The Catholic Sunday Scriptures shed light on the mission experience at Cristo Rey, which contributes to Christian leadership. So why invest in the school and our students? Over the next few blogs I want to answer that question.
We are producing, consistently over 8 years, high school grads who are going to college, and persevering. Interestingly enough, the very same qualitative characteristics which abide in our faculty, grow within our students. I will explain with the light of this weekend's readings at Mass.
I want to focus on the qualitative characteristic called "grit." It is in our students. I see grit when I witness behaviors that manifest its presence. Grit is defined as "a passionate commitment to a single mission and an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission." (Quoting Angela Duckworth, in Paul Tough's How Children Succeed, (74). I see grit a lot of times at the beginning of the year when we realize that a number of students are here, not of their own choosing, but because their parents send them to us. They somehow get through those uncomfortable weeks. I see grit when I hear about students who have actually cut ties with some peers in their neighborhood and make new friends at the school. They choose not to walk down a path that doesn't feel right, though its so hard to cut those ties. (Unfortunately, in recruiting amidst our public housing, I have found that it is very difficult for some young people to persevere at the school, because of the social and emotional pull by their peers to remain safely in their world of familiarity… is too strong a pull for their fragile self-images.) I see grit when they walk into office buildings and take on adult responsibilities to help those companies succeed. I see grit when they join our sports teams, and they never have played the game but want to learn. All of our baseball and track teams compete totally on the road, we have no "home field advantage." And, I see grit when the data comes out which says that our most recent average ACT scores have risen 1.2 points over the past year! That's "grit" on the part of the teachers and the students.
Grit is God's gift, freely given. It comes a long with a nutrient that is indispensable for the activation of any character trait. Allow me to explain.
The Word of God, this weekend, strongly focuses upon every person's capability to freely choose what is most important in life. The Son of God, Jesus, Savior, clearly laid out the option to "have life within us" if we would eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood. He went on to say that these words, themselves would give spirit and life. And, further, we do not earn it, but that life is given freely by a loving Father God. "…no one can come to me unless it is granted them by my Father." (Jn. 6:65)
Well, what happened is what has happened through the ages, and that is, some believed Him, and others "turned back and no longer went about with Him." I believe that personal beliefs grow in us as we are tempered by the human realities of failure, disappointment due to unfulfilled or delayed expectations being met, unkept promises and even betrayal. Paul Tough points out that failure - or at least the real risk of failure - could often be a crucial step on the road to success. (177) He points out the lesson that "losing is something you do, not something you are." (116)
Our students see this grit in the daily service of our faculty who provides 7 hours of an expanding education. Our students see this grit in our sponsors at the work site, who actually draw the skills from within each of our students. (It is not magic) Our students see this grit in their parents, who make so many sacrifices in order for this opportunity to be offered in the first place.
Let us be grateful for the Source of this gift of grit. Where else? In the words of Simon Peter, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P., President
The Catholic Sunday Scriptures shed light on the mission experience at Cristo Rey, which contributes to Christian leadership. This Saturday, Aug. 15th from 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM the Advisory Board of the school holds the annual "Bar B Que @ the Zoo. Proceeds will jump start our 9th year of educating future college graduates. The combination of a college preparatory curriculum, and in-built workforce development, provide skills which enable the students to navigate their way through college.
So why invest in the school and these students? Over the next few blogs I want to answer that question. We are producing, consistently over 8 years, high school grads who are going to college, and persevering. Interestingly enough, the very same qualitative characteristics which abide in our faculty, grow within our students. I will explain with the light of this weekend's readings at Mass.
First, it is all about relying upon that which is already within us, to help. We read in Proverbs 9, "Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight." Living and walking in the way of insight means possessing emotional intelligence, (pay attention to my "insides" for there is wisdom in emotions, to get us through anything), and spiritual intelligence, (rely on an energy, a balance, whose "soul force" kicks in when the going is the toughest and we want to quit our goals and dreams.)
Second, seeing in our daily experiences that Jesus Christ is actually our constant companion, he is present in our day, our time, everything that we are and do. In Ephesians 5 it reads "making most of the time…and understanding what the will of the Lord is.
And, third, at the school we are all "exposed" to the Real Presence of the Resurrected Son of God, the Eucharist. We eat His Body and drink His Blood. So what of the majority of our student body which belongs to other faith traditions (Christian, Islamic, nothing at all)? I deliberately used the term "exposed," but in a "sacred way." That is, the exposure is within, and we cannot limit where, when, how, and what Spirit of God the Father wants to do with the gift of His Son. Recall a few Sundays ago when Jesus taught, "My father gives you the true bread from heaven." Jn. 6:30
No one in this building can fully explain the profound transformations that have occurred here with our young people and the responsibilities which they take on!
Case in point, this morning, Friday, our 9th graders (age 14) went out to work for the first time.They were told that yesterday a sophomore went to Energen Company for the first time, in a first time ever position at the public utility. His first assignment was to create "a comparative study between avg. energy costs in various Provinces of China, and the United States! That story got my attention, and, that of our 9th graders. (By the way we have 30 students yet to employ) Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P., President
I offer this reflection to all of our returning staff and faculty. Welcome to all of you who are joining the team for the first time. Our school is guided by the Word of God. The Sacred Scripture, the Bible, is a Light which enlightens every experience we have in carrying out the mission of Cristo Rey. There are so many challenges that resist the coming of the Kingdom of God, that it takes a Light greater than human to guide us. Start with any sin that destroys trust between two people. The primary dimension of the HFCRCHS mission (there are three dimensions) is that we are building the Kingdom of God by providing a “Catholic environment.” You will hear me refer to “the Catholic Christian Tradition (CCT),” in respect to the various Christian denominations, and other religions to which our staff and students adhere. This weekend (7/12/15) the CCT has us reflect on being prophets in our very ordinary lives, and as bearers of the Good News, that we “stay where we are” as regards the people to whom we are sent. “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.” Mk. 6:10
Every student who enters our classrooms is entering a “safe” house where they can open up to you and can admit, “I don’t know this.” Surrender and vulnerability are fertile ground for learning. Yes, every faculty member commits to doing all that is possible to see our graduates succeed through college, all of our graduates. When we welcome these students into our “house” we are providing the respect for each person’s inherent dignity. Pope Francis stated, “The mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity.” (Joy of the Gospel, #90)
Creating this environment is being prophetic, like Amos, whom we read about in the Book of Amos 7, 12-15. He was chosen from a simple occupation (no royal patronage or privilege) and carried out what he was called to do. Though he received resistance and rejection, his message was truthful, consistent and, eventually, fulfilled. Even though we will be up against unpredictable situations, feeling overwhelmed, and unprepared, God has equipped us with what we need to accomplish all, “so immeasurably generous is God’s favor to us.” Eph. 1:8.
Essential to carrying out this mission to provide a “safe house” for our students is our close attachment to Christ Jesus in prayer. Providing Him with a residence, in our “intimate home of the heart,” we are allowing Christ’s saving power to take possession of us. We will further his prophetic ministry. We are actually chosen in all of our brokenness and vulnerability. So the question is: “do I accept that I am chosen to continue the work He had begun, to preach His Gospel and through healings, to conquer the forces of evil that threatens that reign?” Too strong a question? Not really, given the environment in which we choose to locate ourselves with the mission that saves young lives. “Staying there” is the only witness that changes lives. My limitations are what allow the Gospel “to appear in all its power.” I depend upon entering into the minds and hearts of our students and parents through their welcome and openness to what I have to share, rather than, my power, privilege or popularity. We do this through His Bodily Presence in the Church and the Eucharist. Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P. President
Fr. Steinmiller is the president of Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School. He has been president of HFCR since the school opened it's doors in 2007 as a Cristo Rey school.