Even in a world where everything seems to be in flux, some things endure. For yet another summer, hundreds of rising eighth graders invaded the campus of Saint Ignatius for the annual ritual known as the Summer Enrichment Program.
Things may have been a bit different – meetings on Wasmer Field each morning to take everyone’s temperature, mandatory masks, breakfast and lunch brought to classrooms, and a tripling of staff to accommodate smaller class sizes due to the need to social distance – but the spirit of the camp remained the same. Under the incredible leadership of Assistant Principal for Student Life Brian Martin ’94 and with the assistance of so many who pitched in, this year’s camp was possibly the most successful in history.
Almost four hundred young men, coming from schools, parishes, and neighborhoods near and far converged on our campus to experience the half-century tradition of mini courses, sports activities, and all around tomfoolery and shenanigans that make SEP the best and most enduring ad campaign ever devised for Wildcat High.
Having been away from SEP for a few years, spending my summers instead teaching a course designed to help students succeed on standardized tests, I was thrilled to once again be a part of The Show, and teach the course on “Ignatius—the man and the school” that I created many years ago.
With each trimester consisting of only three 30-minute classes there was a need for teachers to be very judicious in how time would be spent. For me, everything revolved around two simple themes: Generosity and Providence.
From beginning each class with the “Prayer for Generosity” written by St. Ignatius to focusing on the Loyola family crest (two wolves on either side of a cauldron – signifying that even the wild animals were fed at the Loyola house), to looking at why Saint Ignatius High School never abandoned its urban home in Ohio City, the essential nature of generosity to the mission of Ignatius and the school named for him was brought to light.
In our recounting of the events of the life of Ignatius we saw the providential hand of God even amidst what were difficult situations. Had Ignatius been standing one meter to the right or left during the battle with the French at Pamplona then no cannonball would have shattered his leg, and therefore lacking the impetus for his conversion, Ignatius would never have founded the Jesuits. And with no Jesuits there would be no Saint Ignatius High School.
In a clip from the film For the Greater Glory, a 2007 documentary about the history of Saint Ignatius High School, we heard Mr. Murlan “Jerry” Murphy ’36 tell of his desire to attend University School like his brother, but because of the Great Depression he was forced to attend the more reasonably priced Saint Ignatius. The fact that we were sitting in a building paid for by Mr. Murphy’s generosity was not lost on the campers: no Great Depression – then no Clavius Science Center (and no Murphy Gym or St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel either).
Generosity and Providence were not only the two great themes of my SEP mini-course, but they were the hallmarks of this year’s SEP.
From the administrators of the camp, to the teachers, to the Ignatius students who led groups both in the classroom and on the playing field, to the college students whose efforts behind the scenes make the camp tick, and especially to all those who are not employed by Saint Ignatius on a regular basis (people like Holy Name science teacher Katie Hennessey and Noreen Woidke who served as our nurse) – all gave generously of themselves to enable SEP to not only run smoothly, but to flourish.
How providential it was that each of these people generously said “yes” and helped to put the “Enrichment” into this year’s Summer Enrichment Program. Their presence answered the question that was so important to our beloved past president, Fr. Robert Welsh, S.J. ’54: What does God want from me?
This year’s SEP proved, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that if we provide the generosity needed to answer that question, then God will definitely bestow the providence.