Good Morning Saint John’s,
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for joining the students, faculty, staff, and administration here this morning for our Mass of the Holy Spirit. We are grateful we can gather in prayer and in the celebration of the Eucharist as we start our 2019-2020 school year.
We have so much to be grateful for as a community.
A special thank you to Fr. Jose Rodriguez for celebrating today’s Mass – besides his work as our school chaplain, he is a dear friend to and supporter of Saint John’s. We are grateful for the great care he takes with our community and that he could be with us today – a day where we mark the 122nd opening of our school, but most importantly, a day where we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the arrival of Bros. Robert, Hugh, Calasanctius, and Anthony who stepped off the train in Union Station in 1894 to be teachers for the St. John’s Boys Parochial School on Temple Street in Worcester.
A special welcome to our Golden Pioneers and their guests in attendance today. Your presence with us speaks to the strong and important Pioneer legacy - a legacy that takes us back to, and grounds us, at Temple Street and a legacy that inspires us today on Main Street in Shrewsbury. It’s great to be a Pioneer, but it’s an even greater accomplishment to be a Golden Pioneer - 50 years or more from graduation.
Much like our freshman did today and our seniors will just before graduation, our Golden Pioneers receive a pin - the Golden Pioneer pin - a symbol that unites us in the spirit of our Founder Theodore James Ryken, and in the spirit of the mission, vision, and values of the Xaverian Brothers and of Saint John’s High School.
And lastly, a final welcome to the Class of 2023 on the day of your matriculation ceremony. We welcome you and your family to the Saint John’s community. While you have been on campus as students since August 28, today marks the official beginning of four years that will last for many years. You join a community with a storied and vibrant past with an equally promising future for you and all future Pioneers. Welcome to you and welcome to your families.
On August 29, 1894, our lives, and the lives of many young men and their families all throughout central Massachusetts and beyond, changed forever. At the request of Msgr. Thomas Griffin, pastor of Saint John’s Church on Temple Street, four Xaverian Brothers, arrived to teach 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in Worcester. Four years later, in 1898, Bro. Robert Treanor, CFX, the only remaining Brother of the original four, who served as Superior in Worcester, recognized a need to continue to provide a high-quality, Catholic and Xaverian Brother education, and was instrumental in opening the high school - which is why we trace our founding as a school to 1898.
Throughout our history, over 200 Xaverian Brothers have faithfully served our school community - continually from 1894 to today, for 125 years, whether on staff or retired and living on campus, we’ve had Brothers teaching, coaching, praying, serving, and watching out for Saint John’s High School. They walked and continue to walk the halls as an embodiment of humility, zeal, trust, simplicity, and compassion. It is their legacy that we benefit from every day, but it is this same legacy that we, as lay men and women of faith, have inherited and need to live out in our interactions with each other and in our interactions with the broader community.
What is fascinating about Saint John’s, and, in many ways even with the Xaverian Brothers as a religious order, is that though both are institutions steeped in history and tradition, there is very little written about our history as a school and the history and lives of the Xaverian Brothers in Worcester. I think, in some way, the reason for that is because, at our core, much of what we live and breathe while at the school is the same today as it was in 1898, 1948, 1978, or even 5-10 years ago. One of the many things I love, admire, and deeply appreciate about our school is that we know who we are, we know and live our mission, we are confident in the work we do and have done for so long: educating boys into young men of great character - into Saint John’s Men - men of faith, men of prayer, men of intellect, and men of service.
There is one book written about Saint John’s High School - The Golden Conquest, edited by Brother Elias and published in 1944, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Brothers in Worcester county - the same year Col. Pytko graduated from Saint John’s.
Mr. Dillon, our new assistant principal for the middle school division, read it recently and reminded me of an inspiring passage that speaks to what the Brothers hoped to accomplish every day in a simple four-classroom building on Temple Street. I want to read this selection to you, and I want you to, for a moment, ask yourself if this is the same or different from who we are today, 75 years later, on this beautiful campus on Main Street in Shrewsbury?
“When we refer to ‘Saint John’s’ we do not necessarily mean just a school. We mean everything that institution stands for - it’s principles, ideals, and discipline. The students attending this establishment of learning have received not merely an average high school education but a Catholic one - one in which faithful and wise parents saw and realized the great benefits their children would receive and the strength they would acquire so necessary in these times. For the training by, and in, books is not enough - the forming of good character is far more important - and Saint John’s aim has been to give both, which shall enable her sons to face all future trials and difficulties without cringing. Cast aside math, history, and languages, and they still have Christian faith, hope and charity characteristic of a good Catholic. Saint John’s has given her students every chance to learn the true way of life; she has given them a clear, conscientious view of their own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, and eloquence in expressing them, and a force in fostering them. These students have not climbed a ladder whose rungs are merely Latin, English, Algebra, and the like; but there has been a guiding light at the top of this ladder to show them the way to true success - that light being Religion, the true knowledge and worship of God, the primary purpose of Catholic education. ‘Great souls have wills; feeble ones have only wishes.’ The have been trained at, and by, Saint John’s to be great in purpose and in souls for the days to come.”
Wow. The experience here at Saint John’s High School, the Saint John’s Experience, what it means to be a Pioneer is timeless. I challenge us all, this year and beyond, to grab hold of this experience. Grab hold of this legacy. Grab hold and truly embrace what it means to be a Saint John’s Man.
To our current students, faculty, staff, and colleagues - this is why we are all here. This is why our students make the courageous and bold choice to be a Pioneer, why parents make so many sacrifices to send their student here, and why our faculty and staff are commit the time, effort and energy to know, love, value, and challenge all of our students in the classroom, on the field, on the stage - wherever your passion lies, there we will meet you and move you to new and greater heights.
To our Golden Pioneers, those present here today, those who couldn’t make it, and those who live in our memories - thank you for allowing us to stand on your shoulders. Thank you for all you do in your example, time, and generosity to allow us today to grab hold of the legacy of the Brothers and of those who came before us. We are who we are today because of you. We are deeply and forever indebted to you.
May God continue to bless our mission, our school, our school year, and the entire Saint John’s High School community. Thank you.