Former JHS Principal Fr. Fran Stiegeler, S.J. (1994-98), has a favorite saying: “A ship in the harbor is safe; but that’s not what ships are for!” I think an analogous saying would be: “Jesuit High School has a beautiful campus. But that beauty is lost if there are no students and faculty, players and coaches, parents and alumni to enjoy its benefits of providing an environment for the many aspects of a Jesuit Education.”
We have all been living in a strange new world for the past two months, and we do not know how much longer this unfamiliar setting will set the context for our lives, both in and out of school. I think that there has not been so much uncertainty at Jesuit High since the threat of closure in the 1973-74 school year.
This issue of our magazine demonstrates that the educational process continues, no matter what. Students and teachers transferred to online learning, almost seamlessly, because the school had been preparing for this possibility to arise—which it did, sooner than we expected. We have learned this new way of connecting, but both students and teachers miss the dynamic of the daily back-and-forth that occurs in a classroom face-to-face. A Zoom meeting isn’t quite the same experience.
Our families, our benefactors, and our alumni have continued their support of our educational mission. The PACE Auction was forced to “go virtual,” and as a result, the number of participants was greater than those we could have accommodated in the gymnasium for that event. And connecting “online” made for an energized sense of sharing in the atmosphere of celebration. We know that our alumni are involved in many activities and occupations that are engaging the new circumstances of our lives, changed by the coronavirus. The creativity of our alumni and of our current students has been showing up in facing the challenges of this pandemic.
Our graduating senior class faces a challenge that no class before them has encountered. How do you graduate “virtually?” The school planned several activities to enhance the conclusion of their high school years and their transition to college—a transition that is just as ambiguous with as many unknowns. The memories of their senior year will be unique. I would like to acknowledge and commiserate with their sense of loss, but I also want to encourage their sense of hope for the future as they transition to the next stage of life. I pray that Jesuit High School has been able to support the seniors through the ambiguity of a lived experience for which none of us had a “manual of directions” to guide us. We were making it up as we traveled along this unfamiliar road together. And we must stay connected as we move forward.
Many of our Summer School programs have been canceled for this year; others will be held online. Some of the summer projects for campus renewal have already begun because of the absence of students and faculty. We are already preparing for classes to resume in the fall, although we know that some operating guidelines may be different because of continuing health concerns. We proceed forward, hoping for the best. With that sense of hope, I offer the following prayer as we continue to connect in ways new and old:
by Laura Kelly Fanucci
When this is over,
may we never again take for granted
A handshake with a stranger, full shelves at a store,
Conversations with neighbors, a crowded theater,
Friday night out, the taste of Communion,
A routine checkup, the school rush each morning,
Coffee with a friend, the stadium roaring,
Each deep breath, a boring Tuesday, Life itself.
When this ends,
may we find
that we have become more like the people
we wanted to be,
we were called to be,
we hoped to be;
And may we stay that way—
better for each other, because of the worst.
By Rev. Ed Harris, S.J., Alumni Chaplain