benefits unavailable at most parochial schools.

This carving out of a private school castle, removed and aloof from the quotidian realities of the parish, was the principal reason (no pun intended) why Father Paul had deep and substantiated reservations with the school maven.

I have never seen McQueen at a single Spanish mass in my 10 years as music director. The outreach efforts that one would expect were brazenly absent, even though many would-be matriculants attend that mass.

Successful principals who care to nurture and buoy the spiritual health of their parish communities consistently ensconce themselves in various aspects of liturgical and pastoral planning, side-by-side with laypersons who have sustained the parish for decades.

The financial demands of the school were at times diametrically opposed to the pastoral plans as laid out by the ministerial leadership of the parish.
Those in the know will remember the parking expansion fiasco that exhausted time and resources and returned nothing.

I find this article contemptible, irascible and biased.

Alex Venegas,

Culver City

‘A Few Do Not Speak For All’

We, the undersigned parishioners of St. Mark Parish, are greatly disturbed and angered by your negative portrayal of our beloved pastor and our parish family. We believe this article is clearly biased, one-sided and does not represent the majority of our parishioners.

Since you have chosen to quote only a select group of parents unfamiliar with all the details of this situation, we’d like to present views held by the vast majority of the people at St. Mark’s parish. Hopefully this will provide your readership with a more balanced understanding of the issue.

First, it should be noted that no one has been privy to the countless meetings and discussions pertaining to Ms. McQueen’s position as principal. It was well known that her contract was not renewed last year and that she did not leave. In her zeal to protect her job and her position, Ms. McQueen has, outrageously and inappropriately, allowed students to “protest” on her behalf, though many had no idea what the situation was even about. She did not tamp down or discourage this kind of behavior.

Ms. McQueen’s statement that she “cares deeply about the community and wants to see it continue to grow and flourish” is in stark contrast to the scorched-earth, “take no prisoners” mindset she has held since the beginning of this situation last year. By her actions or inactions to stop this disruptive and destructive activity, the only conclusion we can come to is that she is motivated to protect and maintain her perceived position of power and control.

We parishioners want the people of this community to know that a few do not speak for all. Thousands of families attend masses and send their children and grandchildren to this church and school because it provides the highest quality education in the area at an extraordinary low cost. Our hardworking teachers are committed to and love these students, as does our pastor.

Fr. Paul is beloved by all who meet him. We know of no one who questions his deep faith or his devotion to and love of the people of this community. He spends at least one day a week at the school talking to the kids in all the classes. He helps to fund, run and insure that all the facilities are the best they can be, and that the equipment and resources that teachers need are all available to them.

At the school, as with the church, Fr. Paul has been tireless in his efforts to see, meet with, and talk to everyone — whether they are Catholic or not. He visits the sick and infirmed daily, attends countless meetings to insure the smooth daily workings of the church and school, and has a great sense of humor that inspires us all to greater faith.

Fr. Paul is seen as the most gracious, loving and devoted pastor we have had at St. Mark’s in many years. The parishioners love and respect him and hold him in the highest regard. He truly is a “people person,” and by his warmth and caring nature he has won the hearts of many.  It is ludicrous to assume that the pastor of this community “shows little interest in engaging with the more affluent parishioners associated with the school.” This is a man who genuinely cares about people and treats everyone like a brother or sister in Christ. After each Mass you will find him eager to personally shake the hands of, and welcome, everyone he meets. He would never ask anyone to leave based on their opinion of him, as he is a compassionate, humble and gentle man.

Father Paul’s actions have been above reproach. He has elevated the Masses and welcomed and inspired everyone around him to participate in local charity events and serve the poor in our local area in every way.

We, the parishioners of St. Mark, invite everyone to come and see for themselves what a special and uplifting environment we have in this parish.

Janice Woods
Mary Ann Long
Margaret and Norm Mezey
Pepper Neflas
Mary Ann Robinson
Jean-Marc Vlaminck
Barbara Valentino
Sharon Sarno-Barbanel
Ruben and Myra Estrada
Carrie Lou Gray
Ginger Caples Urode
Lisa Harrison Speer
Shawna Tobalina
Joan Horne
Lydia TB Brown
John DeWig

… and many more anonymously

St. Mark Isn’t Only for the Affluent

As a parishioner of St. Mark Church for more than 50 years, I am appalled that you had the audacity to call our pastor a bully. He has done everything that is possible to run a parish community with respect for all people, not just the affluent.

We are blessed to have a loving, caring and vibrant church community. I feel for my grandchildren as they grow up in a world of one-sided journalism. It’s a shame.

It seems that some of our affluent parishioners do not walk in the way of Jesus. I’m sure if Jesus were walking around Venice today he would probably be picked up by the police as a vagrant.

If you don’t like our parish school, leave. We have enough problems in the Catholic Church, but we are working to correct them. The only person who was perfect was crucified. I pray for the people at The Argonaut — next time, get both sides of the story.

George Holguin

Mar Vista

Spellman Isn’t the Bully

I am a longtime St. Mark parishioner with three children who attended St. Mark School. Father Paul was correct not to renew Ms. Mc Queen’s contract. Her harsh and authoritative leadership style has disturbed many of us from day one.

Ginger Caples Urode

Marina del Rey

Father Paul Has Been a Blessing

I am enraged that these school families are accusing Father Spellman of being a bully, for they are the real bullies. As a pastor, Father Spellman has a dual responsibility of leading both the parish and the school at St. Mark Parish Community. These families are selfishly only thinking about themselves and not the well-being of the parish as a whole, which relies on his strong leadership.

I have been an active parishioner of St. Mark Church for several years, and I can only say good things about Father Paul Spellman. Since he arrived in 2014, St. Mark has had a total turnaround and the number of parishioners has increased drastically just because of him. He is a man of great character, honor and faith with compassion for all individuals. He has a genuine interest in getting to know the parishioners and takes the time to talk and listen, visits the sick and homebound personally to bring them Holy Communion (which at most other churches is done by Lay Eucharistic Ministers), and will come at a moment’s notice to assist, support or pray with a family in need, whatever the hour.

He is deeply admired and loved by the parish community for his profound faith, dedication, encouragement, support, compassion and inspiration to all people. We are blessed to have him. I am absolutely appalled that these mean and false accusations and judgments have been made against him.

These school families are bitter because they do not agree with the decision, but they are only thinking of themselves and not the bigger picture which involves
the entire St. Mark Parish Community, which thrives because of Father Paul Spellman’s leadership.

Liza Espinas


Praying For Fairness

I know at this point you must have received letters, emails and calls in defense of our pastor at St Mark. I only ask you to read these letters and listen to all these people.

Father Paul would never, ever make an important decision of this kind without council. Fr. Paul loves his community and is only trying to give us his best leadership. Not everyone will always agree with your articles, but this article should have never been printed without further investigation.

I am asking you to please retract the name-calling article and write an article on how this situation had complete backing of multiple areas, and sometimes we all need to make difficult decisions in life. Our community needs you both to tell the true story of our pastor. He helps people, he guides our children in our faith, and he tries to be all he can be for our community.

Get to know him beyond this one event, and then you will know he would not be this person you describe in your article. Praying you will be fair and better citizens by writing the complete story.

I back my pastor.

Joan Picciano

Del Rey