Thank you, Byron! My gratitude first to those at Gesu who invited me to share this honor not only with Chris Beck but also with Mark Solomon, Ralph Saul, Al and Aline Martinelli, Sue and Bill Shea, John DiIulio and Jay Sherrerd. Thank you, Chris. You made the work of the first ten years of the Gesu independent school a prelude, a kind of seed that fully blossomed in the amazing physical and programmatic additions of the last eight.
I thank the people of what was the Gesu parish whom I first met 26 years ago and who encouraged me and the Jesuits and the Sisters to keep Gesu School alive as a pillar of strength for neighborhood children regardless of what might happen to the parish. Many of those men and women, including Byron McCook are here tonight. They bore the heat of the day, and because of their vision and strength, for a long time into the future children from the Gesu neighborhood can walk happily to Gesu School.
I thank my siblings Eileen, Jeanne, Tony and Mary, and my in-laws Peggy and Frank, for their constant support not only for the children of Gesu but for me personally over a far longer period of time. And my nieces and nephews who took time away from their own children and their other obligations to enjoy tonight’s program.
I thank the Jesuits and the Sisters who went before us at Gesu. Without 125 years of the Gesu Church and the School before 1993 there would be no independent Gesu Catholic School.
I thank a Gesu graduate who joined Byron McCook and me when we first started a development program for the school in 1988: Jim Higgins from the Gesu class of 1945. Thank you, Jim, for your marathon run with us.
I thank my brother Jesuits, present housemates on 18th St., Father Neil especially with whom I served at Gesu for 14 years. He knew my weaknesses from day one and stepped up to fill in for me when necessary.
I thank Sister Ellen and Sister Pat and all of the IHM Sisters who have an uncanny understanding of children and their needs. They and the Gesu faculty and staff are amazing. How many years, Shirley Bright? How many years, Dolores John? They are the chief reason why young boys and girls from Gesu are able to take on confidently the challenges of high school.
In his absence, (I miss him but regretfully he had an unavoidable obligation this evening), I thank my schoolmate and good friend, Win Churchill, for his personal support and for his cheerfully persistent efforts over the past 21 years to place the success of the children of Gesu School before a steadily increasing group of friends. Without him and his many friends the Gesu School would be, if anything at all, a weak image of itself.
I thank Frank and Keith Pension and Bill and Elise Rouse. I thank all of you gathered this evening around a vision of a world where all children have an opportunity to be healthy and to grow and succeed so that their gifts, too, can make a better world.
Finally I thank the children of Gesu and their parents and caregivers who are striving to be the best that they can be and who teach us, friends, parents, teachers, board members, all to believe in our best selves. There is no better world than one in which we show our best selves to one another.
And if I have saved the thanks for God to last, it is because the living God is not only Other but also present in all of us in this room. We give thanks for that divine presence and we count on it as we continue to gather around this wonderful school and its children.