Shown here is The Immaculate Heart of Mary School Marching Band of Still River performing at the 2011 Harvard Memorial Day Parade.
Shown here is The Immaculate Heart of Mary School Marching Band of Still River performing at the 2011 Harvard Memorial Day Parade. (Nashoba Publishing file photo/Mary Arata)

STILL RIVER - The Worcester Saint Patrick's Day Parade stepped off Sunday under clear skies. Though they were originally scheduled to march in the annual event, the Immaculate Heart of Mary School from Still River was not part of the procession.

Band Director Brother Peter Mary told WBZ Radio that the school withdrew from the Sunday event on Saturday when learning they were to be marching with a pro-choice politician, Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Stephen Kerrigan of Lancaster.

Kerrigan was a former aide to late Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy. As the band's sponsor for the parade, Kerrigan was financing the band's entry fee into the parade.

Brother Peter said the school made a last minute decision upon being notified by a student's parent of Kerrigan's pro-choice stance. Brother Peter said the parade organizers knew the school would not partner with sponsors with incompatible beliefs.

The Worcester Telegram and Gazette reports that parade committee chairman Stephen Trainor said with enough advance notice, the school band could have been partnered with another sponsor. "It's not that easy at 9 o'clock on a Saturday night." Trainor said schools were notified weeks prior of their assigned sponsors.

Brother Peter told WBZ that the students were informed of the reason at Sunday mass and understood the situation. "They know they are in a Catholic school and they know that demands certain things."

"If you actually say you are a Catholic, you actually believe what the Catholic Church teaches," said Brother Peter. He told WBZ it was not a matter of being intolerant of other viewpoints.

"We're not intolerant because we reach out to these people," Brother Mary told WBZ. "But in an official capacity, there has to be some type of line or else people don't know the difference between error and truth or morality and immorality, or any particular thing that would put them in a state of compromise where we want to actually help them to save their soul or become better or more virtuous citizens of this country and of the church."