We have just wrapped up a terrific first semester of the 2018-19 school. December brought an amazing Mass of Christmas Anticipation, as we prepared for the birth of the King of the Universe in a straw manger. Our students delivered food to 375 families and our alums 1700 through our twin Christmas food drives. On January 12, we finished Semester 1 in style, as dads and daughters got their dance groove on at the Hilton. We kicked off Semester 2 with the Freshman Overnight Retreat at Camp Solomon Schecter; we are off and running once again!
On Thursday, January 24, 2019, we held a joyous assembly, celebrating the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Students and staff agreed that "At the Table with Dr. King" was the most illuminating, educational, and engaging all-school program so far this year. The multimedia presentation featured clips of some of Dr. King's most famous speeches, Gospel music, historical narratives, personal reflections, and audience participation.
One of the most memorable parts of the assembly came when a small group of student volunteers started to march around the Knight Gym with 1960s-era signs calling for universal voting rights and an end to segregation, reenacting a key part of the struggle for universal civil rights in the US.
Slowly, a trickle of other students joined them. After about 30 seconds, the entire student body began to flow out of the bleachers in a show of solidarity for "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." This organic outpouring reminded us how movements like the struggle for civil rights come to life. As anthropologist Margaret Mead asserted, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
In remembering Dr. King, one of the speakers said that while we will not all end up with monuments and national holidays in our honor, we can all make a difference. In the speaker's case, his life was changed by a friendly fellow student who invited him to sit at his lunch table on his first day at a new school. Through such seemingly small acts, students can create a true community where "a profound sense of justice founded in love" prevails, as the JHS mission statement professes.
Of course, as uplifting as Thursday's celebration was, it also reminded us of the complexity of America's racial history. In November of 2018, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops published a powerful pastoral letter on race in America.
The bishops remind us that such pastoral letters are quite rare. In it, they explicitly call upon "Catholic schools to develop curricula relating to racism and reconciliation. ..." (26). The bishops also mention Dr. King by name: "Ecumenical and interreligious cooperation has been pivotal at key moments in our history, for instance, in the abolition of slavery and during the civil rights era. The leadership of the civil rights movement, especially that of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., invited ecumenical and interreligious cooperation, as was seen when Catholics, Protestants, and Jews marched together" (28-29).
At Mass on Friday, January 25, Fr. Pat Couture, SJ, did a brilliant job of connecting the conversion that Dr. King called for with the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. Jesus appeared to Saul and called him to open his heart, stop persecuting the early Christians, and begin to spread the Good News.
Even as we focus on classes and ballgames and plays and concerts, we will continue to respond to the issues of the day, as St. Paul, the US Bishops, Dr. King, and Fr. Couture have all called us to do, "with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time." We invite parents and alums to join in this sacred work. In so doing, we may get a few steps closer to the Promised Land, together.
Paul J. Hogan