August Rapp Up

Families of SJA,

What an amazing month it has been here at the Academy! After a long summer of working hard in a mostly-empty building, the energy and enthusiasm of our teachers and students has breathed new life into me and the rest of our administrative team here. From the two-day Leadership Summit for our senior captains the first week of August, to the week of preparation we did as a staff that following week, to regathering as a community during High School 101, I have been reminded every day why I love this place so much. The Spirit is alive in this building!

I know I’m not the only one who experiences this. Hopefully you have as a parent. I think our students do on a regular basis. I know our staff members speak of this often. Even a former professor of mine who came to visit during one of our regular school days last week emailed me later, saying we are an “impressive school with a clear culture and ‘feel’…Very welcoming and caring environment.”

He was only here for half an hour. I get to be here every day!

His unsolicited comments echo what I hear so often from people who come here, whether for their first time or their hundredth. But amidst the joys of returning to this place, there is a heaviness as well. Our sister Samantha Branson is still battling pancreatic cancer and cannot yet return to the classroom. Please join us in prayer that her scan next month leads to a new treatment plan that could allow her to come back, at least part time. It’s just not the same without her smile in these halls or hearing her passion in the classroom. There are many other families and students who are coming back with their own health battles as well, whether those be mentally, physically, or spiritually.

Of course, we also return under the dark cloud of the abuse scandal in the news again. The anger, shame, and fear that accompanies the stories of evil visited upon children and families from some of those who were called to protect them are palpable. In a place where our mission is to pass on the Catholic faith, it is so disheartening to fight not only a popular culture that often attacks our faith, but also, as Archbishop Naumann said in his statement, the self-inflicted wounds “of our collective failure in the past to protect innocent victims from unspeakable misconduct.”

However, if last year reminded us of anything, it’s that “no one fights alone.” Our adults walk with the students each day, whatever the road ahead may look like. For many, that has simply meant celebrating a new start and sharing stories of the joys of summer. For some, that has required navigating personal struggles and challenges during the rush of newness at the start of school. For all of our students, it has included creating a safe environment in their theology classes to process the scandal and ask questions, to figure out how what they are seeing in the news fits with what we tell them about who God is and why His Church exists, in addition to educating them on how to keep themselves safe and what systems are in place to protect children here at St. James and in our Archdiocese. I encourage you to ask your children about those conversations and about what the start of the year has been like for them.

This month has been a snapshot of why God gives us community. He never asks us to navigate life’s ups and downs on our own, but rather places Himself in our midst through prayer and the sacraments and moves us to connect each other to Him through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

As Jesus says in John 12:46, “I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.” The light of Christ, that light from the dawn of creation, still lives in this world. It still lives in our Church. We see that light and feel its warmth in the hearts of your children. And it helps dispel the darkness that abounds.

This year’s seniors chose “Come as You Are” for their theme, and it couldn’t be more fitting for the start of this year. Whether students came excited or scared, certain or confused, on-fire or burnt-out, we are so glad they are here! I know the adults in this building are very aware of the privilege it is to be with them, to know and love them, and to walk together through their years here at St. James. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with, and you couldn’t find better mentors for your children! They are truly amazing.

Thanks for a great start to the year, and thanks for sharing your children with us!

Your brother in Christ,