- Student Life
God is nothing if not consistent.
When He wants to give a message to His people, He usually sends it in a variety of ways through a variety of means to a variety of people. He tries to make sure that we can’t miss it.
When our students chose “Be not afraid: No one fights alone!” as our theme, they were actually joining a chorus of “themes” throughout the Catholic Church in America. In July, there was a convocation of Catholic leaders in Orlando, Florida, that included every cardinal, bishop, and archbishop in the United States, as well as many other clergy and lay persons from all different kinds of ministries. Their focus was “The Joy of the Gospel,” a phrase appropriated from Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation by the same title (Evangelii Gaudium in Latin).
When I first read Evangelii Gaudium, I was personally very moved by much of its content. The Holy Father’s vision of evangelization and missionary discipleship, of taking on the “smell of the sheep” (para. 24), of making the Church (and by extension, our school) “a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel” (para. 114) was both challenging and exciting to me. He put into words so much of what I knew had been a part of the vision of our school from the beginning and what we were working so hard to maintain and develop as we grew.
So seeing that all of our shepherds in this country got together to talk about this was encouraging to me. Even more so were the updates and summaries of the convocation that I heard from people like Mrs. Nearmyer and Mr. D’Amico who were blessed to represent our archdiocese there. Recently, the archdiocese hosted this same event in miniature for our diocese, bringing together the leaders of our schools, parishes, and ministries to have those same conversations at a local level, another edifying sign of the unity of this message.
One of the main points of each of these dialogues has been how to reach what Pope Francis refers to as “the peripheries,” those who are disenfranchised, disengaged, or disposed of by our culture and society.
St. James was intentionally designed in so many ways to avoid leaving anyone on the peripheries of our school. The structure of our House system, the fact that over 95% of our students last year were in a sport or activity (not including clubs), the way our academic programming tries to cover the entire gamut of learning levels: all of this was done with an eye towards keeping all as one, a community rooted in Christ, united by the Holy Spirit, pointed toward the Father.
However, as we grow, the Holy Spirit is constantly posing this question to us: who is on the peripheries of our school? How do we serve them and help them know the love of Jesus? And perhaps just as importantly, how do we prepare each of our students to reach those on the peripheries of our society at large? How do we help prepare these future leaders of the Church to be an evangelizing community that “gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others” (para. 24). These are the challenging questions that our administration, teachers, and student leaders continuously ask.
These are also the kinds of questions that will never be fully answered for our school, our Church, or our country, because the challenges and opportunities which we face are dynamic and fluid.
However, it brings me great comfort knowing that our students chose the theme that they did, because the Holy Spirit is prompting them, just as He is all the other leaders of our Church, to make sure no one is in the spiritual battle alone, to make sure that all have a companion on their journey back to our Heavenly Father and that the Joy of the Gospel can replace the fear that is so often prevalent in our society.
I write about this because I want to ask for three things. The first is that you will join us in prayer. As we seek to find ways to more fully live out our mission as a school and the Pope’s vision for our Church in our little corner of Kansas, pray that all of our administration, faculty, staff, students, and parents will remain open to the movements of the Spirit, to those little promptings He sends that tell us to whom He is calling us to reach out and how to go about doing that.
The second is that you will talk to your children. Ask them who they think is “on the peripheries,” who they think might need a friend, who God has prompted to call this weekend or sit with at lunch or talk to in the halls.
The third is that you continue this conversation with me! Our next “Coffee with the Principal” is Monday, November 6th, immediately following 8:00 Mass, and the topic is our school’s charism of “One.” I hope to see some of you there! As always, thanks for the gift of your children and the opportunity to share this gift of community with you.
Your brother in Christ,