In the middle of May, Lorne Plooard, the Chaplain at St. Michael Catholic High School in Kemptville, was called into a meeting at the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario [CDSBEO], accompanied by the school’s Principal, the Human Resources Manager and two Superintendents from the Board. With no warning at all, Mr. Plooard was told he was being dismissed from his position as Chaplain and handed a letter which stated that: “Unfortunately, it has been decided that there is no longer a sufficient level of compatibility between your approach to the role of the Chaplaincy Leader and the desired approach of St. Michael High School.” No further explanation was given.
His dismissal has aroused both anger and concern, not only among the students at the school, who clearly appreciated Lorne’s contribution to their religious education, but also by parents and members of Holy Cross Catholic parish in Kemptville, where Lorne serves as Youth Minister. Letters of protest were sent to the CDSBEO, and an on-line petition was started by students.
The Knights of Columbus Council at Holy Cross Church have started a formal petition asking that the Board: a. Reinstate Mr. Plooard as Chaplaincy Leader, forthwith and without any form of retribution or reprisal on actions taken by him; b. Open inquiry into what was behind dismissal; and c. Retained on paid administrative leave until matter resolved.
The Board would not comment on the matter, claiming the usual reason of personnel confidentiality.
What seems strange to all who know Lorne is that he seems to have been fired for being too good at his job of Catholic Chaplain. Again and again, in the on-line petition, students paid tribute to Lorne’s ability to make their faith meaningful and relevant, when before it had not attracted them at all. Students and adults agreed that Lorne was being dismissed for being “too Catholic” for the School Board.
One resident believes that “Ministry of Education staff should conduct a review of CDSBEO management practices including staffing procedures to ensure fair and just treatment of employees of the CDSBEO”. One mother, who had been deeply impressed by Lorne, posted on the petition site: “I find it deeply troubling to know that Lorne has been let go without warning. For what reason does a man who is sharing the Lord’s love, teaching the children about God and sacraments; have to being let go?”
Perhaps the most interesting comment on-line makes clear accusations against the prevailing ethos of the Board: “It appears our Catholic schools are not as Catholic as they once were. Many faculty members are not practising Catholics and may not feel comfortable having someone on staff encouraging them to practice their faith. To me, it should be these non practising faculty members who should be encouraged to go teach in the public system and let the Catholic schools have an environment that encourages our sons and daughters to understand the meaning of being Catholic and to make it an active part of their life. This is something Lorne is very good at.”
At the time of writing, Lorne’s name still appears on the St. Mike’s web page as Chaplain. Many people are hoping that he will be reinstated to that role.