Wednesday, May 17, 2017

An Extraordinary Year

Starting St. Michael Catholic High School with the Catholic community of Baldwin County has been one of the great privileges of my life. I've had occasion to reflect on who we are together in the various talks I've given as we wind down our inaugural year. Here are a few excerpts:

It’s especially poignant to remind ourselves, on this occasion, that we are deeply indebted to those who have gone before us. We are partly who our parents are, who are partly who their parents are, as each generation passes its legacy to the next generation. But what a joy, what a privilege it is, to be on both the giving and receiving end of this! My wife and I are new grandparents. Our two oldest children each have a daughter—one 20 months, and the other 16 months—and for the first time, we understand the beauty of the prayer “May you live to see your children’s children!” (Psalm 128). Diane and I consider both little girls one of God’s greatest blessings to us! (Grandparents’ Breakfast, May 15, 2017).


Like everything else we’ve done this year, we’ve not been able to fall back on a template of “what we’ve always done” to create our awards ceremony this morning. That’s both a liberating, good thing, because it frees us to be creative--but it’s also a very challenging thing—and I would even argue a dangerous thing— if we’re careless. It’s in our rituals that we create who we are. Regardless of what we SAY about ourselves, if we are not thoughtful about what we honor, we may end up communicating something very different.

Our mission for St. Michael, created by our advisory council and approved by the Archbishop in the fall, is elegant in its simplicity:

“St. Michael Catholic High School, a college preparatory school of the Archdiocese of Mobile, aspires for its students to become scholars, leaders and disciples of Jesus Christ. “

“Scholars, leaders and disciples of Jesus Christ.” That’s what we want every student to become, and those are the three traits in our students we wish to honor this morning
 (from our Awards Ceremony, May 17, 2016).

It often takes several generations to clearly understand the impact our ancestors still have on our families. My grandfather was a university professor, as was my father. I am a high school principal, and my son is an assistant principal of an elementary school. We are four generations of educators. Dr. Blanchard, to whom we dedicate our biology lab, was a medical doctor. It will be interesting to see if his granddaughter Cameron follows in his footsteps—she clearly has the genes and the work ethic to become one if she chooses. But even if she chooses otherwise, she is blessed and indebted, as we are all blessed and indebted, for what she has received. (Upon dedication of our biology lab, May 15, 2017)

One peculiarity of America today is we're always looking ahead, trying to solve the next problem. We rarely look backwards and appreciate how far we’ve come. I want you to go back to the very first day of St. Michael Catholic High School, August 17, 2016. Freshman, you walked into high school for the first time, not knowing what to expect, a little fearful, a little stressed. It wasn’t just the building that was brand new—you were, too! But you’re different now. You know what you’re capable of, know what your weaknesses are, you are now more comfortable in your own skin. In just two weeks, there will be a new freshman class, and you’ll no longer be the youngest here. Sophomores, you had an idea of what high school was like, but worried whether St. Michael would be a “real” high school, fearing it would be some lame imitation. But you’ve changed, too. This is now your home. And with your new driver’s license, the world is opening up to you, and college doesn’t feel like such a remote, distant idea. This is an exciting time in your life!

My prayer for all of you this summer is that you will be safe. But it’s much deeper than that. There are only two things that really matter: Your relationships with each other and your relationship with God. I pray that both relationships will grow deeper and fuller—therein lies your true happiness.

This will be my last “talk” with you this year. Thanks for the amazing year it’s been—you guys are truly the co-founders of the school, our first students. Let’s come back next year and build on what we’ve started! May God bless you!
(Last student assembly talk, May 15, 2017)

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