FRIDLEY, Minn. - For 18 years teaching Religion and English at Totino-Grace High School was a dream job for Kristen Ostendorf.
"The work I did at Totino-Grace I loved and I felt like it was the work I was supposed to be doing," Ostendorf said Wednesday night.
She loved educating in the Catholic school setting above all else she said.
So much so, she kept for years, her truth about herself, silent.
"Unfortunately it was easy for me to make sort of a separate peace with myself," Ostendorf said.
Silent about being gay was a palatable exchange for Kristen she said until this past summer when Totino-Grace High School President Dr. Bill Hudson resigned when the school board learned he was in a same-sex relationship.
"There comes a point when the internal struggle and the reality of the work I was doing is too much," Ostendorf said of that time.
Without thinking Kristen said she stood up at a faculty staff meeting last month and told the truth.
"I heard myself saying most of you know I'm gay and I'm in a relationship with a woman," she recalled of that fateful August 21st meeting.
That sentence would seal her fate.
"To say out loud I'm gay and I'm in a relationship those are the eight words that are a problem. It is speaking against the Catholic teaching publicly and that is grounds for dismissal," she reflected.
Kristen says she was called by the school president the next day and asked if she wanted to resign.
Kristen said she refused.
"I can't resign. I don't think that telling the truth should cost me my job," she said.
Kristen said the school president then told her she had worked her last day at Totino-Grace.
Now, Kristen said she thinks about the students.
"The kids who are gay in Catholic schools always concern me. I worry about what my silence for all these years has said," Kristen said.
But she also hopes her actions speak louder than her previous silence.
"Maybe standing up and saying the truth knowing that it would cost me my job speaks louder than the fact that it did cost me my job."
So far Totino-Grace has not publicly said they have fired Ostendorf, nor have they said she resigned.
This is the official statement they provided on the matter on Wednesday.
"Ms. Kristen Ostendorf was a valuable member of the Totino-Grace community for 18 years as a campus minister, English teacher and coach. We are thankful for the work that Ms. Ostendorf has done at Totino-Grace, and we know that she has touched many students' lives. We wish her well.
Leaving a place of employment is a private matter between an employer and employee and because of that, we cannot share more information about her departure from Totino-Grace.
Like all Catholic schools and organizations, Totino-Grace follows the teachings of the Church and the employment policies of the Archdiocese."
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