May Rapp Up

C.S. Lewis says that if you want proof that we were made for eternity, just listen to how we talk about time. We are never quite comfortable in it; it’s either flying by or dragging on, frighteningly fast or painfully slow. No one ever says, “Today/This week/This year seemed to pass by at an appropriate and consistent pace from beginning to end.” It always feels a bit off.

This is when we all talk about how quickly the year went. We spent the last few weeks celebrating these most recent graduates, culminating in a beautiful and joyous baccalaureate Mass and commencement, and, call me eternal, but it truly is hard to believe that those four years have now come to a close.

There was plenty to celebrate with this class. Just this spring they helped lead our programs to state championships in girls’ track and girls’ soccer on a wild and rainy Memorial Day weekend. These titles were in addition to a third-place finish in baseball, four top-ten finishes in state events for girls’ swim, a boys’ golf state performance that was their lowest team score of the year, and a Tier Two state championship for our rugby team! Along with qualifying five students to nationals in forensics and hosting incredible band and choir concerts, our students, led by these seniors, continue to glorify God in so many ways.

These graduates may also be the most academically decorated class we have ever had. While there were many individual accomplishments worth celebrating, this stat captures the depth of achievement in this group: 59 of the 208 seniors scored a 30 or higher on the ACT. That’s almost 30% of the class! This includes two perfect scores (for reference, we had only had one perfect score prior to this year) and what we believe will be the highest average composite score for any graduating class from SJA (the official report from ACT comes out in October).

It was truly a special group, and we will miss having them in our halls.

But in the midst of all these celebrations, we also mourned the passing of an alumnus. Dylan Garnett, class of 2017, died in a car accident on May 14th. The shock of his death was felt by many of our staff, students, and parents. Dylan and his family, including two older brothers who graduated from SJA, have been deeply embedded in our community for a long time.

Dylan’s death has been on my mind quite a bit. The tragedy of his death and the hole that leaves in our community is heartbreaking. And while understanding or trying to explain the intricacies of God’s will in such situations is better left to those holier and more intelligent than I, we can at least acknowledge the light that the Lord has brought forth in this darkness.

In the papers, at his funeral, and in conversations with various people, I’ve heard so many stories of Dylan’s impact on the people around him. The themes are consistent: people were inspired by how he lived his faith with joy and passion, by his infectious smile and missionary heart. These stories have been a gift and a grace to me, as I hope they have been to his family and friends. In the midst of the sorrow surrounding our loss of him here, it became apparent just how much of him remains, how the union of his heart to Christ’s and embracing his own holiness allows him to remain here, not only in memory, but, we trust, as a part of the communion of saints.

Among all the celebrations this month, it was the celebration of his life that reminded me most of why we’re here at SJA. The way Dylan lived his life was in so many ways what we hope for each of our students: a life marked by joy, rooted in prayer and the sacraments, with a heart, as Pope Francis says, “filled with faces and names.” It reminded me that, while tests can be important, God will not ask any of our students what their ACT scores were, but perhaps will ask only about what St. Augustine calls the “weight of our love.”

Mr. Tylicki spoke to our students about Dylan at our last all-school Mass of the year. He called them to look at Dylan’s life as a model for what God can do through them if they are open to Him, as an example of how they can build God’s kingdom now, as teenagers, and how He can enrich their lives if they do.
He tied it to the theme our juniors chose for next year: “Made for More.” That theme reminds us that we are made for more than the sorrow of this “vale of tears,” that there is a life beyond this that gives us purpose and hope even in the darkest times. It reminds us that we are missionary disciples, that we each have a calling and unrepeatable purpose to be lived in this moment and in our context, that we are not here just to get a degree or make money, but to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to do God’s will in each moment. And it reminds us that we are called to excellence, that “the world offers you comfort, but…you were made for greatness” (Pope Benedict XVI).

Continue to join us in prayer for the Garnetts and for Dylan’s friends. Pray also for our graduates as they embark on the next step of their lives, that they can continue to carry the excellence that they demonstrated here out into the world around us. And pray for me and my family, as we get ready to welcome Baby Rapp #4 next month!
Know that I will be praying for all of you this summer as well. Thanks for another great year at the Academy!

Your brother in Christ,