When my mom died after a long battle with cancer on this date 40 years ago, the Jesuits of Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL, where I was a high school sophomore, showed up, as did my teachers and classmates. They carried me through the next 2 ½ years. That experience is why I became a teacher at a Jesuit school.
When the incandescent Ruby Gray '17 passed away in her sleep four years ago, also on March 25, this Jesuit community also showed up. Among the first people that JHS English teacher and Ruby's mom Michele Gray called that terrible Good Friday morning was JHS Campus Minister Don Clarke. The Jesuits, and our community, rallied around the Gray family. We gathered first in the Knight Gym for an Easter Monday prayer service. Then on "Ruby Tuesday," our students transformed our campus into a canvas bedecked in flowers and hearts and messages of Easter Hope.
I am reminded of all that today, as we sit scattered, deep in the mystery of the coronavirus and the Passion of the Christ, realizing that the road will get much grimmer before we come to the Rising. But we will walk this road together.
My wife Jennifer and I come from big families. Together, we have 22 nieces and nephews and 35 "greats." But in the past few years, I have come to realize that I am part of a much, much bigger family.
Sixty-four members of the current JHS staff have had children attend Jesuit. Eighteen more are JHS alums, many with kids too young for high school, but devoted members of the Sader Nation. We have close to 10,000 alums, many of whom consider Jesuit their spiritual home, the place where they encountered the living God and came to know that He loves us. Every celebration and every loss that impacts one member of this family has invisible reverberations along a web of transmission that makes me tremble with emotion every time we get a call alerting us that a member of the Jesuit family has important news to share.
Already in 2020, I have attended three funerals of JHS alums, parents, and grandparents. This year, Fathers Couture and Calderón, SJ have presided at numerous weddings, baptisms, and funerals for members of the Jesuit family. On February 25, our varsity soccer teams served as an honor guard at the funeral of legendary Timber and Jesuit parent Jimmy Conway. Three weeks later, after the world shifted on its axis, Jimmy's granddaughter Storm McGraw '22 is organizing a mask and hospital-gown-sewing project for a Beaverton nursing home, as we all seek to do something during the coronavirus crisis.
But how do we make sense of such moments? Where do we find God amid the suffering, the anxiety, the loneliness? How can we maintain the Jesuit community, the Jesuit family, when we are physically isolated from one another?
In moments of crisis, our community reveals its true strength. "The Jesuit community" is not a catchphrase; it is a reality and a receptacle of the Holy Spirit. We saw that in both the stabbing pain and glorious colors of Ruby Tuesday. We see it every Friday at Mass, on every Encounter, and in myriad manifestations of strength and connection. See, for example, the fortitude of Coach Colin Griffin's baseball team.
Witness this resolve in Storm's and senior Manavi Thakur's projects for Maryville and Blanchet House, respectively. Consider sophomores Jenny Duan and Angie Cao's efforts on behalf of local kids who do not have access to remote learning. Jenny sent me this note two days ago, reminding me once again that when the going gets tough, Jesuit students get going.
At Jesuit, Jenny has come to realize that not only are we members of the Jesuit family, but of the human family. We are all created in the image of a loving God, who reveals His face in different ways to different members of the human community. But we don't always see God in one another, especially when we look "foreign" to one another, as Jenny mentions in her note.
As we see in this account of this year's magnificent Multicultural Week, two weeks ago, Jesuit students celebrated their cultures and challenged each other to rise above the human tendency toward tribalism. Reading Shawna Muckle's articles in jesuitnews.com, we understand that far beyond the colorful outfits and fantastic dances of MC Week, some Jesuit students endure pain simply because of their ethnicity, heritage, or religion—a tragic, atavistic element of the human condition from which the Jesuit family is not immune.
I acknowledged this pain, and suggested to students ways we can overcome it, in my comments at the opening of Multicultural Week.
As we move through Lent, we are called to deep reflection and repentance, to alms-giving and to prayer. As we travel the hard road of the coronavirus crisis, we have faith that the Christ who rose at Easter, who confused and then enlightened His disciples on the road to Emmaus, will shake us free from our confusion and open our eyes to this truth: We are family. We need one another, as we keep faith that there is a Light that will overcome the Darkness.
Paul J. Hogan