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The Long View

The following reflection is excerpted from my commencement address delivered on Monday, June 5, 2017. 

“Along these lines, that of big goals, selfless effort, and the long view — I’d like to introduce and honor a man whose vision and efforts proved critical to the existence and success of our high school. Joe Hoffman began the effort, in 2004, to open the Cape’s first Catholic high school, then conceived to be St. Francis Xavier Preparatory High School. As a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Cape community leader, and one whose sister lives vowed religious life, Joe was drawn to the possibility and promise of a Catholic high school on Cape Cod.  

Joe was a leader in the successful effort to purchase the Barnstable grade five building as the site of the new high school, despite opposition and competition. After the building’s purchase, the sledding proved to be difficult, and key leaders quit the effort; true to the notion that we often overestimate what can be done in a year. But Joe stayed on. Navigating between a local group that lost its mojo and our Diocese not yet willing to adopt the fragile project, Joe and a small number persevered, kept the vision in sight, and the dream alive. Soon additional funding was secured, the Diocese sponsored the school, and the doors opened in 2007.  Joe continued to serve as an Advisory Board member and chaired through the school’s difficult unification with St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School in 2013. Always, Joe and his wife Felicia have been faithful donors, supporters, and Cape citizens willing to work for things larger than themselves. Take from their good example.

This past Spring, Joe retired from active leadership on the Advisory Board. 

We honor Joe tonight not only for his contributions to our ten-year story but as an example of setting big goals, goals that lead away from self and toward God. From the beginning of this work, Joe had no self-interest. He would never send a child to JPII, nor seek a job, nor expect remuneration, nor benefit personally from the school’s success. He put himself at the service of something he knew could be achieved and derived from his efforts the satisfaction of your success. Joe Hoffman and his wife Felicia are here tonight, and I ask that you join me in expressing our appreciation.”

The Measure of Success



Where do JPII grads go to college? Do they get jobs? Are they successful?

Good questions, all.

Our Lord shows us a simple and yet challenging vision of success: Love God and one another. When students leave JPII & SFXP, we send them with the hope and expectation that they know the best meaning of success and are ready to live it.

JPII grads Mike Doyle, ’13 and Kate Pendleton, ’13 are two of twenty Assumption College graduates recognized with the school’s “Crown and Shield” Award. Mike and Kate, like many JPII & SFXP grads, know that God and others come before self. They make those around them better.  This is the best definition of success, and I am proud of our graduates.

Read more here.

Net Effect

At today’s Catholic Schools Week Mass, celebrated for all student of Cape Cod’s Catholic schools by Bishop Edgar Da Cunha, Samantha Carolwicz, ’17 shared her thoughts near the culmination of her twelve years of Catholic schooling.

She sees the net effect of what makes the Catholic school way different. These are good words.

Read Samantha’s address here.

A Man Worth Noticing

Typically, institutions’ part-time, evening custodians go unnoticed. JPII & SFXP’s Mike McManus has a quiet, unassuming demeanor that virtually guarantees this. He doesn’t make speeches, deliver lectures, win games, or write blog posts. He cleans the restrooms, hallways, and locker rooms in our buildings.

Yet Mike McManus is a man I respect and admire and worthy of our notice.

Mike had worked for over thirty years in public schools when his “brother,” Mr. Ernie, recruited him to come to JPII. Since then, Mike has found the JPII & SFXP atmosphere to be “night and day” in comparison with other settings. “It’s so different here. Students have respect for the school and for you as a person. These kids are great. People recognize you here and you matter. I love coming to this school,” he said.

You may not know Mike’s deep faith and positive attitude — traits that I admire and the source of his strength and humility. Mike’s wife, Donna, suffers from advanced stages of MS. Through this struggle, they have grown closer and share their faith with one another even more deeply. Mike and Donna pray with the gospel of the day each morning and were able to share a pilgrimage to Lourdes several years ago. “God never gives us more that we can handle. He is part of my life, Donna’s life, and our marriage. He gives us our strength.”

I asked Mike how he feels about being less known as evening custodian. “I’m here to serve. That’s what our Lord wants us to do. In my job, I help to keep the school clean so that the teachers and students can have a healthy experience. That’s fine with me.”

Plus, the quiet of evening hours has one more benefit: “I love the Chapel. I feel like He’s there for me. I sit in the Chapel, when the building is empty, and say ‘thank you’.”

Mike McManus is a man worth noticing.

Lessons from 1796 to 1996 to 2016

Parents able to attend our SFXP Second Quarter Honors Breakfast were richly rewarded by the inspiring words of SFXP founding Pastor, Rev. Edward Byington.

Rev. Byington’s visit commemorates the twenty year anniversary of our 1996 founding. Yet while no one would fault Rev. Byington had he taken a trip down memory lane; instead, he took the occasion to challenge and inspire students to lead the type of life that forms the vision of the best Catholic schools. Rev. Byington focused on Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signatory of the Declaration of Independence and longest survivor. While telling Carroll’s story, Rev. Byington highlighted three simple, powerful habits of body, mind and spirit that we might emulate —

  1. Exercise every day. Run, walk, play with vigor.
  2. Read, read, read, read. Cultivate your mind through reading.
  3. Pray, meditate, receive the sacraments. Nourish your soul every day.

Wise words in Carroll’s day, in 1996, 2016, or anytime. Thank you, Rev. Byington.

Man (or Woman) the Stations

In the short history of the Our Lady of Fatima Chapel, three sets of ‘Stations of the Cross’ have adorned the walls.

In our first year, a set rescued from another Diocesan entity was installed, then, nearly as quickly, taken away. Second, a generous donor and JPII family purchased stations which have held us in good stead since 2009. Now, a second JPII family has secured and repaired full-sized stations, which were installed over the weekend. Arrangements are being made for the previous stations to make their way to Ecuador.

Next time you’re in the building, check ’em out. JPII families are good!

Several people have asked after Dr. Francesco Cesareo’s excellent remarks at the National Honor Society Induction Ceremony last Thursday.

Read Dr. Cesareo’s Address here.


Words that Challenge and Inspire

Next week, JPII will hold the fourth Induction Ceremonies of the Our Lady, Star of the Sea Chapter of the National Honor Society. With this event, we strive for a thoughtful exercise not only meaningful for those inducted and their families but meaningful for all students, staff, and guests. To accomplish this, we seek guest speakers from the larger community whose seriousness of purpose and engagement with the issues of the day provide good example and can challenge and inspire students and staff. Last year’s speaker was Mr. Paul Niedzwiecki, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commission.

This year, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D, President of Assumption College (Worcester, Mass.). Dr. Cesareo will share perspective on liberal education, serious Catholic intellectual life, and authentic living.

Read Mr. Keavy’s 2011 remarks.

This event is open to the public. Please consider joining us on Thursday, January 10 at 10 AM.

JPII Loses A Friend

Rev. George O’Brien, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, former Development Director at the College of the Holy Cross, Cape resident, and early and ardent supporter of Pope John Paul II High School, died on Tuesday afternoon after a battle with cancer.

Fr. George celebrated the first Mass ever at Pope John Paul II High School, on the anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II in April 2007, and ultimately celebrated three all-school liturgies with us. He was generous, helpful and supportive from the days prior to the school’s opening into the young life of the school. In the spring we will again see the “Pope John Paul II” roses bloom at the school’s entrance, lovingly donated by Fr. George.

Most of all, I will miss Fr. George’s sincere, wise, and generous support for all the good that we attempt to achieve with this high school. A good man, a good priest. Rev. George O’Brien, may he rest in peace.

Read Fr. George’s 2008 homily.

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