I hope that this has been a wonderful few months for you and your families. Prep students, as is their summer custom, fanned out locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally to serve our sisters and brothers living at the margins. Whether our young men were swinging hammers in Tennessee, slinging food in Camden, or singing songs in Ecuador, the goal was the same—to be bearers of Christ’s love and light to people who are experiencing struggle and to see in them that same love and light of Christ. The agencies with whom we serve have once again sent back glowing reports about the generosity, compassion, sensitivity, boundless energy, and good humor of our boys—words we never tire of hearing.
The journeys to sites near and far no doubt have a significant impact on our students and their ability to appreciate the wide array of conditions in which our fellow human beings live. They see, in real ways, the diversity and severity of people’s needs and the courage with which they face them. Students also begin to recognize the common denominators of human nature—need, suffering, compassion, care, community, and hope. One of the most rewarding parts about accompanying our students in their service, beyond the journeys out, is to accompany them on their interior journeys. Stepping back in a prayerful way to consider the meaning and significance of our experience is at the heart of the Jesuit tradition. As we say to the boys, the “reflection is as critical as the hours” if you aspire to be a “contemplative in action.” All seniors are required to keep journals of their reflections on service. Those journals are read and commented on by service teachers throughout the year, adults who help students navigate the tricky waters of human experience in this context. The journals help students identify and describe their emotional and spiritual responses to events. They also become fodder for small group discussions to the extent that students are willing to share. Those journals and exchanges with faculty and fellow students give birth to insights into others, God, and self, that can make service projects truly transformative.
I marvel each “service year” not only at the capacity of our young men to develop sympathies for and relationships with people they might otherwise have never encountered, but also at their ability to see themselves in a new light through service. This year one senior remarked., “I was initially resentful of how the service requirement was going to force me to sacrifice the time I’d rather spend hanging out with my friends. In the end, what I sacrificed instead was an attitude of selfishness that I had not realized I had.” Another senior shared that he never knew that he could be helped by someone he had thought he was there to help. He spoke of a boy with autism who was difficult to understand and socially awkward. At first the senior thought the project was going nowhere. Over time, as often happens, the Prep senior was able to see beyond the special challenges the boy faced and realized that the boy was “super friendly” to everyone in the program, staff and clients alike. Our senior realized one day that “this young boy was more outgoing and friendly than I was. Being with him inspired me to try to be more open to new relationships with others.” That boy revealed to him something important about himself. And so it goes.
The description of the Prep’s four-year service requirement and an overview of the substantial and serious senior service requirement are below. Please never hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns, or suggestions. Thanks as always for your support in all its forms. We look forward to a wonderful 2019-2020 academic and service year.
Director, Christian Service Program