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Christopher Keavy

We Are Blessed

Happy Thanksgiving!

I write thankful to God for the many gifts that 2020 has shown the St. John Paul II High School and St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School community. 

We are blessed.

We are blessed with generous benefactors who help JPII/SFXP families keep the faith, supportive families whose kind words keep spirits up, patient students, our raison d’etre, whose half-covered faces inspire, and dedicated teachers and staff members, the epitomes of mission amidst fear and uncertainty.

We are blessed.

In 1863, amid civil war, President Lincoln made permanent our national day of Thanksgiving, writing thusly:

 “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.” 

2020 has been challenging, yet as in 1863, the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God does not fail. You are a blessing to the St. John Paul II High School and St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School community. Thank you for all you do.

Chris

He Did What Was Given Him To Do

Pope John Paul II High School’s first day of school – September 4, 2007 – was a culmination as much as a beginning. The long, circuitous path to the Cape’s first Catholic high school required generous volunteers capable of faith in things unseen and endowed with good humor. At a critical time in 2005, former Barnstable Superintendent Ed Tynan, rich in these qualities, stepped in as the first Education Director and kept the project on track while the Fall River Diocese searched for the school’s first principal. Ed and his wife Muriel are members of the school’s Totus Tuus Society, which recognizes the school’s most faithful friends. 

Ed Tynan died on Saturday. Read here: https://www.ccgfuneralhome.com/obit/edward-j.-tynan 

I met Ed when I arrived from Ohio and liked him instantly. He was funny, faithful, and given to do what was his to do. After turning things over, Ed supported me and the school 100%, and I considered him a friend and ally. Since learning of Ed’s passing, I’ve chuckled more than once re-reading Ed’s messages to me. Rest in peace.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

 

Totally Yours

Each Fall, we host an evening leadership reception at the Hyannis Yacht Club when we recognize and welcome new members of the Totus Tuus Society. ‘Totus Tuus’ was the apostolic motto of our high school’s namesake, St. John Paul II, and its meaning (“totally yours”) evokes the dedication of the Society’s members to advancing the school’s mission. It is a privilege to speak for the school in thanking our most steadfast friends.

This year, COVID-concerns have scuttled the leadership reception at HYC, and so I especially wish to acknowledge — virtually — those whose support is significant and longstanding. View Society membership.

 

 

 

For Everything There is a Season

As a Catholic school administrator since 2002, I’d hoped against hope to make it through my career without the pain of a school closure. The Lord saw things differently, and today we marked out final school day at St. Margaret School.

I shared the following remarks as the Closing Mass this morning:

Good morning, I am grateful that you are here, and we are together to mark this passage; the final day of continuous education at St. Margaret School.  

I look out and see teachers, staff members, alumni, parents of alumni, friends –you who are and you who have made St. Margaret School. Thank you for standing in witness to our final day today. 

I won’t –can’t — summarize the impact that St. Margaret School has had since 1994. Thousands of students and families, hundreds of teachers, staff members, and administrators have contributed to millions of interactions large and small that have started young people on their lifetime journeys of kindness, love, and faithfulness. These many, many interactions brought our mission to life in your capable hearts and hands. Recently, I shared the sadness of our beloved school’s closure with a trusted colleague, who wrote, “So much is lost in ways that are difficult to articulate – just a whole reality that is unique, like a person.  Perhaps all schools are living beings with a certain span; some are like giant ocean turtles that live centuries, and others as evanescent as butterflies. But each has unique beauty.”

Do the words “unique beauty” ring true to you when thinking of St. Margaret School? 

Might we picture our school as a butterfly — colorful, lively, joyful — yet fleeting? 

The truth is nothing – save the Lord – is permanent. Job tells us that the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. So that is what we have to do; know the fleeting nature of all things, see St. Margaret School as the gift that it has been, and bless the name of the Lord. 

Our school life ends with Holy Mass, when it is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give Him thanks. Thanks to Him for St. Margaret School, for the gift of one another and the beautiful children, for the love we have shared, and for our future not yet known. 

At the conclusion of Mass today, all of our staff members will receive a framed print of this original drawing of St. Margaret School, made by a professional artist and friend of Cape Catholic schools. Additional prints are available for each Mass attendee today at your request, outside the main entrance after Mass.

JPII Loses a Good Friend

Shawn and Carolyn O’Callaghan first visited Pope John Paul II High School during our inaugural year, 2007-2008, seeking to help students afford a Catholic education. From 2008 and every year since, the O’Callaghan’s have given faithfully for student scholarships.

Shawn O’Callaghan died last week, on February 4, 2020. Read about Shawn’s life here.

More than simply donors, Shawn and Carolyn enjoyed meeting the students they were supporting, checking on their progress, and providing kind encouragement. I would see Shawn and Carolyn at school concerts, plays, and events. Shawn was gentle, kind, and funny; he liked JPII, liked young people, and wanted to be of service.

Yesterday’s Gospel reading calls disciples to be ‘salt of the earth.’ That Shawn O’Callaghan was. Salt of the earth. May he rest in peace.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Results Are In

The College Board recently released final performance results from the SAT for the class of 2019. Again this year, JPII’s Class of 2019 outperformed national averages and Massachusetts averages. This continues a trend that JPII students have achieved since 2014.

While numbers don’t tell the whole story, they matter. We’ll keep focusing our efforts on maximizing each and every student’s college opportunities, including their numbers. Beyond this, current seniors (Class of 2020) took the SAT in October, during the school day, and at school expense. Of the 66 seniors who tested, 50 improved their scores. No doubt that the comfort, convenience, and familiarity of school-day testing aided in these gains.

This is Fun

Often, my 45-minute daily sliver of teaching Introduction to Western Philosophy is the high point of the day. This year, an especially small (five-person!), talented class allows us to push further into primary sources. Recently, I asked for their intellectual interests, in the form of “Fill in the blank: I’m interested in the philosophy of…” Students came through with some cool answers.

I then selected primary source readings that each student will read and discuss with me, then present in seminar discussion for their peers. These are no easy readings, as you can see:

  • Sleep: Aristotle’s On Dreams (350 BCE)
  • Mathematics: Whitehead and Russell, Principia Mathematica (1910) [excerpts]
  • Perception and Reality: Bishop Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) [excerpts]
  • Freedom: Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism (1946)
  • Artificial Intelligence: Alan Turing, Computer Machinery and Intelligence (1950)

Reading and student-led discussions will take place weekly through December. This is fun!

 

 

Blaine from Maine

There are several high-profile, charged cases set to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court this year. But one, cited in this New York Times preview, is of particular interest to Catholic schools.

Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue tests the state’s ability to exclude religious schools from state aid available to all children. The U.S. Catholic Bishops signed an amicus brief which puts the question this way:

Does it violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause to invalidate a generally available and religiously neutral student-aid program simply because the program affords students the choice of attending religious schools and on the basis of a state-law provision that singles out religious schools for adverse treatment?

Or, can there be any state aid for students and families attending religious schools?

Fairness dictates “yes,” but history is not on our side. At the height of ant-Catholic sentiment in 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant gave a speech stating that state and federal governments should not “support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford to every child growing up in the land the opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan or atheistical dogmas.” In 19th-century America, “sectarian” typically meant Catholic. And “dogmas” speaks for itself. These sentiments led to the so-called Blaine amendments found in states such as Montana — and Massachusetts — that prohibit even the most common-sense funding for students in religious schools.

Should the Montana Supreme Court action be upheld, it will be a blow to students and families seeking basic fairness from the state while attending religious schools.