Any other spring, this night would be a cause for celebration. A warm, bright evening in mid-April provides the perfect scenery for a lacrosse game or perhaps a rugby match.
But not in 2020. The outbreak of COVID-19 has wiped out winter tournaments and ended the spring season. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued an edict earlier on Monday that school would continue remotely for the rest of the academic year. An official OHSAA announcement canceling spring sports followed on Tuesday.
On Monday evening, Saint Ignatius Athletics decided to join countless schools from across Ohio in lighting up the field at 20:20 military time (8:20 pm Eastern) in honor of the students in the Class of 2020. It was one small tribute, but a meaningful one.
So many questions are lingering in our minds as we all go through this together. Will any of our loved ones become sick? Will we have enough money to pay the bills? When will things return to normal? When will we be back in school and on the field?
At the moment, these questions have no answer.
But despite the unsettling uncertainty, a sense of calm sadness set over many of those who watched the sunset on Wasmer Field and at home on Monday night.
All of this makes me think of the late Jim Skerl '74. I had Mr. Skerl in class for an unforgettable Theology course – Christian Manhood – and I am one of many who will never forget the lessons he taught. Among the most memorable moments from his class was his lesson on The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, written in the dark shadows of World War II, in the midst of unspeakable tragedy.
One quote from the literary masterpiece applies perfectly.
“One day, I watched the sun setting forty-four times. You know...when one is so terribly sad, one loves sunsets.”
Something about watching a sunset is comforting when you're sad. Perhaps sunsets are God's way of trying to cheer us up when we're down.
The beautiful night provided some warmth and calm for all who watched it last night. But then came the heartbreaking moment of shutting the lights off before we left Wasmer Field. It feels so wrong to be turning off the lights on such a promising, young season. Talent abounds in this senior class for the Wildcats. Without a doubt, the careers of future Saint Ignatius Athletic Hall of Famers ended on Monday. In 20 years, we'll still be talking about the amazing talent of this class of men.
As we reflect and remember our seniors, sadness and loss are emotions that will stay with all of us, including our student-athletes, for a long time. But we can't allow that sorrow run our lives.
Instead, we need to be sure we look back fondly on the moments we were blessed to enjoy. Greg Langermeier's overtime goal in the 2018 State Hockey Championship. Michael McNamara's 10th inning triple in the baseball state title last June. Michael Boehm's record-breaking feats for the Lax Cats. Jack O'Rourke's broadcasts of so many fun moments on the SIBN. Steve Zucca's heroics in cross country and track & field. Connor Cmiel's incredible returns vs. Mentor in September. The Football Cats' historic 25-point comeback win over Hoban. The dominant run to the ninth state title in program history for the Soccer Cats. And so many more. We need to make a concerted effort to remember our seniors and their heroics.
For most Saint Ignatius alumni, their memories at Wildcat High are not soon forgotten. They talk about the memories at Reunion Weekend every year, and over many fun brunches, lunches, and dinners when they happily meet again. As our alma mater says, "Years in passing cannot sever / Ties of new days from the old."
With that said, high school is not the end of one's journey, but the beginning. This is only the start of life for these Wildcats. These young men will grow into loving husbands and fathers. They will build successful careers in business, law, medicine, and so many other fields. They will become community leaders and make profound impacts on the lives of so many others.
So, we need to support them in their future endeavors. When they need a helping hand, let us be the first to lend it. When these young men need a shoulder to lean on, a reference for a job, support for a new community initiative, or simply some kind words, let us all make a commitment to be there.
I'll conclude with another quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This one meant a lot to Mr. Skerl. In class, he had us all repeat it until we memorized it. I'll never forget it, and I hope you will keep it in mind today, too. Let us never lose sight of what's important – our family and our faith.
If you would like to share a message of encouragement or congratulations to our seniors in the Class of 2020, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”