It’s been an emotional week for this veteran Ignatian educator—in all the best ways. From last Saturday’s rain-and spirit-soaked Pilgrimage to Tuesday morning’s faculty and staff meeting, during which I announced that this will be my last year as Principal of Jesuit, my senses have been flooded by a panoply of emotional flavors and colors.
Pride in the remarkable seniors of the Class of 2022, who have already proven themselves worthy of the task of revivifying the relationships and respect that define the Jesuit High community.
Nostalgia, as I gazed Tuesday morning on 140 beloved colleagues with whom I have worked and played, laughed and cried over the past 27 years.
Consolation, the fruit of a long, prayerful discernment regarding my future.
Joy, as hundreds of students streamed around Mary’s Way at Tuesday’s Club Fair, exploring their passions and dreaming of brand-new high school experiences.
Hilarity, as Thursday’s spirit assembly’s musical chairs game led to cream pies applied with firmness but great love to the faces of favorite teachers and administrators.
This year, we have been led by our seniors as they create a future filled with hope. Even in the face of driving wind, rain, thunder and lightning on the Pilgrimage, our seniors leaned in and journeyed on, bearers of hope and light. At Saturday night’s Mass in St. Francis Xavier Church, as the Chamber Choir sang “Shelter Your Name” to their rapt classmates, I found myself again on the verge of tears.
When those 240 seniors exploded in a standing ovation that rocked that ancient sanctuary, the tears came freely. Everyone in that sacred space recognized a holy moment, infused with the Holy Spirit, which Fr. Pat Conroy amplified by challenging these seniors to take the gift they are to one another out into this broken world.
And that was just the last bit of Saturday. All that day, for 12 miles, we walked together in the sun and rain, sharing stories and resolving to transform a masked-up year into one of transparency and trust. The seniors vowed to gird themselves against the virus and the other contagions of the age, to be bearers of hope and love.
As I prepared for my announcement on Tuesday morning, I was reminded of my own teenage years, at my Jesuit high school. For 40 years, I have been trying to repay a debt of gratitude for my high school teachers’ compassion to me. And the more I try to repay, the more I receive. The more I owe. If you are interested, here are my comments to the faculty.
This coming Sunday, September 26, we will journey together once again. 150 or so Jesuit students will join 300-400 of their friends from the Catholic high schools in Portland for the Walk and Mass for Joy, a fundraiser for the Children’s Cancer Association. We walk for all those kids who are stuck in the hospital, tied up by IV tubes and wishing so desperately that they could be walking down the road with their friends.
Before the Walk even begins, these amazing, inspiring young people have already blown the roof off of all previous fundraising records from the past 22 years.
And so, my heart swells, and my eyes well, as I once again marvel at the idealism and goodness of these young people with whom I have had the privilege to travel, lo, these many years. May God continue to guide them as they make their way in this world. Our students are our most resilient and promising bearers of hope in a world so hungry for that elusive gift.
Paul J. Hogan