Some students attending St. Kevin Catholic School in Southwest Miami-Dade were given an unexpected introduction to their religion's death ritual. On the morning of February 10, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders had to attend the funeral mass for the mother-in-law of school principal Myra Constantino. The "celebration of the life of Josephine Constantino" was apparently too much for one 12-year-old boy to handle. He had a seizure, fainted, and bumped his head on a pew. A Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue unit responded to the scene and treated the kid.
Now some moms are angry that the school did not ask their permission to allow their children to stare death in the face. "My son said the casket was open when he walked into the mass," said one mother, who, like the others, did not want to be identified for fear their offspring would not be allowed back to the school next year. "That is a very impressive thing to see when you are 12 years old. The principal needs to address the situation and explain why the kids were pulled out of class to attend the funeral mass for a person none of them knew."
Another parent claims she requested a meeting with Constantino but that the principal ignored her for three weeks. So she complained to the Archdiocese of Miami's associate superintendent, Kristen Hughes, who, in a letter dated March 1, essentially told the mom to stop whining. Hughes wrote, "Catholic school students often are in attendance at masses during the school day. Indeed it is the hope of this office that students are encouraged to participate in celebration of the liturgy whenever possible." Hughes also disputed some of the complaints: "I also understand the casket was closed and that no students were injured in any way."
The mother finally met with Constantino March 10. The principal apologized and promised the school would not make the children attend funeral masses in the future. An exasperated Constantino informs Riptide the casket was open before the mass began but was closed when the children were called into the church. She also notes the boy who fainted has "a pre-existing condition that [she] did not know of."
Constantino explains that attending the mass was a spontaneous decision by the teachers. "There was no malicious intent," she says. "The teachers wanted to show support for me and my family. We are Catholic. We do go to mass."