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Christopher Keavy

Commencement Remarks, Class of 2019

Remarks delivered by Mr. Keavy at the school’s ninth Commencement Exercises, 6-4-19.

To the graduates, my hope for you is that, through your formation here and as you move forward, you will see more and more of what’s really going on.

It is said that God comes to us disguised as our lives. For you these past four years, God came to you disguised as your school. He has been with you in your teachers, coaches, friends, and classmates. Especially vividly He has been with you through your friends and classmates. Teaching you to love, to forgive, to will the good for others.

It is easy to view other people as bit players in our own hero’s story. To view them only for how they affect us. We are the stars and they are the supporting cast. Harder to see other people for who they are in their own lives, dreams, and pursuits. Harder still to see them as God does, to see God through them. But God comes to us disguised as our lives and the people in it. As you grow in wisdom and experience, you will more and more see God’s loving care in and through the people in your life.

An example is in order.

Alexa and Dan Paige are the final two of four Paiges that have gone through JPII since 2009. They are siblings, though not biologically so, as Dan was adopted from Korea at a young age and Alexa was adopted from China at age 12. To their classmates and teachers, in many ways, they are quite different. Dan more “snips and snails and puppy dog tails” to Alexa’s “sugar and spice and everything nice.” If one is “helping” Mr. Ernie after the school and the other volunteering in Campus Ministry, well, might not be hard to guess who.

But God comes to us disguised as our lives and the people in it.

Alexa is pure-hearted, caring, and one who makes everyone around her a better person. Last year in Ecuador, we were concerned that Alexa’s appearance — due to her medical condition of albinism and nystagmus — would draw reactions from those unfamiliar and become uncomfortable for her. Instead, while visiting a neighbor, Yvonne in her tin-roofed, cane home, Yvonne turned to Alexa and said, “You are beautiful, inside and out.” True words. Yvonne nailed it. Alexa makes everyone around her a better person. Dan is an honest, principled young man — and a man of his word. Dan demands and gives honesty and respect. Many of the guys know how much Dan wanted to play football, and it is easy to imagine Dan delivering punishment on the field. But his parents wouldn’t permit it, and out of love, loyalty, and obedience to them, he honored their wishes and instead ran cross country. Didn’t complain. He’s honest, principled, worthy of respect.

Can you see God revealing himself in and through Dan and Alexa’s presence in your lives? I can. And not just them, of course. When we stop seeing other people as part of our story, and start seeing their own story, and even better, God’s divine authorship, friends and classmate like Dan, Alexa, and each and every one of you — reveal God and his plan.

Next year, you will face many new people and circumstances and the temptation will be  — out of nervousness, uncertainty or anxiety — to see as allies or obstacles in you establishing yourself. But remember what you have learned and accomplished as a class — remember that God come to you disguised as your life, look for him in others, and as you have here though people like Alexa and Dan, you will find him — through them.

For the first time, every senior here tonight was born in this millennium. You know only routine availability of the Internet and Internet-connected devices. 9/11 was the tone-setter for your sense of America and its place in the world. For you, it wasn’t or shouldn’t have been a big deal to elect the first African-American president.  You live in your world more than we — your teachers, coaches, parents, me — do. Of course. We cannot and have not prepared you specifically for the vast plurality of views, perspectives, attitudes, ideologies, dispositions, and movements that you will encounter. We have not anticipated nor could accurately predict the changes that are to come or the realities that you will experience. What we have done  — to the best of our ability — is prepare you in a different way — through conservation. We have conserved and shared with you the vast tradition of Catholic thought, literature, and human understanding, that gives you solid knowledge and true appreciation of human achievement and human nature. Here, you have read The Divine Comedy, sung Palestrina, watched Bishop Barron, and met Imaculee Ilibagiza. Use your JPII education as grounding for the many and varied ideas, people, and experiences you will encounter. The tools and truths of your JPII education will help you understand, analyze, and judge the many new ideas, opinions, and experiences that the plurality of our culture will show you. It will be tempting to discard this foundation and perhaps such wandering may even be necessary as you make it your own. I ask you to trust, believe and know that the learning that has been conserved and shared with you is of value — even ultimate value. My bet is you’ll find, like this 50-year-old guy has, that the old days aren’t so old and the new stuff isn’t so new. Truth endures.

A favorite memory of mine is the Holy Father’s Address to Congress in 2015. It was September of your freshman year; We watched together as a school, in this auditorium. Despite his heavily accented English that was tough to understand at times, when the Holy Father concluded with the words “God Bless America” we all applauded just like the members of Congress did.

In this historic address, Pope Francis expressed his desire to dialogue with “all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations.” You are these young people. You have great and noble aspirations. Even if you can’t articulate them, they are in you. Even if you can’t find them, they are in you. In this address, Pope Francis encouraged all people to follow the example of four great Americans, saying, “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, and when it bears the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.”

Of you, the 69 members of the Class of 2019, some may be attracted to the fight for liberty’s preservation, as President Lincoln was, or equal protection under the law, as was Dr. King. Some of you may work for the poor and underserved, as Dorothy Day did, still others of you desire truth in solitude as Thomas Merton did. Pursue your great and noble aspirations. You have them. Make your life about big things. I want you to find and fulfill your great and noble aspirations in the next stage of your lives.

In conclusion, at moments like this, we learn something about time. High school seems tedious, never-ending, like 2:51 will never come. Then it’s over, and we are saying goodbye is a very real way. And you can’t believe how fast it went by. In philosophy class we read from St. Augustine that “time is a distension of the soul” which is why high school can take so long yet feel over so fast.  Weird, huh? So learn to snatch the eternal from the desperately fleeting, what Tennessee Williams calls the great magic trick of human existence. God comes to us disguised as our lives — and the mundane, regular moments that reveal him.

So it is time to say goodbye. Graduates and families, let me close by sharing how much I appreciate your contributions and how special you are to our school and me personally. On behalf of your teachers and our staff, know that we have grown close, we know you, love you, and will forever be united with you. Godspeed and God bless the students and families of the Class of 2019. Thank you.


Richly Deserved

Longtime friend, Board member, SFXP & JPII parent, and community leader Steve Tenaglia has been named “The Board Member of the Year” by The Association of Catholic Admissions and Advancement Professionals (ACAAP). Steve will be honored at ACAAP’s Spring Conference, held at Holy Cross’s Hogan Center in March.

Here’s an except from Steve’s nomination letter:

“Steve Tenaglia is the epitome of community leadership, humble service, and selfless dedication. He is a “founding father” of Pope John Paul II High School (est. 2007), having served as Board project overseer in the school’s early construction phase, and  has provided continuous Board leadership through the school’s establishment, and mergers with St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School (Hyannis, 2013) and St. Margaret Regional School (Buzzards Bay, 2018). Steve’s Board service concludes with the 2018-2019 school year, and it is hard to imagine a more dedicated, professional Board member with which to grow the school.

Like all good Board members, Steve is a faithful donor. However, his service and leadership have been felt most keenly in community relationships and facility management. Steve’s community service background, approachable manner, professional presentation, and willingness to ‘roll up his sleeves’ were instrumental in securing the former Barnstable High School building, in 2005, as the site for the new Pope John Paul I High School. Once secured, Steve led the Facilities Committee through the old school building’s renovation construction management, and transfer to Diocesan ownership in 2007. Steve kept on as a Board leader, leading the Facilities Committee as two new buildings, St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School and St. Margaret Regional School were added to the campus. Steve’s dedication, good humor, and stick-to-it-iveness are a blessing to the Board and the entire school community.

While I cite Steve’s continuous career of service and not one noteworthy accomplishment, he was instrumental in securing a 391 solar panel array on the roof of the SFXP building and is currently leading the school’s exploration of CPC funding for campus improvements.

By honoring Steve Tenaglia, ACAAP honors Board members marked by extraordinary dedication, flexibility, and selflessness.”


A Legacy of Devotion

Mr. Robert and Mrs. Francesca Fuchsmann loved Japan, Swiss culture, tennis, and the Patriots. They also loved the Church. As dedicated supporters of St. Francis Xavier Parish, the Fuchsmanns sought to ensure that St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School students have their chance to grow and pursue their passions in our authentically Catholic, caring community.

Therefore, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchsmann included SFXP in their final plans. When Mrs. Fuchsmann died in 2017, she left a substantial gift to the school’s Endowment Fund, which will allow SFXP students for many years to grow and live as she did.

When you visit the lovely memorial bench behind St. John Paul II High School overlooking McKeon Park, know that it marks a legacy of devotion.

By the Numbers

Our academic mission is college preparation, college admission, and college success. So, we watch the numbers.

The College Board recently released final performance results from the SAT for the class of 2018. Nationwide, students improved their scores relative to results from 2017. Looking locally, JPII’s Class of 2018 outperformed national averages, Massachusetts averages, and the mean scores for our Diocesan Catholic high schools. The Class of 2018 continued a trend that JPII students have achieved since 2014.

Beyond this, current seniors (Class of 2019) took the SAT in October at school, during the school day, and at school expense. Of the 64 seniors who tested, 50 improved their scores.  I believe the comfort, convenience, and familiarity of school-day testing aided in these gains.

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.



Can We Go Back to College?

TED Talks. Hamilton. Podcasts. “One-day” universities. More and more, adults are looking for college learning opportunities amidst their busy lives. Maybe we see the opportunities our college-age sons and daughters enjoy, yearn for the intellectual stimulation of the campus environment, or realize the banality of much of our digital consumption. There’s a way to fix that.

Annually, the Notre Dame Club of Cape Cod and the school have sponsored the Hesburgh Lecture Series, which brings Notre Dame professors to Hyannis for a community lecture. This year, Walter J. Nicgorski, Ph.D., presents The American Constitutional Tradition: Historic Strengths and Current Challenges. Prof. Nicgorski will explore five challenges to the present American political order — the apparent erosion of the moral foundations, the tension between liberty and security, the threat to religious liberty, the shadow of globalization, and the economic “crisis” of our time.

Why not come out for some intellectual nourishment?

Catholic Schools (Not) in the News

Last Sunday, the Cape Cod Times featured school improvements as Cape schools set to open their academic years (“Back to the Books,” 9/2/2018). But again this year, not all Cape schools were included. As such, St. Pius X School Principal Anne Dailey and I sent this letter to the Times editors last week. 

To the Editor,

Thank you for presenting readers with the preparations that Cape public schools have made for the 2018-2019 school year (“Back to the Books,” 9/2/2018). Missing, though, are the efforts of non-public schools, which are an important part of the school choice landscape that benefits all Cape families.

This year, 560 students will be educated at St. Margaret, St. Francis Xavier Prep, and St. John Paul II, which operates as one Pre K-12 Catholic school. St. Pius X School in South Yarmouth welcomes 242 students, its highest enrollment in school history. At these schools, new physical plant and program improvements are noteworthy.

The schools have completed parking lot and roadway construction, flooring upgrades, remodeled offices, hydration stations, and exterior renovations. More importantly, the addition of primary grades Spanish, strings instrument instruction offered from Pre-K-12, dance instruction in middle school, and the expansion of the AP Capstone program in high school, improves the program. Additionally, personalized, longitudinal data collection will help teachers and students develop more personalized educational goals.

Similar to our public school peers, the Cape’s non-public schools work hard to provide outstanding value for students and families. The Times might feature these efforts equally when getting back to school.


Christopher W. Keavy, Head of School
St. Margaret Regional School (www.smrsbb.org)
St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School (www.sfxp.org)
St. John Paul II High School ( www.sjp2hs.org )

Anne Dailey, Principal
St. Pius X School ( www.spxschool.org )

Remembrance: Fanny Y. Singer (1959-2018)

The following remarks were delivered by Mr. Keavy at Mrs. Singer’s vigil service on May 7, 2018.

When Andrew told me that he and Fanny wished that I deliver words of remembrance, of course, I was honored. It’s not hard to say good things about Fanny Singer. And I’m honored because of who Fanny was as a person; strong, independent, peaceful, loving, funny, and wise.  

Andrew prepared beautiful remembrances and reflections that helped me know Fanny’s life more fully. Because of Fanny’s dignity, privacy, and humility, many do not realize the extraordinary arc of her life – — though all sensed her depth.  Still waters run deep.

Fanny has always been independent and strong-willed.  She was born in Ujung Pandang on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.  She has four sisters and two brothers and is the third oldest. She grew up as a Chinese minority in a Muslim-majority country.  Her grandparents and parents were entrepreneurs. While her family is Buddhist, she and her siblings were sent to schools run by missionaries and converted to Catholicism at a young age.  Her parents wanted the best education for their children.

Fanny tells of when she was in grade school and taller than other children. She helped protect smaller children who were bullied. One would search long and hard to find anger or sharp feelings in Fanny. But one thing she hated was racism, something she experienced personally. From a young age, Fanny looked out for others and remained keen to oppose prejudice and bigotry throughout her life.

She began college in Indonesia, but after two years came to America. She arrived in San Francisco in February 1983, just shy of 24 years old.  She learned English, passed the TOEFL, moved across the country, and enrolled at Old Dominion University in southern Virginia. She graduated from Old Dominion in 1986 with a Computer Science Degree.

Following a friend, Fanny moved to the Washington, D.C. area and took a job as a computer programmer/analyst. She programmed COBOL. Those early mainframe computers took up large, air-conditioned rooms.  She enjoyed the technical challenge of writing and analyzing code.

Andrew worked briefly at the same company in late 1988, for just two months.  He met Fanny in a break room when she was selling homemade spring rolls for a church fundraiser.  He bought two and thanked her — in Chinese. She stared at him as if he had six heads. Maybe it was his accent, or maybe his Caucasian face threw her for a loop.

But she wasn’t too badly put off, and Fanny and Andrew began dating.  First, she invited him out for dimsum. He arrived at the restaurant to discover that she had brought along twelve Chinese friends and their families to chaperone.  For their second date, they drove her Mustang out to Luray Caverns in the Shenandoah Mountains. On the third, they went to New York City and visited Andrew’s brother at NYU.

After dating seriously for a year, on a cold February day at the Lincoln Memorial, Andrew proposed marriage. Fanny agreed, but with a stipulation.  She would not get married until she had earned her green card on her own. She did not want to get her green card because she married a US citizen. Isn’t that Fanny! Independent, proud, tough. No doubt many of us have seen that strong will and the high standards she held for herself in our interactions with Fanny.

Green card in hand, Fanny and Andrew were married in late July 1991, at Wychmere Harbor Club in Harwichport.

After Andrew’s law school graduation, they moved to Portland, Oregon.  To get there, they took a road trip lasting 28 days and covering 7,700 miles and 22 States.  Fanny and Andrew zigged and zagged up and down and across the country visiting friends, relatives, and seeing America.  Fanny and Andrew funded their trip rather cleverly. As they were already planning on relocating, Fanny found out that her company was planning layoffs.  She volunteered to be laid off, and they used her severance pay to travel for the month and to provide enough money to get set up in Oregon. Well played, Fanny!

Though they loved the Pacific Northwest, Fanny and Andrew relocated back to MA when Andrew’s father sent him a hand-written note asking him to join his law practice.  Adrian was born in 1996, and Ethan was born in 2000. They have lived on Cape Cod since 1996.

Fanny loved to cook and grill. She enjoyed experimenting and rarely used recipes.  The foods could be simple but were always well-presented. Andrew loved her spring rolls, which formed their first connection. The boys liked it when she put chocolate bits in raspberries then made chocolate pancakes.  All loved her chicken and green peppers, veal and peppers, steak, grilled vegetables, beef sate, Indonesian specialties, brownies, cookies, and more. The boys noted that Fanny’s high standards for presentation were found not just in food but in many facets of life. Impeccable is the word Adrian used.

Travel was a central part of Fanny’s life and a reflection of who she was — open-minded, worldly, multi-faceted, confident, and curious.

Fanny and Andrew brought the boys when very little to Nova Scotia.  They took them to diamond mines in New York State, to Howes Caverns, Secret Caverns, and Cooperstown. They went to New Hampshire hiking the Flume Gorge, Lost River Gorge, and Boulder Caves. Fanny and Andrew visited New York City every year on their way back from seeing relatives and friends in Virginia, to see the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center and eat roasted chestnuts.  They picked apples and Asian pears at Lookout Belkin Farm.

Fanny and Andrew went to the British Virgin Islands with friends in 2003 (the first time they left the boys for an extended period).  They traveled to Prague and Vienna in 2006. There were weekend escapes to Newport, RI. With Andrew’s parents, they went to Hilton Head, NC in 2007. Fanny and Andrew traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2009 for a niece’s wedding.  They took the boys to Rincon and Western Puerto Rico in 2010; to Indonesia, Bali, and Hong Kong in 2011; on a 50-year wedding anniversary Alaskan glacier cruise with Andrew’s parents in 2012; to Provence and Paris, France, Sweden, and Norway in 2013; and to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada in 2016.

Recently, Fanny started to learn French, because Adrian studies at McGill University in Montreal and she thought it would be good to know French. In addition to the five languages she already knew. Amazing.

Those who knew Fanny well could see the fierce dedication, pride, and love she had for Ethan, Adrian, and Andrew. Well-presented foods, learning French on top of everything else, keeping cancer where it belongs, these and many more illustrations point to the depth of dedication and love Fanny had for her boys. They were the center of her life.

I had the happy accident of coaching Ethan in Yarmouth little league baseball. This is when I first met Fanny and Andrew as sports mom and dad. I got to know Fanny a bit, and because I was contemplating the introduction of Mandarin Chinese language at Pope John Paul II High School, I told her I’d like to meet her for breakfast to ask her advice. We went to Perry’s on Main, and I said her I didn’t want advice, I wanted her to teach it. That was the only time I got the best of Fanny. Even then, at breakfast, I could see she was hooked. Surprised, yes, but hooked. Ultimately, she said yes.

Starting a new school program takes work. Lots of it. Fanny worked extremely hard in her preparation, cultivation of resources, and her acquisition of teaching approaches. She expected much of herself and her students. Andrew and the boys would find her up at 1 AM revising materials. Exactness in presentation is her hallmark, and her students saw this — day in and day out.

Fanny was an outstanding teacher. The reason for this is simple. Fundamentally, teachers teach from who they are. Knowing this, how could Fanny be anything but an excellent teacher?

For a woman who loved travel, teaching led her to a place she never wanted to visit: China.  She had no interest. But after joining JPII, she went three times. She traveled to Beijing on an orientation tour and then led two student trips (2015 and 2017) to Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai.  Her students loved these experiences, and now knowing the Lord has taken her from them, they treasure these experiences even the more so.

There’s another word for tough, strong, independent — it’s stubborn. I joked with Fanny on more that one occasion “Don’t be stubborn!” By 2017, I was aware that Fanny was facing an adverse prognosis and difficult course of treatment. Nonetheless, she wanted very much to take her students to China again. As an administrator, I sought to dissuade her. What if she wasn’t feeling well? Is this really a good idea? As you might imagine, I didn’t stand a chance. Fanny went. Andrew went. The students went. Cancer did not rule her. I asked her more than once to allow her friends and students to share their love by disclosing her illness. I even ventured to say “Don’t be stubborn.” Once she knew she could not return to teaching, she permitted me to share the difficult news. This became a week of students and staff expressions of love and affection for Fanny. She knew she was loved. She gave and received the very best.

From her first diagnosis of cancer in 2007, Fanny determined to face her illness head-on without compromising her family life, travel, or interests.  Cancer did not rule her. It was ever-present, but not in charge. She rarely told people she was sick.

I have been amazed — and many of you may have been, too, to see this week how many people felt a close, special relationship with Fanny. She had a way of valuing people, finding the right word, saying, or gift to create a unique bond. She was not a woman of grandiose gestures or many words. Instead, Fanny offered the right words at the right time. And this generous, quiet presence affected many lives. Her family, her students, of course. The guy at the restaurant to whom she was teaching Mandarin. People are popping up all over telling of their special connection with Fanny.

Fanny lived the best kind of life; a life centered on others. I cannot remember — or imagine — any encounter with Fanny that was about what she needed or wanted. Didn’t happen. Can anybody here imagine a self-interested or self-centered Fanny Singer?  

Her other-centeredness, coupled with her wit, intelligence, compassion, and character, made this best life, a life of profound relationships and a profound impact on those around her.

Our world is poorer now. Less graceful. Less generous, more poorly presented.

Fanny told me several times when confronting her illness and mortality that she believes in miracles. Perhaps she meant a miracle of defeating cancer. But maybe the miracle is 11 years of life and love with Ethan, Adrian, and Andrew. Or the miracle of having Fanny Singer as your teacher, friend, mother, wife.

At the end, Fanny was not afraid. She trusted that Andrew, Adrian, and Ethan will be okay and take care of each other. She regretted not making it to Ethan’s graduation, or seeing the boys begin their own families. She wished she had made her final exams. But she was at peace. And don’t worry, she won’t take kuckahooey from anyone.

Rest in peace, friend.

‘We Learn the Curriculum of Life’

At last month’s Catholic Schools Week Mass, celebrated for all students of Cape Cod’s Catholic schools, Shannon Cummings, ’18 shared her thoughts near the culmination of her twelve years of Catholic schooling.  With her signature style, Shannon makes the case for the special sauce in Catholic schools.

Read Shannon’s remarks here.