Share this article

print logo

Sacred Heart won’t put gay grad’s wedding news in alumni magazine

Lynn Zlotkowski was married over Memorial Day weekend last year and, like most newlyweds, was so excited she wanted to share news of the joyous occasion with friends.

But when the Sacred Heart Academy graduate sent her wedding announcement and photograph to the school in Amherst for inclusion in its alumni magazine, the submission was rejected.

Zlotkowski, who had married a woman, was told that same-sex marriages could not be placed in Cordecho, the school publication for students, alumni and friends of Sacred Heart.

Zlotkowski, 32 and a member of the Class of ’99, was disappointed.

“I treasure my time at Sacred Heart and feel sad that my school doesn’t feel empowered to support part of their population,” Zlotkowski said during a phone interview from her home in Dedham, Mass.

“I know I am not the only gay alumna Sacred Heart has,” Zlotkowski said. “You can’t just ignore a portion of the people you educated and helped grow into the person they’ve become.”

Zlotkowski received an email response to her wedding announcement request, and while friendly and cordial, it rejected the request for inclusion in the alumni publication.

“I’m very sorry that we can’t publish your pictures and your good news in the Cordecho,” Sister Edith Wyss wrote. “We had a similar request several years ago and we did publish that announcement of the marriage of an alum to her partner. We did expect some negative response and we got some.

“However some readers of the Cordecho also contacted the Diocese of Buffalo. The bishop sent a diocesan official to meet with us at SHA to make sure that we understood what we had done,” Wyss wrote. “In their view, we were publicly supporting same-sex marriage. In our view, we were supporting our alumnae.”

The bottom line, according to Wyss, was that the Cordecho – published three times a year in winter, spring and fall – could not again print news or photos related to same-sex marriage.

Wyss declined to be interviewed for publication, but did return a phone call seeking her comment. The email, she said, was an accurate reflection of her sentiment.

Among the photographs Zlotkowski submitted for publication in Cordecho was one showing fellow graduates of Sacred Heart who attended the wedding reception.

“There was my sister, three of my cousins and four of my good friends,” Zlotkowski said. “As an alumnae, when you get the Cordecho, you fling it open to your class notes and see who’s getting married and who’s having babies.”

Wyss served as Sacred Heart principal from 1989 to 2003. Today, she is the provincial minister of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity at Stella Niagara. The Sisters of St. Francis – a 131-member organization – owns and operates Sacred Heart Academy, according to Wyss.

In her email response, Wyss wished Zlotkowski well.

“Congratulations on your wedding!” Wyss wrote. “The pictures of the SHA girls are wonderful and I recognized everyone 15 years later.

“Though I’m no longer at Sacred Heart, the Sisters of St. Francis sponsor the school and are ultimately responsible for its mission and viability.” Wyss wrote. “I was contacted about your request and since I knew you, I wanted to respond personally. ...

“I hope you can appreciate our predicament,” Wyss concluded in her email. “Know that the current administration of the school and the sisters support you personally and hope for your happiness.”

The News sought response from Bishop Richard J. Malone about the situation, and he issued this statement:

“I am grateful that the leadership of Sacred Heart Academy has done the right thing and has not compromised its Catholic mission and values. While Sacred Heart is not a diocesan school, it is a Catholic school within the diocese, and I have responsibility for Catholic identity there and in every Catholic school, diocesan or not.”

Zlotkowsi married New Hampshire native Lisa Hardej after they met at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., where they both worked as educators.

Zlotkowski, who graduated from Fredonia State College, earned a master’s degree from SUNY Buffalo State. Currently she is an assistant to the dean of Curry College, a private liberal arts school in Milton, Mass., where she counsels struggling students.

Hardej graduated in 2001 from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, earned a bachelor’s degree in 2006 in gender and women’s studies from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and a master’s degree in counseling from Edinboro University in 2011. In 2012, Hardej took a job as academic advisor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

Zlotkowski and Hardej recently purchased a house and own two dogs.

“We filed our federal taxes together. In the eyes of the state and federal governments we are legally married,” said Zlotkowski, who remained disappointed and hopeful.

“I love Sacred Heart,” Zlotkowski said. “I give money to Sacred Heart. I’m excited about the construction they are doing. If I had a daughter and lived in Buffalo, I would send her to Sacred Heart. I’m disappointed that they can’t support me the way that I support them.”

Zlotkowski said she hopes Catholic Church policies will change “now that we have this pope who is more progressive. I hope the other facets of the church can move along with him to a place where hate and intolerance is unacceptable.”