Saint Ignatius High School


This Saturday, December 16, is Saint Ignatius High School's annual Christmas Food Drive. The Christmas Food Drive is not just an Ignatius tradition, it's a reunion for alumni, families, friends and faculty stretching over nearly a century. We look forward to delivering 700 food baskets to those in need and seeing our beloved friends and alumni this weekend at Homecoming (a.k.a., the Christmas Food Drive)!


Saturday is homecoming day at Saint Ignatius.

The boys already asked their dates, bought their corsages, and donned their blue blazers for the yearly dance this past September. We celebrated Spirit Week and cheered for the Wildcats at a football game. But the real homecoming at Saint Ignatius, as former president Fr. Tim Kesicki S.J., so astutely observed in a homily some years ago, is delivery day for the Rini Family Christmas Food Drive. That is because Saturday will be the day our students will be joined by their alumni brothers--both young and old--and the larger Ignatius family to do what truly defines the Wildcats: give of themselves to God and neighbor.

Begun in the depths of the Great Depression when the Jesuit community learned of a handful of struggling neighborhood families, the Christmas food drive has become a staple of the Saint Ignatius calendar. Then, as now, those in need knew they could count on the compassion and generosity of the men of West 30th and Lorain.  

For the past 87 years, those men have come through.

We take pride in our academic achievements at Saint Ignatius, and we should. We are an excellent academic institution. But if we are honest, we would admit that there are a lot of fine schools in our area. The Food Drive and, more importantly, the philosophy that animates it makes the Ignatius experience so impressive.

For weeks, John Gill ’97 and his adult team have empowered students--including our younger brothers at The Welsh Academy--to take charge of the event. For the past six weeks, those young men have been in contact with individuals and agencies to verify families in need, others have created maps giving directions to their homes, and still others have led the collection efforts so that their classmates had an opportunity to contribute. Moreover, each student and adult on campus has contributed food and funds for the effort. 

Homecoming day begins with Mass--a reminder that we are called to “Love God above all else, and love our neighbor.” It is where believers will invite the Lord to enter “under their roofs” before entering under our neighbors' roofs. The day will end with our “delivery team” praying, by name, for the families they were able to meet; the hope is that those prayers continue through the Christmas season.

The drive looks slightly different than when I first delivered baskets in 1981. It tended to be a bit more of a haphazard affair back then, run almost exclusively by students. Over time, alumni began to return to help over their Christmas breaks. As time went by, those alums started families and brought them to help deliver the increasing number of baskets that were requested…

And the Christmas Food Drive became a homecoming.

Delivery day is a reminder, amid the chaos of the end of a semester, that we are doing something right at Saint Ignatius. How else can we explain Mass remaining the priority during our day of service; or that college students, who schedule their classes so that they don’t have to wake up before the crack of noon, arrive by 8:30 am on their vacations to deliver food; or that for many, helping on delivery day has become a family tradition? Lastly, how else can we explain high school sophomores at school before dawn to unload trucks and stack boxes for delivery?

Men for Others, indeed.

Saint Teresa of Kolkata once said,

“...[t]he greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.” 

And those affected by that deeper poverty can come from all economic, social, religious, and ethnic backgrounds…even from within our own Saint Ignatius community.

As is true with our Labre Ministry to the Homeless, the food we share with our neighbors is the excuse we use to do the even more important work of building relationships grounded in Christian love, however brief those encounters may be. Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Giant Eagle and Borden’s, not to mention that of Chris Fletcher ’90 and the Rini and Dzurec families (as well as others), we have been able to achieve our goal this year of providing meals for over 700 families and sharing that love.  

Just days before he was elected pope, Jorge Bergoglio--Pope Francis--told his brother cardinals at the conclave that “[t]he church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also to the existential peripheries: to the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance … of all misery.” As Christians, we need to leave the comfort and security of home to meet with those outside--those on the “periphery.” But the beautiful thing about going to those places and meeting with those who are often overlooked is that when we move beyond the walls of our houses life is no longer “us” and “them,” it’s just “us.” Moreover, our “homes”--our places of security and freedom--become bigger, allowing us to more fully love.

And to be loved in return.

A.M.D.G. / B.V.M.H.