Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ministers, not Messiahs

Editor's Note: This reflection is based on the gospel reading for the day. It was my last prayer service with Montgomery Catholic's high school faculty on May 29, 2008

"As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way." Mk 10:46-52

With the graduation of our students on Monday, the end of the school year yesterday and those of us leaving for other places, this is the time of year for both introspection and retrospection--looking in and looking behind us, a time to take stock.

There are, for sure, many signs of progress here. Earlier this week, I did something I wasn't sure I'd ever do. This entire building project we began in 1995 was premised on a 600 student campus, 100 in each grade, for grades 7-12. On Monday of this week, I wait-listed our 101st applicant to the ninth grade. Extraordinary. In the last six years, we've built together new athletic fields, a fieldhouse, a concession stand, a middle school, renovated the gym, enlarged the chapel and are a little over two months away completing the Dolly Barranco Student Activity Center and re-modeling the old cafeteria into 4 additional classrooms. This, too, is extraordinary.

These are good signs, but they do not measure our success. They are a means to an end, and the end, of course, is whether we are truly building STUDENTS, not new structures. Our mission statement says it succinctly: we aim to create people of faith, virtue and wisdom. Are we doing that?

That question still keeps me up at night, and it ought to give all of us pause. It is the only question that really matters in our ministry to students.

That being said, I take great comfort in the gospel about blind Bartimaeus. He calls out to the Lord "Have pity on me! Heal me!" Bartimaeus could just as easily be one of our students. A freshman girl, saying through her poor academic performance, "I am unhappy. I have no confidence in myself, heal me!" A junior boy without a father in his life, acting out, "Heal my hurt". A sophomore girl with an eating disorder, all but shouting "I don't like myself, have pity on me".

And the gospel says that many people rebuked Bartimaeus, telling him to be quiet.

But here's what makes the story interesting. Jesus hears Bartimaeus, but doesn't go directly to him. He tells some people in the crowd to go get him. "Call him", he says. So they call him and say "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you".

Take courage, get up, Jesus is calling you.

Our jobs, as teachers in a Catholic school, is not to heal. We are not miracle workers, and there is comfort in knowing that. Rather, we are the people that say to our students, "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you". It is our job to bring our students to the Lord. The Lord heals. "We are", as Archbishop Romero once prayed, "the workers, not the master builders, ministers, and not messiahs." May all of us continue in this noble work.

As our school looks to its future and as some of us now move onto other venues, I am reminded powerfully of a prayer from Dag Hammarskjold, a Swedish diplomat and once Secretary General of the United Nations,

"For all that has been...thanks. For all that will be.....yes!"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Senior Graduation Talk, Class of 2008

Editor's Note: The practice of roasting the graduates by the principal of MCPS began in 1979 when then principal Dr. Tom Doyle discovered hours before the commencement ceremonies that the scheduled graduation speaker was unable to come. He started to scratch out his thoughts about students on a napkin, thus beginning a tradition which has remained unbroken the last 29 years. This was my 19th and last roasting of our graduates here, as I will be moving to Pope John Paul II High School in mid-June.

1. Nick Moussalli--Some kids are so talented it takes a while to find things they're not good at. As his nickname "Moose" implies, he's a good football player. But not only that, he plays soccer well, does well in school, is well mannered and polite. Is there anything to tease him about? Well, yes. Aaron (my son on drums), Hadyn (on the guitar) and Nelson (on the bass) started playing at our house in the back room, and it sounded pretty good. Then, piercing through house came this hideous caterwalling voice--off-key, but loud---as the lead singer. That was Nick, and it was awful. Nick, keep working hard in school and athletics.

2. Josh Soukup--I taught Josh this Spring and as with all my classes, we begin with prayer and special intentions. Their prayers are both specific and practical: "Dear Lord, help us with the test we have in Mr. Conway's class. Help Elizabeth in her surgery. Dear Lord, please be with my aunt who is sick", thinks like that. Josh's prayer one day was for "Wisdom". A couple of weeks later, he prayed for "Patience". I began to think that perhaps Josh was just on a higher spiritual plane than the ordinary 18 year old until I found out these prayers usually followed some incident involving Josh the night before in a soccer game. Yellow card..patience. Red card...wisdom.

3. Lane Keating has a great mind. His modus operandi as a student in my class is to scheme all the way through class to ask me some sort of impossibly difficult question, with about 3 minutes left to go in class--too short for me to give any kind of decent answer. And then, when I limped through the answer in a rushed fashion, I could tell by his facial expression he was keeping score: "Nope, not buying it Mr. Weber. That's me 1, Mr. Weber 0."

4. Everybody knows Colin Newmeyer is a great soccer player--arguably our best boys' player ever. But fewer people know that Colin is a talented artist. Artists see things differently. When I was talking about the difference between a functional definition and an ontological definition as an introduction to why there developed a Christological controversy in the 3rd and 4th centuries, I held up a stapler as an example and asked the class to describe it. "It has a black base, with a shiny silver plate", one said. "It was long and rectangular" said another. "It looks like a mouth", said Colin. I don't think I've thought of a stapler that way, but his description was spot on. One other thing about Colin--although he's grown much taller in the last three years, he's always been the short one in his class. This helps explain, I think, his ENORMOUS TRUCK. The other day, he pulled up along side me, I looked to my left, and all I could see were the wheels. Perched high above just about everyone else on road sits Colin, who for once in his life, can enjoy looking DOWN on others.

5. Michael Stewart--As part of our morning prayer, I ask students if they have any special intentions. On the day of a big test this trimester, Michael Stewart raises his hand, bows his head and prays, "Lord, please let Mr. Weber delay this big test until tomorrow". The rest of the class was pretty quick: Another hand: "Lord, we pray that Michael's prayer may be heard by Mr. Weber". A third hand: "Lord, if it be your will, let Mr. Weber delay his test until tomorrow". A fourth hand: "OK", I said, "I get it". So, at the end of these prayers, I'm thinking: I'm a religion teacher in a Catholic school, so I really DO want them to believe in the power of prayer, I almost HAD to move the test until tomorrow--and did so. No doubt, Michael's strategy was the best delay tactic I've encountered in 23 years at Catholic.

6. James Watkins has without a doubt the ugliest pair of tennis shoes I've ever seen--a hideous combination of bright yellow, red and green. It looks like something that Bozo the Clown might wear as part of his costume. But just to show you the great chasm between his sense of fashion and mine, James is PROUD of those tennis shoes. He bragged that he only paid 80 bucks for them, as if he practically got them for free. I don't think we've ever had to define in our school dress code what constituted acceptable and unacceptable tennis shoes, but we may have to add a James Watkins clause next year.

7. Elizabeth Daly--Was determined to get an A in my class, and I am pretty stingy in giving A's. She took excellent notes. In fact, it's re-affirming as a teacher to see a student scribbling down every thing you say. One day I grew suspicious as to whether she was actually taking notes, or simply doing homework for another class, she was writing so consistently, but no, it was actually my class. If there was ever a student who earned an A, it was Elizabeth. She was exempt for my exam.

8. Jordan Golson is exceptionally polite. As a sure sign of my age and increasing senility, I called Jordan by his older brother's name "Jeremy" for most of the third trimester. Jeremy graduated well over 5 years ago. But Jordan is so polite, he simply answered to the name "Jeremy" without ever correcting me. I guess it's better than being called by his sister's name, Jenna. Thank you Jenna, I mean Jeremy, I mean Jordan.

9. We've had to crack down a bit on seniors wearing out of uniform sweaters and jackets. So I was bit mystified how Renae Sidlowski seemed to escape detection. Every day during the winter, she'd wear a "Georgia Bulldog" sweatshirt over her uniform. And then it occured to me: Our principal's alma mater was the Georgia Bulldogs. When I asked Renae if this is how she got away with it, she batted her eyes with feigned innocence and said, "Oh, is that Mrs. Vaughn's favorite team? I didn't know". Sure, Renae.

10. Some where in Alyson Pendleton's house, there must be a HUGE closet with nothing but shoes. I am not sure if Alyson wore the same pair of shoes to school any day in her senior year. These aren't just brown or black dreary things either. She has aqua blue shoes, tiger striped, leopard-striped, bright pink, neon yellow. All this flamboyance is in direct contradiction to her persona around school--quiet, hard-working, never calling attention to herself. I suppose if Alyson ever wears earth tone shoes, we better watch out.

11. Gabby Moore-- For four extraordinary years, Gabby has been a source of light and joy at Catholic. Even when Gabby is frustrated, she smiles. Now the senior class is not stupid. During the month of May, whenever the seniors wanted me to say yes to something, they would send Gabby to see me as their representative. Now who can say no to Gabby? They got everything they wanted.

12. Emily McLaughlin came back after school one day in the second trimester to take a re-test and was among the last to finish. As she turned in her test, she gave a worried sigh and said, Now I have to go face Molly, who is going to be angry she had to wait. I said to her "You're the big sister, just let her know who's boss. " "You don't know my sister, Mr. Weber. She's tougher than I am. I'm scared of her". Emily is a wonderfully poised young lady and our school will be much less without her.

13. Alex Taylor: About half-way through the first trimester, I mentioned in class that our teachers at Catholic do what they do out of a sense of ministry, and could be making more in a different job or a different school setting. Alex asked me after class if they made a lot less or just a little less, and wanted to know what kinds of things we could do differently at Catholic to help our teachers get more. I was touched by Alex's genuine concern for them. About three weeks later, I learned of one of Alex's long term goals--to become a full time teacher and football coach at Catholic when he graduated in 4 years. I'll let you connect the dots.

14. Kevin Bourke--I have Kevin in the 2nd period of the day. Apparently he's not a morning person, because one of the most tired students in the school. So if you know Kevin in the morning, it's somewhat startling that he's such an excellent, high energy soccer player, a sport he's played all his life. And then, in class the next day, utterly exhausted.

15. Jacob Weatherly--If we wanted to pump up the total dollar amount of scholarships this class has received, all we'd need to do is have Jacob apply to every school in the country. Just think, we could brag "The class of 2008 at Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School earned 100 million dollars in scholarship offers". I THINK I've forgiven Jacob for turning down a full ride scholarship to my alma mater, Notre Dame, when he initially decided to accept a full ride at Princeton University. Of course, it became easier for me to forgive the slight on ND when he next turned down Princeton to accept a full ride at Harvard, where he will be attending this Fall. Jacob is by nature a humble guy, so I want everyone to be on the look out if he comes back to school next year and says snootily "it's pronounced HAH-vard".

16. Rob Preston--Big Rob, as his classmates call him, is the only student at Catholic in my tenure here who has literally gone DAYS, WEEKS EVEN without saying anything--in class, in the hallways, on the athletic fields. This silence so fascinates students around the school that he has almost developed a cult-like following, similar, if you remember in the movie Forest Gump, to those people who began to run with Forest from east coast to west coast, believing he had some guru-like wisdom to share whenever it was time for him to speak. UNLIKE Forest Gump, however, Rob is a very BRIGHT young man, who has received a scholarship to Rensaleeur Poly Tech Institute to study engineering. Congratulations, Rob.

17. And then to fill the vacuum of sound created by Rob, there's Andria Ransdell,. When Andria was a freshman, she was a human bullhorn, with an amazingly loud, screeching voice--all the more amazing in that this noise emanated from someone less than 100 pounds. I still remember passing between the two front offices during lunch or ten minute break and wondering, who IS THAT ANNOYING LOUD GIRL down by Mrs. Ortega's room? But then, a miracle. As Andria became older, she became quieter. This occured to me about two weeks ago as I was standing in the hallways and this very well kept, refined young lady walked passed me and smiled, saying "Hello Mr. Weber". I had to stop her and reminisce with her the difference, and she instantly smiled. A miracle, indeed.

18. Mary Sullivan--It's a good thing Mary is not going to college north of Alabama because anything below 80 degrees makes her cold. If the fans are on in the classroom, she's cold. If the A/C is on, she's bound to complain about how cold it is, bundled up in blankets. While her classmates complained about what a cheapskate I am with the A/C, and how miserably hot they were, I could point to Mary and say, "look, Mary is perfectly comfortable". Thanks Mary, for helping me save the school money.

19. Whitney Barranco--Last year, I said that Kristin Sutton was the most positive person I've ever met. She has a rival in Whitney. Some people are like dementors from the Harry Potter, able to suck the life right out of you. Whitney is exactly the opposite. Not only that, she sits in the front row, takes notes through-out class, laughs at all my corny jokes, and has this amazingly positive effect on the class environment. No accident that Whitney is the most improved student in her class. We're proud of her.

20. Elizabeth LaKemper--Some students become ladies long before their senior year, and Elizabeth is certainly such a student. From Elizabeth's perspective, one of the great things about graduating is she can now wear flip flops whenever she wants without worrying about Mr. Frye glaring at her down the hallway.

21. Cecily McAlpine - I've often teased Cecily that she has this blonde thing down to a science. If a teacher is asking Cecily to work too hard, she can give you that well rehearsed empty look that says something like "Mr. Weber, this poor little southern girl can't understand.". Poor Cecily, you think. But if you are talking about something that interests her, suddenly her IQ jumps a hundred points and she's absolutely on target with her comments and thoughts. I think the technical term for this is sand-bagging. How many of you know, for example, that Cecily is bi-lingual? You see, she hides these kinds of things well.... if teachers knew how smart she was, they might ask her to do more work.

22. Joe Head - It doesn't matter how restrictive the dress code is--teenagers are going to find some way to customize it and find a way to pull the chain of the admin. Joe, ever the lawyer, discovered a loophole in the dress code: though we have restrictions about belt color, socks, length and condition of pants, shorts, shirts, hair, and jewelry, we apparently say NOTHING about how obnoxiously large your belt BUCKLE can be, and Joe took full advantage of this fact with a huge shiny buckle that could probably be called more a shield than a buckle. Apparently Joe also wants to have the noisiest truck in our parking lot, so he's attached a cowbell on the back of his truck. He's going to Georgia Tech next year. Joe, shouldn't you be going to Mississippi State?

23. Michael Norris -- Michael's family is from Mobile, as am I, so it's not a surprise to me that Michael has an unusual interest in hurricanes and following the weather. I think he even wants to be a meteorologist. His idol is Jim Cantore--you know, that crazy guy that travels to the worst hurricanes and reports live while trailers and other pieces of houses fly by behind him. Also, Michael, along with his good friend Jordan Golson, are big NASCAR fans, and when they were freshman, they would boo and hiss at MS parents who would slow down to almost a stop as they crossed over our unusually large speed bumps circling our school property. That is, until they started driving their own cars. They now go so slowly over those bumps they look little grandmothers.

24. Samantha "Sam" Telofski - Before I taught this year's senior class, I always wondered who this "Sam" fella was in the school. I found out this year why I could never track him down. I will remember Sam for two reasons: first, keeping the rest of the senior officers on their toes (two guys) and second, as a cross country runner. It didn't matter how long ago the winners crossed the finished line--Sam was going to finish the race, regardless, a great testimony to her tenacity and mind over body. Sam is a finisher. She completes what she starts, and because of this, she will be greatly successful in life.

25. Nikki Nixon - Great smile. Great attitude. Person of faith. A wonderful young lady inside and out. She's got a little "diva" in her too, one of those things I didn't realize until graduation practice, when walking up to practice getting her diploma, she twirled gracefully down the aisle. She brought a lot of spunk to her class, and we'll miss her.

26. Greg Rhodes - Greg perfected a strategy in getting along with our female teachers: If he said "ma'am" two or three times in every sentence and gave them his best smile, he could get just about anything he wanted. Impeccable manners. Perhaps one of the best memories I have of Greg is when he played goalie against Trinity and made two stops in the shoot-out after double overtime to give Catholic the important area win.

27. Brad Kondrak - I told the seniors for their last day of classes they could wear a Tshirt of the college they will attend in the fall. So there were a lot of Alabama and Auburn shirts. Jacob, of course, was sporting Havard. Lane had on his Tulane shirt. It was a chance for seniors to show pride in their university. Brad showed up with a "Bradley University" if I couldn't put those two things together. Leave it to Brad to find a way to advertise himself the last day of school. Brad, do you ever know what STATE Bradley university is in?

28. John Terino-- John is a dedicated cross country runner, which is just another way of saying he's crazy. Cross country runners go out and run "three or four miles" just to WARM UP. On an easy day, they might go out for a "brisk 8 mile run". On days where they push themselves, 12-15 miles, hard I'm not kidding. Don't think that John didn't love it the first few weeks of soccer season when all of his team-mates were gasping for breath getting in shape. We were very happy to receive John back to the Catholic community this year after a 2 year stint in Egypt, and he's really been a nice addition to the class.

29. Shannon Boswell - Shannon is an accomplished dancer and very active in the Montgomery ballet. She also has maybe the biggest smile in the senior class. She brings class to this class and to our school, and we'll be sorry to see her leave us.

30. Meredith Anile-- I asked Meredith's father if there were any box left unchecked from Meredith's senior year. A Honor Roll, Basketball and Volleyball player, Homecoming Queen, Hitchcock Award Representative for her class, and most recently, named our school's most outstanding female athlete. I think that's about every box! Congrats, Meredith, on an outstanding high school career.

31. Chris Wilson-- Chris is a great guy, one of those people in the class that everyone likes. As most of you know, we started a wrestling program this year, and as is typical in a program's first year, individual wins were rare. I remember attending a match against St. James, in which Chris won his match, and the team and the gym erupted with pure joy--partly because they were cheering for Catholic, but I think, too, partly because they had such affection and respect for Chris, and everyone was really happy for him. I think that tells you a lot about him.

32. Elana Strickland-- Being naturally reserved, Elana confessed to me about 2 weeks ago she was worried what I was going to say about her tonight, and of course, I told her whatever it was, I would try to embarrass her. But the truth is, and I say this now that she's worried for two weeks, I've got nothing but praise for Alana. Solid citizen. Quietly goes about her work, doing what she's supposed to do, in a very dignified, lady like fashion. You see, Elana, you worried for no reason.

33/34. Kai Keller and Marco Antunes-- Both of these young men are German exchange students who joined us in their senior year. I've often wondered how hard it must be for these young men to swoop from Germany to Montgomery, AL. As if learning English were not demanding enough, they must learn how we SOUTHERNERS speak English, with all of our peculiar idioms and our unique manner of pronunciation. But these guys just jump right in, and this year, as if it weren't challenging enough to simply be students, they asked Mrs. Vaughn if they could make a public presentation to our community at our Awards Ceremony, right here, in front of 400 people. They did so, and gave the school a wonderful gift of Latin verse in a nice frame, which Mrs. Hayden and I are jockeying over who gets to hang in their office. Thank you fellas, and congratulations on a great year. Keep in touch.

35. Lauren Starr--As a teacher, when Lauren first has you, she sizes you up for a while. Just because the schedule says she has to go to your classroom and listen to you doesn't mean she has to believe what you're saying. So for the first 3-4 weeks, she said almost nothing in my class, and I had the distinct impression I was being measured. Then it was time for Lauren to probe a bit more deeply, and she started asking deep, thoughtful questions about a variety of things...just to see how I'd respond. I think it was somewhere around the 8th week where I actually saw a flicker of a smile about some joke I made in class--not out and out laughter, mind you, that would be out of character, premature. Finally, somewhere about the 11th week, she was willing to grudgingly believe most of what I was saying. Too bad the course was only 12 weeks long. Lauren has a good mind, and I regret I didn't have her for longer.

36. Jannah Singletary-- When I think of Jannah, one of the first words that comes to me is "competence". Jannah is an "on the ball", competent young lady. She is a disciplined studier, willing to ask questions, willing to argue with classmates, willing to defend a position, willing to modify her thoughts in a discussion without backing off her main point. In other words, she is an ideal student and I expect she will do exceptionally well in college next year.

37. Alexis Franco-- I remember teasing Alexis' sister Maria upon her graduation that if there were a picture to be taken, Maria would some how be in that picture. Alexis is exactly the opposite--she's always worked quietly behind the scenes, not drawing attention to herself. Alexis played VB, and her coach once said "I'd take a whole team of Alexises--quiet, always doing what she's supposed to do, willing to do the dirty work. I'm not sure Maria ever sweated (I'm teasing) during her high school years. Alexis did the sweat work all the way through.

38. Thomas Awlasewicz-- Tomas is an exchange student from Poland--a big, muscular young man that I think our football coach tried to get to play football. Then, after watching him dunk a few times, our basketball coach tried to get him to play basketball. He invented some lame excuse that he couldn't play because of his knees, but I think it was to spend more time with...

39. Stephen Bodet--I THINK that Stephen can make this unique claim: He's the only 3 sport athlete in his class. In the middle of playing football, to wrestling to baseball, he was also the senior class president. Stephen, like Greg Rhodes, has impeccable manners, a skill that comes in handy when he's trying to "wing it" when Mr. Conway, our SGA moderator, reminds him he forgot to do something...which...almost never happened....

40. Will Carter--Will played baseball for Catholic for 4 years, and while doing so, earned the tremendous respect of his peers and his younger team-mates. His whole family are baseball fans. That said, his father is giving him a great graduation present--they're travelling up to New York to see the Yankees play in the last season of Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built, then travelling further north to watch the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway. Now if they could only swing west a bit and see a game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, they would complete the most perfect trifecta of baseball games I could imagine. Will has worked harder, perhaps, than any other senior in this class to be here tonight. We're very proud of you Will.

41. John Carter-- John's family is in the USAF, and Catholic is the 9th school he has attended in his K-12 career, including stints in Korea and Arizona, among others. But after just ONE YEAR going to school in the south with us, John has decided to attend the University of the South at Sewanee....just another example of how wise a young man John truly is.

42. Rachel Castanza--Being the only daughter of Rachel's father Mike isn't easy. Boys will call the house and say "Is Rachel there?" If Rachel's dad answered, he would say, "What is your name, son?" Let's say it's John. "John, here's what you meant to say "Hello Mr. Castanza, this is John. How are you? I would be ever so grateful if I could speak to your daughter Rachel if she is available to speak with me." Do you understand, John? "Uh, yes sir". "Good", and then click, he'd hang up. Sometimes, they'd call back. I can only imagine the evil looks a teenage daughter would give her father for this approach. But somehow, despite her father's ever watchful eye, Rachel seemed to have a good social life, for reasons that are obvious if you know her: she's a lovely young woman, inside and out.

43. Jeff Dailey--I think it was two years ago that Jeff did a Mr. Frye imitation at a pep rally and did it so convincingly that he's been called Mr. Frye several times since. He even resembles Mr. Frye a little bit. But with a good spirit and sense of humor, Jeffrey has cast off this horrific burden to do quite well here.

44. Chris Harris--Chris loves Catholic so much he decided to stay an extra year. All throughout this year, I've asked Chris "Chris, we're not going for year #6 are we?" "Chris, we're on track right?". Each time, he's answered "I got it covered, Mr. Weber". "Good Chris. As much as your mom and your teachers love you, we all want you to leave". Well ....he was right, he had it covered, and here he is. Congratulations, Chris.

45. Kathy Hasselwander--Unlike previous years, this year's senior video has movies within it, in addition to a zillion pictures. In the middle of one segment, Kathy pops in and says "Her favorite thing about high school was senior retreat, but she doesn't remember much about it". So you're thinking, either Kathy had a horrible 4 years of high school, in that the best time was the part she can't remember, or she was some sort of stoner, in a cloud all weekend. Allow me to set the record straight, lest you get the wrong impression. Kathy was at that time on some rather powerful powerful there was some question as to whether she should even attend senior retreat, but she was determined to be there to be with her classmates. So she really did have a good time... at least....what...she...remembers.

46. Travis Hutchinson--Our band has had a lot of success in its infancy, competing well for the last three years in state wide competition. If you ask the band director about this, he'll tell you the key to that is the quality of your bass instruments--often the weak link in a high school band. For as long as our band program has existed, Travis has played the tuba and played it quite well. Apparently, being a good tuba player takes a lot of breath, which helps explain why Travis is so quiet in class, second only to Rob Preston as a man of few words in this year's class.

47. John Ingram--John is a smart young man, but he's also very polite. So in my class this year, if I were making some over-generalizations between how Catholics and non-Catholics might view things such as salvation or grace, John would wait patiently after class and say, gently, "Mr. Weber, that's not what we believe". John is Methodist. And when he explained himself, I would have to admit, "Yes, I suppose I was talking more about the differences between Catholics and Baptists", and I'd have to correct myself the next day. This tells you several things about John: #1 He listens in class #2 His faith is important to him #3 HE would never, ever want to show up the teacher. All true, by the way, about John

48. Molly Jones --It's been a tough year for Molly. She's been sick so much and absent from school we may owe her parents a tuition refund. Still, amazingly, she's this class' salutatorian. It says something about her ability and her work ethic.

49. Amy Kelley-- It wasn't until Baccalaureate last night that I learned that Amy was the sister of both Jill and Jeremy Smith. On the way home, I thought, boy that explains EVERYTHING. Whether that's "everything" as in good or "everything" as in bad, I'll simply leave it to Amy, Jill and Jeremy to speculate.

50. Patricia Larriuz-- Patricia thought she had the ultimate way of getting out of time. She knew if she skipped time for a teacher, that teacher would call her grandmother, who speaks only Spanish, so they'd be unable to communicate. Unfortunately for Patricia, our principal, Mrs. Vaughn, speaks Spanish fluently, so when Mrs. Vaughn called on behalf of the teacher, her whole plan backfired.

51. Chancellor Maryland--People call him "Chance" for short, but I prefer "Chancellor" because the word has an interesting etymology. In pagan basilicas, it was very common that the Churches were meeting centers for the villagers, where all sorts of transactions would take place, including the buying and selling of animals. It was necessary, to keep animals from roaming into the inner sanctuary, to erect latice like railing to keep the animals and other underdesirable people out. These structures were called cancelli, they were later adapted by Catholics as communion rails, and the "chancellor" became the person with the authority to decide who could come in and out of the this inner sanctuary. So "chancellor" means a kind of gate-keeper, and even today, I suppose one job of diocesan chancellors is to control who can get a meeting with the Bishop or not. Anyway, I thought this is great, Chancellor Maryland plays soccer and wouldn't it be great if he played defense, protecting his goal against the foreign players, and wouldn't that be beautiful symbolism....but my whole line was shot when I checked with Mr. Tolbert this morning and he said Chancellor plays forward, or another words, he's on offense. I guess I'll just call you Chance, too.

52. Lauren Miles --We read a book called "Road Less Traveled" as part of the Christian Identity class, in which Scott Peck, a psychiatrist, has some pretty challenging things to say about relationships, which many of the young ladies, with their dreams of the knight on a white horse one day sweeping them off their feet, don't particularly like. "The bloom of romance always fades", according to Peck. There's no "happily ever after", that "falling in love" and the feelings associated with that are not the same thing as genuine love, which is aimed at the spiritual growth of the other person", that love is work. Most senior girls, when they hear these things, want to argue these ideas. Lauren was too smart for that. After all, this guy had an M.D. and she was as senior in high school. What did she know? Lauren's plan was to attack the source. "Mr. Weber", she said in class one day. "I've been doing some research on Scott Peck. Did you know that he is now divorced from his wife?" "I have a few quotes from his daughters, in which they blame him for the divorce, would you like me to read them to you?". No, but thank you Lauren, for pointing this out to me and the rest of the senior class. I am sure my job will become so much easier now that credibility of my most important authority is ruined. Lauren loved every minute of it.

53. Madison Ortega -- Maddie is going to school on a soccer scholarship. She plays defender and if you've ever watched her, you understand why her college coach is excited about having her on the team. She comes up to the ball full speed, and if the forward on the other team is foolish enough not to back down, Madison will literally run over her to the ball. So she's a little intimidating back there. Of course, what what I'm most proud about with Madison is her growth as a student and a person while she's been at Catholic. Madison is the 3rd grandchild of Mrs. Ortega's to graduate from Catholic. Congrats, Maddie.

54. Jonathan Owens--Jonathan's getting his diploma tonight, but he still owes me time. And in case you're wondering, Jonathan, just how I intend to enforce that, remember that although you now have that diploma in your hand, it's your transcripts, not the diploma, that tells colleges you've actually graduated. And we haven't sent those transcripts off yet. In fact, Mrs. Kimbrough, weren't you saying the other day that you lost that transcript? Boy I sure hope we can find it....maybe if you visited me, Jonathan, you could help me look for a few hours.

55. Brennan Parker--I called Brennan by his brother's name "Butler" at least half the time. They have the same build, the same color hair, the same hair style, they're about the same weight. His parents don't help us much by beginning both boys' names with a "B". So Brennan helpfully suggested one day that the way to tell them apart was to always remember that he, Brennan, was the better athlete...funny Brennan, but ever since that suggestion, I've been calling you Butler.

56. Lauren Churchwell--This must be the happiest day of Lauren's life, because I don't know if I've ever met someone that truly DESPISED school her first two years as much as Lauren. She sat in the hallways, gloomy, just counting down the day toward graduation. I saw Lauren earlier tonight and she was wearing a HUGE smile. Well congratulations, Lauren, you made it.

57. Caitlyn Wiggins--Don't ever ask Caitlyn for her opinion unless you're prepared to receive it...unvarnished....all of the details. She will tell you like it is. And she'll do it with a big, charming smile on her face as she gives you all the details about what is wrong with the place.

Class of 2008, May God Bless You!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Do not be afraid!

"Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."

These words, spoken by Pope John Paul II, perfectly express a Catholic school's deepest aspirations for its students. Be it the rigor of the classroom, the careful attentiveness required by the arts, or the challenge of athletic competition, we want our students to strive to be excellent in all their endeavors, so that with the confidence that comes through achievement, they may indeed be willing to risk lives of great depth and commitment of service to their Church and community.

The lens through which all our activity is focused is our Catholic faith. Through study of Scripture and Doctrine, students discover the ancient and universal truths that bring order and synthesis to their lives. Through opportunities for service, students are inspired to love God through others. Through prayer, liturgy and worship, they are invited into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Catholic schools exist to immerse students in a community that challenges the mind, strengthens the body, lifts the spirit and nourishes the soul.

Come "out into the deep" and join us!