Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chamber Choir's Last Performance, 2011

The Chamber Choir of JPII gave a riveting performance of "Omnia Sol" at the Commencement exercises for the class of 2011 on the stage of the Grand 'Ole Opry.

It was the last time many of the students in the chamber choir performed as students of JPII, ending a stellar four year career under the direction of Mrs. JJ Ebelhar.

The song was particularly appropriate for the occasion. Here's a brief excerpt:

Somewhere far from nowhere, I grew both strong and tall…
Longing to become, but knowing not the path at all!
But the footprints of the winter melted to fields of spring;
One last embrace before I cross the threshold: To life we sing!

I am proud to be associated with a school that fosters such excellence in the fine arts.

Bravo, students!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baccalaureate Homily, Class of 2011

Editor's Note:
At the baccalaureate mass for our graduating students, our school chaplain, Deacon Brian Edwards, gave such a moving homily that I asked him if I could post this on my blog, and he agreed.

There is nothing more important to the life and mission of our school
than that each and every one of you find the truth of Jesus Christ.
As Jesus said in today’s gospel,
“I am the way and the truth and the life.”
I hope that you’ve experienced Jesus wandering the halls of JP2.
I hope that he’s taught you in our classrooms,
and sat beside you in the dining hall.
I hope that he’s played next to you on our sports fields,
I hope that you’ve experienced Jesus in the sacrifice of the Mass.

I hope that you’ve seen him and experienced him,
Because that’s what it’s all about!
That’s what really matters!

You are about to graduate from high school,
and this is a time for celebration.
You should be proud of your accomplishments.
BUT you also stand at a major crossroads in your life.
You have many decisions to make,
about colleges, careers, and relationships.
Every decision brings you closer to God’s ultimate plan for you,
Or distances you from God and weakens you as a person.

It may seem odd for me to tell you this very personal story
on the eve of your graduation,
but I think it’s worth telling.

My brother graduated from Fr. Ryan in 1986
with a bright future ahead of him.
He went to college.
He was smart,
but he didn’t make good personal decisions.
He got involved in dangerous and risky activities--
And he became an alcoholic and an addict.
In 1986 when he was graduating from high school
he saw only the possibilities in his life.
But by the sum total of his decisions,
his risky behaviors,
his bad relationships,
His living life on the edge,
He developed a severe addiction that he never broke.
Instead his addiction broke him.
He went into treatment multiple times over many years,
but several years ago his cocaine addiction destroyed his life,
and he died a tragic and sudden death.
My little brother--
my baby brother.

He was at a crossroads in his life when he graduated high school,
but he took the wrong road.
I cannot adequately share with you the pain it caused my mother,
the pain it caused me and the rest of our family
to see a life full of such promise cut short so tragically.

As I say this to you, I can almost hear you thinking,
“What does this have to do with us?
…that’ll never happen to me!”
I truly hope it doesn’t,
but he would have said the same thing as he sat at his Baccalaureate Mass
on the eve of his high school graduation.

Every decision you make matters.
Every decision brings you closer to
or distances you more from
God’s ultimate plan for you.

The lure of materialism, greed and selfishness and lust are hard to resist.
And it’s especially hard when you go off to college.
College parties, alcohol, and so many other temptations are everywhere.

Work hard to preserve your dignity, your heart, your body and your soul!
God designed us for a particular purpose.
He’s created us for a specific destiny
--to be with him.
In the gospel today, Jesus said,
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”
and “I am going to prepare a place for you.”

You are graduating from JP2 having learned much about the Catholic faith.
At a time when many people get their theology from shows like
“Ghost Whisperer”
or from other worldly influences like the gospel according to Hollywood
--or made-up theologies you can buy by the car-load in the self-help
or New Age section of the local bookstore,
at JP2 you have learned authentic Christian doctrine that actually means something.

Live the Christian faith!
Breathe it!
and share it!

Along with many Catholics,
JP2 also has a number of Christian students from other churches.
This is truly one of our strengths
--that we find Christ in each other,
that we learn from each other,
and that we grow together more deeply in our faith.

This faith is entrusted to you as you graduate from JP2.
Be strong in faith!
Avoid temptations!
Make good decisions!
Represent the mission and values of Pope John Paul II High School!
Pray faithfully!
Stay close to the Church and to the sacraments!
Find a Church on your college campuses!

help your sons and daughters find a Church.
Along with your prayers
and your love,
there is no greater gift you can give them.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Earn This

This is Mr. Weber's last address of the 2010-2011 school year.

On Friday, during a ceremony to bless our new weight room and thank Mr. Jim Carell for his generosity in helping us purchase the new equipment, Mr. Carell announced he was going to build us concession stands and bathrooms, turf our field, and furnish us with a new track. This is an extraordinary gift, the largest our school has ever received since its founding, when Mr. Carell’s brother Monroe and his wife Ann gave the diocese five million dollars as the lead gift in a 23 million dollar project to build this high school.

What can we say or do in response to such extraordinary generosity?

Jesus once said, “To he who is given much, much is expected” (Luke 12:48). I don’t think Jesus meant that because we’ve been given a turf field and a track, he expects us to win more games or track meets. I think he meant that those who have been treated generously must live their lives so that these gifts are not wasted, so that we become people who lead others to do what is good, to do what is right, and to do what is holy.

Seniors, this is the last high school assembly you will attend here as students of Pope John Paul II High School, and aside from a few introductory remarks at Awards Night and Graduation, the last time I will ever have the opportunity to speak to you. You may remember, way back in your freshman year when I spoke to you the first time, as a visitor, just after I had been announced as the new headmaster, but still months away from beginning here. I talked to you then about my favorite movie of all time, Saving Private Ryan. Recall the plot line. It was during World War II, and a mother had four sons who were sent into battle. Three sons were killed during the Normandy landing, and the fourth son, Private James Francis Ryan, a paratrooper (played in the movie by Matt Damon), was lost somewhere in Nazi-occupied France when a drop went badly.

When the Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Marshall, learns of the terrible fate of the mother who had lost three sons, he sends Captain John Miller (played by Tom Hanks) and a unit of his men on a rescue mission deep behind enemy lines to rescue her fourth son.Thus the title, “Saving Private Ryan.” Over the course of the mission, many of the unit’s soldiers die valiantly, and those who remain question why so many should die for the sake of just one man. At the end of the movie, the Tom Hanks character, Captain Miller, is also mortally wounded. But before he dies, he brings Private Ryan close to him, and whispers on behalf of the many who have died rescuing him, “Earn this!”

Earn this, seniors. No, we've not been in WWII. But for four years, your parents have gone through great sacrifice to send you to what I still believe to be, as I said to you then, one of the very best high schools in the country. Earn this. Your teachers and coaches are at the very top of their profession and they sacrifice a lot to teach here, but they are committed to the mission of this place, and committed to you. Earn this, on behalf of the donors like the Carells who have made this place possible, but also the many, many people who have given what they can to keep JPII affordable to those who otherwise would not be able to attend.

“To those given much, much is expected.”

It has been a great privilege to have you as students here. Now, as we sing from time to time at mass, go make a difference! The world needs smart, virtuous, faithful leaders. Go make a difference in this world, and may God bless you!