Education is Essential

COVID-19 has presented a tremendous challenge for Saint Ignatius High School to balance our mission of providing an academically rigorous, Catholic, Jesuit education along with the health and safety recommendations of leading healthcare experts. On Monday, March 15, students returned to full-day, in-person learning.

Saint Ignatius High School

Magis Man

Last Wednesday's all-school assembly showed that the true meaning of "magis" is not doing every single activity, but rather doing something well--with depth, skill and love. It is finding one's self immersed in what truly makes one come alive, thereby finding God's path for us all.

I remember reading years ago a description of a Saint Ignatius student that appeared in one of the local free newspapers that sit on the windowsills at the entrances of libraries and local eating establishments.  It stated that the typical Saint Ignatius student (and I am paraphrasing here) was the kind of young man who can do calculus, bench press 200 pounds and perform hours of service to those in need.

If you are going to have to live with a stereotype of your students, there are plenty that are worse than that one.  Yet for those of us who work with these Wildcats day in and day out, year after year, the story goes much deeper, and last Wednesday we took time out of our regular schedule to highlight some of that depth and to encourage our students to strive to be their best selves.

During what will surely become an annual event, Magis Madness honored the work of our students in a wide variety of areas, including many of the extracurricular activities that fly under the radar and don’t get the kind of attention that is associated with an all school assembly.

This extravaganza of excellence was led by the eloquent Master of Ceremonies David Hoover ’03 from the Fine Arts Department.  He was ably assisted by the inspiring words of retired-but-always-there-when-you-need-him Rich Fujimoto ’66 and Fr. Paul Shelton, S.J., who is himself winding up his Ignatius career prior to his next assignment.  The words of these three men focused on finding one’s place in the often overwhelming world of Saint Ignatius High School, and challenged everyone in the Fr. Sullivan Gymnasium to make their mark and use their many talents for the betterment of themselves and the school community as a whole.

In an era where there is great concern for the mental and emotional health of young people, this event did a great job of focusing attention on the kinds of activities that can give people the sense of accomplishment, camaraderie and just plain fun that lowers stress and boosts self-esteem in a meaningful way.  From the sublime words of our main speakers to the absurdity of a contest of shaving balloons, the event hit all the right notes – especially when you throw in the Whiplash-style drumming competition between our Admissions Director Pat O’Rourke’90 and Senior Patrick Hyland ’20 – great job guys, but not my tempo.

When misunderstood, the Ignatian term magis – a Latin word meaning “more” – can place unrealistic expectations on students and add to their already stressful lives.  When seen in the proper light, magis is a term that can describe the process of finding their particular, and very special, place in the universe.  Becoming more of who God calls them to be – becoming more of their true selves – is key to their happiness and their ability to lead fulfilling lives of meaningful commitment and service.

Helping our students to stay focused on the proper understanding of magis is one of the key roles of the adults in the Saint Ignatius community.  As one might imagine, Ignatius Loyola had a term for this as well – cura personalis or care of the whole person.  From what goes on in the classroom, to what happens on the stage or the soccer field, to JCWA conferences and Science Olympiad events, all student activities flow out of a commitment to the care of each individual young man in our school.

Our Magis Madness assembly did a fantastic job of celebrating the many accomplishments of our students, but also of encouraging everyone in the gym to find their talents and to use them   for the betterment of the Saint Ignatius community.  Special thanks goes to our Principal Dan Bradesca ’88 for this tremendous example of his commitment to each of our young men, and his own personal striving in pursuit of the magis.

At the end of this school year Dan will travel upstairs and back into the classroom to once again pursue his true love of teaching English.  But he can walk away from the Principal’s Office in the knowledge that his legacy includes one of the most revered accomplishments of a Saint Ignatius career – the creation of a new tradition.   And that’s the embodiment of magis.