Monday, October 26, 2009

For my Sunday exercise, I took the subway to 5th and Market and then walked back and forth across the Ben Franklin Bridge. A beautiful day for it! But who knows what happens on the bridge? I would not have noticed it except that my foot kicked the little prescription bottle on the walkway somewhere near the top of the span. The medication filled for Raymar Washington on October 22 was a strong antidepressant. The seal was still secure. I pray that Raymar simply lost the bottle. But I can't shake the notion that he left it behind as part of his choice not to walk off the bridge!

There was more intrigue at the 5th and Market subway stop. I picture above the small yellow signs at the opposite ends of the platform. It is certainly important to open the passenger doors on the proper side of the train and this depends on the direction in which the train is traveling! But who would have guessed that the train engineers needed these signs to remind them? Could they not see the platform as they came to a stop?
My sister and I, who are often confused, realize the importance of these reminders: “right” and “left.” But it's startling to think that without them the engineer might open the doors so that passengers would step out and fall onto the parallel set of tracks!

My father also knew the necessity of these signs as an extra precaution and made it the subject of one of his limericks:

“There once was a lady named Dexter
Directions always had vexed her.
When she came to a light
She knew what was right
It was left that always perplexed her.”

Sunday, October 25, 2009


A generous Prep grad, Ed McKeon, visited me at the Prep recently and when I greeted him at the entrance, I noticed a freshman, Tyler, nearby and I invited Tyler also to greet our visitor. After I congratulated Tyler for recent success on the forensics team, Ed noticed the heavy bookbag that Tyler was carrying and asked him about his homework. “I have tests and a quiz tomorrow,” Tyler said. And then he asked, “Don’t you have a classroom named for you in Jesuit Hall?” Ed said, “Yes.” And Tyler announced that he has history in that classroom and gave Ed some credit for helping him get an A in history. Then Tyler looked at me, “And I have math in the Bur Room.” “What’s your math mark?” I asked. And Tyler replied, “I don’t want to say!”

Maybe we should put Ed’s name on the math room, too! Meetings like this illustrate the multiple relationships with teachers, staff, alumni and parents that support our students!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pat McKenzie at DePaul Catholic School in Germantown. Pat is a graduate of St. Joseph's Prep and of Scranton University. He is the chaplain and service director at DePaul, a school for 350 children sponsored by the Vincentians. Few of the children at DePaul have the advantages that the Prep boys have. The Prep has a weekly service program devoted to the needs of DePaul and its children.
In the top photo, Prep boys intersperse themselves with the DePaul children to play a circle game during a day of service and fun.

Andrew and Brianna show off their straw-blown art creation.
I had the opportunity of accompanying some freshmen on the service segment of their October 23rd retreat day. The service took place at DePaul Catholic School in Germantown. Pictured here is a Prep freshman giving encouragement and sharing a project with Brianna, one of the younger children at Depaul.
This freshman, Andrew, came to my attention in another context. He was subjected to one of my random conversations around the school some weeks ago and this is the record of our talk:
Being a long-in-the-tooth cleric makes it easy for me to approach any of our students to find out what makes them tick. The freshmen readily answer my questions: Are you up to the challenge of the Prep? What‘s your favorite subject? Which is the most difficult? I sized up a freshman, who introduced himself as Andrew, not many weeks ago. At the end of our short conversation, I thought to encourage him by saying: “I hope I’m still around when it comes time to give you your diploma.” And he eyed me with a puzzled look and turned the tables on me. “Father,” he said, “it’s only three and a half years!” Our students often encourage us! As in these pictures!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My '59 Prep classmate, Jim Murray, has been coaching soccer at SJP for a long time. Each year he comes close to a championship season but never quite gets there. His team looks like they are hanging their heads during this half time instruction from the coach. The game against Ryan ended in a tie.
Mitch Albom signs his book "Have a Little Faith" after lecture at St. Joseph's Prep

Albom's evening lecture drew a crowd of over 700 people, many of whom had never been inside our building. He is an energetic speaker and told stories from his "Faith" book about his relationships with his family rabbi and with an African American pastor who pulled himself up out of hard times. The stories were compelling and revealed a talented man on a search for God.
He also spoke in the afternoon at Gesu School. The teachers there prepared the students and they had some good questions for him.
The relationships had their own richness but were poorly connected to the faith issues through thousands of years of Judaism and in the American experience of the black church. These connections, I take it, will need to wait for another book.

Alejandro and Jorge present the Chilean National Anthem complete with verbal percussion!
On the very weekend when the Maryland Province of Jesuits celebrated fifty years of connection with the Chilean Jesuits, Bruce Maivelett, Michael Magree and I invited two
Chilean guests to our home. The two guests, Alejandro and Jorge, are rising seniors at San Ignacio en Bosque, a Jesuit high school in Santiago, Chile. They are spending five months studying at our Prep school in Philadelphia, each of them living with a host family with a son at the Prep.
Jorge stays with Andrew Dierkes, a family with eight children, two of whom are off to college. Their happy faces are in the middle photo above. Alejandro stays with Kevin McCusker, his brother, Pat, and their parents. Both sets of parents have been generous and open to their guests.
We sang together "Si Vas Para Chile," the second Chilean national anthem sung by the exiles during the days of dictatorship. "If you travel to Chile, greet the one that I love." We sang with passion but neither of our Chilenos shed a tear, proof that they are enjoying their visit.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Michael Gomez, Melissa McGrath, Eileen Kennedy, son Brendan Kennedy with speaker and guest at Saint Joseph's Prep: Rich Guidotti.

September 28, 2009

"An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them,“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me,and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.”

Jesus’ disciples are ambitious for themselves. They imagine that Jesus will inaugurate at some point a kingdom where they will have the principal positions of leadership. So little is their understanding of his mission.

The language that Jesus uses to indicate how to be the greatest is quite paradoxical. “The one who is least among you is the one who is the greatest.” This can be a suitable guide for someone who is ambitious. Every politician knows that the route to office is through the service of constituents. Let me be your servant so that I can get your vote.

But the action that Jesus takes to illustrate the paradox tells the truth in a way that we can understand it. “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me.” The constituency of discipleship consists of those who are unable to cast a vote for the disciple: the children. Here, of course, Jesus emphasizes the role of the mentor and the adult in passing on the love of God to the next generation. But we can with confidence include the weak, the elderly, the sick, the poor and the powerless among those to whom Jesus refers when he chooses the child as the prime example.

Yesterday at the Mother-Son Communion Luncheon our guest was Richard Guidotti from the class of 1975. In his first life as a photographer, he worked for the most elegant fashion designers, models and magazines. He got tired listening to others telling him about the nature of human physical beauty. He reinvented himself with a counter-cultural definition of such beauty. His work now is with children, young adults and others whose outward physical conditions do not conform to the beauty of fashion magazines. His photographs of children and young people with physical disorders like albinism redefine visions of beauty. His work is now not in service of what the world might call the greatest beauties but in service of those the world calls least in this regard. (Look up his web page at Positive Exposure!)

A great lesson for our young men to hear from an extraordinary graduate. And a humbling one for all of us who engage in this work of education with the hope that God will continue to call forth men like Rich Guidotti. All of his photographs announce: “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me.”