It only seems fitting that a play on the phrase used when a new pope is elected – Habemus papam – be employed to describe the completed selection of a new class chosen by an admissions committee with Latin teachers Pat O’Rourke ’90 and Joe Zebrak ’87 at the helm.
Soon several hundred eighth graders will be receiving the news that informs them of their status as members of the Saint Ignatius High School Class of 2024. And if past years are any indication, then it won’t take long for that news to travel throughout the cyber-sphere in the form of announcements, photos and even videos. These days, high school admissions, like so much that used to be private, is on public display and often in real-time.
Despite the social media frenzy that accompanies such events, there is an old school feel to the whole process that makes the Twitter-Facebook-Instagram phenomenon possible. For the better part of a week about a dozen people sequester themselves in the basement of the Main Building and pore through hundreds of folders and their thousands of sheets of paper containing grades, test scores, teacher and pastor recommendations, and personal statements by prospective students. If not for the ubiquitous Excel file being constantly updated by Joe Zebrak, this committee goes about its task in the same way as such groups must have done for generations before us.
And what is that task? To advise Admissions Director Pat O’Rourke as he chooses the best possible young men to carry on the Ignatius tradition. In other words, the task is that of cura personalis, the care of the individual person. Each year as I sit in the committee room I can’t help but recall the words from Fr. Larry Ober, S.J., delivered many years ago, that every class is made up of individual students and we are called to admit them one at a time.
Of course, he was correct, and he was basing his thoughts not only on the infused knowledge bestowed by God upon angelic beings and Fr. Ober alone, but on what the rest of us mere mortals can grasp as well: the Catholic vision of the human person and the Ignatian philosophy of education. These both necessitate that each eighth grader under consideration is seen for what he truly is: a unique individual with his own gifts and talents, who, above all else, is a beloved child of God.
All of the effort and concern for each individual student that goes into the admissions process is merely the beginning of what he and his family will experience during his time at Saint Ignatius and, hopefully, throughout the rest of his life. From events like the Freshman Family Welcome and Freshman Family Conferences to Freshman Orientation the emphasis on cura personalis helps to make each of our new students and their families feel like they will thrive at Saint Ignatius.
It is not surprising that so many of our admitted students have some meaningful connection with the school at the time of their application. Whether it be a family association or some program like Magis or Summer Enrichment or a camp or co-curricular activity, these young men have seen and felt cura personalis in action, and their application is an indication to us that they already buy in to what the Saint Ignatius experience is all about – people caring about each other and trying to bring out the best in each other.
So within a few days the barrage of social media announcements will begin, and that is a great moment for students and families alike. But lying subtly beneath all of that glitter is the real treasure – the care that will be given to each individual student as he takes upon himself the responsibility and the honor of being a member of the Saint Ignatius Class of 2024.