By Wendy Widom
CHICAGO (CBS) — A Catholic school in St. John, Ind., has refused to allow a 9-year-old girl to wear a suit to her First Communion, according to the girl’s mother.
In a post on Facebook that quickly went viral, Christina Mansell of Crown Point shared her frustration about St. John the Evangelist Catholic School’s dress code policy, as well as support for her daughter, Cady. The post has received 63,0000 reactions and 20,000 comments since it was posted on Tuesday.
“My 9 yr old daughter attends a Catholic school and is supposed to be making her First Communion this Sunday. She has a love for suits and wears them often. Since there wasn’t initially a dress code given for the event, we assumed she could wear a suit. We went all out and made a weekend out of finding her the perfect outfit…one that makes her feel beautiful and confident.”
Mansell continued, “Unfortunately her school and church heard about the suit and told us today, 3 days before the event, that my daughter is uninvited to attend First Communion as long as she plans on wearing a suit because it violates the dress code that was just released last week. My sweet girl is heartbroken.”
Mansell tells CBS 2 that Cady first asked for a bowtie when she was four years old. Since then she “has been in love with suits and ties,” wearing them to church and other places.
Days before Communion, Mansell says school officials informed her that Cady would not be allowed to wear a suit due to the dress code policy. To receive her First Communion, Cady would be required to wear a dress or wear a skirt over the suit. If Cady did not comply, Mansell says the school offered to give Cady her First Communion privately, after the official ceremony ended.
In response, Mansell and her husband, Richard, decided to remove Cady and her younger sister from the school. Mansell also left her job there as a teacher’s aide. “I thought maybe it’s time to move on,” says Mansell.
According to the statement CBS 2 received from St. John the Evangelist parish, “St. John the Evangelist uniformly enforces dress codes at our parish school and for religious rites. We often have requests for exceptions to the dress code, ranging from sneakers to the color of one’s shirt; thus, we have consistently chosen to adhere to the dress code rather than allowing a myriad of exceptions to it.”
The parish said that the dress code was given out six weeks before, and it was the same dress code that is distributed every year and consistent with widely recognized First Communion dress code within the Catholic Church for decades.
Mansell says Cady agreed with her parents’ decision to remove Cady and her sister from the school. “She told me, ‘I don’t want to go back there because I think everybody is going to be talking about me,’” says Mansell.
The massive outpouring of support on Facebook took Mansell by surprise. “I never thought it would become something like this,” she says.
Cady and her sister started in a new Catholic school this week. Prior to enrolling the girls there, Mansell says she had a conversation with school officials about Cady wearing suits. Mansell says the response was positive. “They’ve been a blessing to us,” she says, adding that the principal “is so understanding and empathetic to Cady’s story.”
As for Communion, Mansell says that since the Facebook post went viral, numerous priests and pastors have reached out to say they would give Cady her First Communion.