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Jesuit High School

Principal's Blog

In this blog, Principal Paul Hogan will regularly share with us his insights and observations. We hope you enjoy Paul's posts!

An Epiphany

On January 6, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Right after Mass that day, my senior English students learned that an epiphany with a small “e” is “a sudden, intuitive insight into the essential meaning of an event, or the manifestation of a divinity” (Merriam Webster).

In literary terms, an epiphany is a moment in the story when the hero comes to a new awareness, especially of her own life’s path. In other words, an epiphany is when the divine breaks through into our human existence, and we begin to see what our real purpose is on this earth.

St. Ignatius, like the Magi, experienced a few moments of intense illumination in which he discovered that the purpose of his life was to follow Christ by serving others, especially the poor and friendless. As followers of Ignatius, we too are called to pilgrimage, like the magi, seeking Christ in what Mr. John Guyol, SJ called in his Epiphany homily “lowly places, like the barn where Christ was born, in a small province of the Roman Empire that no one cared about.”

This Christmas season, I had my own epiphany regarding Jesuit High School. Most high schools measure their “success” via test scores, graduation rates, college attendance, and other metrics of student achievement.

This Christmas, however, different measures of Jesuit’s mission appeared via some nasty weather, which sent our usual Christmas celebrations astray. The inspiring response of our students and alumni to the Christmas Food Drive in the face of old man winter revealed a deep and authentic commitment to being men and women for others. At this year’s twin food drives, we discovered that our slogan is not just a slogan, but a way of life for our students.

The angst of our students and young alumni when we canceled the Mass of Christmas Anticipation was powerful. Their real sadness at the loss of this chance to gather as a community to celebrate Christ’s birth into the world shone a light on our school’s “success” in making the table of the Lord the real center of our school.

That so many students and young alums chose to come for the optional Epiphany Mass reinforced that revelation. A Mass like the one we had on Friday just does not happen anywhere else. When Anna Wanner and Shanda Kish sang “O Holy Night” and the Knight Center lit up with stars held by hundreds of students, my Christmas epiphany was complete: We had indeed encountered God, come to dwell among us. And He appeared in what many might consider a most unexpected place: a high school gym on the western edge of the US, in one of the more unchurched regions in the country.

But we know better. For that magi(c) moment at the Epiphany Mass was not our first experience of the divine at Jesuit High School, nor will it be the last. In his homily on Friday, Mr. Guyol concluded his brilliant explication of the similarities between Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan and the magi who came to find Jesus with these words:

“Both the magi and the Jesuits in Silence (a book by Shūsaku Endō and new film by Martin Scorcese) went on their journeys with companions… (because) to attempt to find God alone is a frightful and failing endeavor. That is why Jesus sent the apostles to spread the Good News in pairs. Even Jesus, when preaching and healing, did so with companions. This is how we are meant to find God, with others. It is one of the reasons why I joined the Jesuits, and why I love this community here at Jesuit High—our real sense of being together on mission.

“So, as this Christmas season comes to an end, I encourage all of us to ask ourselves some important questions. Where do we look for God? In the high places or the low places? Are we willing to find God in the uncomfortable places in our world? Finally, are we doing so with others, in companionship?”

As we celebrate the end of the Christmas season, the answer is as bright and shining and starkly illuminating as the Star of Bethlehem: Yes!

Paul J. Hogan
Posted by etuenge on Sunday January 8
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If You Box It, They Will Come

December 15 will be remembered in the Portland metro area as one of the worst traffic nightmares in decades, as drivers reported commutes of 4, 5, and 6 hours on icy roads.

But Wednesday, December 15 will go down in the annals of Jesuit High School as the launch of a days-long run of Christmas miracles. On Wednesday, as the roads shut down in glaze-covered gridlock, a few dozen JHS students and staff members stuck around school, boxing the mountains of food in the Gedrose Center, under the masterful direction of our Christian Service leaders, Scott Powers and Andrea Casey.

Many students who live far from school ended up at the homes of closer-in friends, and a few families even came back to school Wednesday evening to pack boxes of food and to take home the “orphans of the storm.” By 9:20 pm Wednesday, the last of the students had found refuge for the night, and a few of us decided to crash at school so that we could get back to packing on Thursday morning.

Thursday, December 16 brought the first of the food drive miracles. With school out for a snowday, we weren’t sure if enough drivers would show up to bring the food to 380 needy families. At 8 am, in walked the Porter girls, and they started packing. Molly ’17, Olivia ’20 and mom Michele were the front edge of a tsunami of students, parents, and alums who responded throughout the morning and early afternoon to our call for drivers.

My favorite story from that inspiring day: When seniors Cami Parham, Kylie Rice, Claire Corbitt, and Hannah Malin arrived where they were to deliver food, they headed to apartment number 1 in Building 1. When she saw the boxes brimming with abundance, the elderly resident fought back tears, hugged the girls and said, “I thought I may have signed up, but I couldn’t remember. Bless you, girls!”

Before heading back home, the girls double-checked that they had gone to the right apartment. It turns out, alas, that they had not: they were supposed to deliver at apartment 1 in Building 2! So they headed to Safeway, purchased two boxes of food (with the help of a JHS mom’s debit card!), and delivered the food to the right address. That, folks, is called being “women for others.”

Amazingly enough, we had the Gedrose Center cleared on time for the alumni food drive to move in on Thursday afternoon. The snow and ice, however, had not cleared, and thus new challenges arose: The fork lift needed to lift dozens of pallets of food was stranded on the east side, as were several crucial building blocks of the alumni food boxes (milk, turkeys, potatoes). Gradually, all the food arrived, and the race was on (again!).

If you have never seen the alumni food drive, you are missing one of the man-made wonders of the world. The vast expanse of the Gedrose Center fills with 1800 empty boxes, which need to be filled by hundreds of volunteers.

The next miracle occurred on Friday, December 16. With school again out of session due to icy conditions, heroes of the Jesuit universe again poured onto campus. Says alumni director Kathy Baarts, “Friday was a day of so many miracles. All the food finally got here—and so many people showed up! It never ceases to amaze me the way this community comes together, especially when the chips are down. I was really worried that we would not be able to get the food out to our families. But after the past three days, I now have faith that this community will again show up tomorrow (Saturday) and get the job done!”

So there you have it, JHS: We have one more chance to make the miracle happen. Starting at 7:30 am on Saturday, fueled by pancakes and coffee, the Jesuit community will convene. Four-wheel drives will line up at the flagpole, be filled with food, and head to the four corners of our city to bring sustenance and hope to thousands of our hungry brothers and sisters.

And on Sunday, we rest.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Paul J. Hogan
Posted by etuenge on Saturday December 17, 2016
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