Dear Members of the Saint Ignatius High School Community,
It has been a very difficult start to the summer season here at Saint Ignatius High School.
No sooner do we plan to re-open our campus yesterday (June 1) and enter a new phase of eased restrictions from months of COVID-19 shutdown, then the threat of vandalism and looting in the wake of recent racial injustices has shut down our campus yet again. As I write this, the zone of curfew has been expanded, out of an abundance of caution, to include our campus and much of the rest of Ohio City. Police and National Guardsmen can be seen patrolling our neighborhood as civil unrest in our city, and in many major cities throughout our country, has risen to a fever pitch not seen since the riots of the 1960s. And while there is absolutely no condoning the destructive behavior of some on our city streets, it is emblematic of a sobering truth articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that “a riot is the language of the unheard.”
Saint Ignatius High School mourns the untimely and senseless death of George Floyd. Our sympathies go out to his family and his community who lost a son, a father, a brother, an uncle, and friend far too soon. We pray for healing in the nation. We pray for those feeling pain, frustration, and helplessness, silenced as they have been by structural racism, implicit bias, bigotry, prejudice, and hatred. Personally, my heart breaks for the family of George Floyd, a man whose cries for mercy went unheard by the Minneapolis police officer who drove his knee into Floyd’s neck while his colleagues stood passively by. For far too long in this country, the cries for justice from people of color have gone unheard as people with power commit barbarous acts of racial injustice with impunity.
The heaviness of it all can lead us down a road of indifference, as it has for far too long.
Recognizing the complexity of racial injustice, it can be easy for us to throw our hands in the air and claim that we haven’t the first clue about what to do. “Hatred is too deep,” we might claim. “Racism has too long a history.” “Cries for vengeance are too frightening.” “Corruption is so widespread.” “I don’t know what to do.” To concede to these or other claims would be, to my mind, a tragic abandonment of Christ’s call to loving action. As the United States Catholic Bishops declare, “People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option.” As men and women associated with, educated at, and formed by Saint Ignatius High School, I argue that indeed we CAN know what to do.
It starts, I believe, with the clarion statement proffered by past president of Saint Ignatius, the late Fr. Robert J. Welsh, S.J., ’54. His immortal words are literally carved into stone on a garden wall in the heart of our campus, reminding everyone of what Saint Ignatius High School is all about: The purpose of our education is to give a young man the tools whereby he can answer the question What does God want from me?
It was Fr. Welsh’s belief, then, that the
guiding star for our community must always be the God of Jesus Christ
, whose holy will we must always seek in all we do.
Fr. Welsh was himself inspired by the visionary leadership of the late Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., who served as Superior General of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983. Fr. Arrupe penned a seminal document back in 1973 entitled “Men for Others,” a phrase that has become the motto of every Jesuit-sponsored school in the world. While commonly cited, the motto derives from a rich and holy vision for Jesuit education predicated on education for justice:
“Today our prime educational objective must be to form men for others; men who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ, for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.”
I am proud that our famed Alma Mater continues to forge new paths of justice. In light of what is happening in our nation, we affirm our school’s mission to form students to be open to growth, intellectually competent, religious, loving, and committed to work for peace and justice. Under the leadership of Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dr. Deborale Richardson-Phillips, Saint Ignatius is working tirelessly to create a community where all students feel a genuine sense of belonging. We commit to offering safe spaces where students not only develop their own voices but also learn to effectively utilize them to advocate for themselves and for others. At Saint Ignatius, we seek to develop authentic relationships in our service to those in need and in our fostering greater equity and inclusion, and the diversity that this occasions. Initiatives like our Arrupe Neighborhood Partnership, our REACHing MAGIS Program, and the newly opened Welsh Academy are rife with opportunities to help Saint Ignatius High School be ever more a community welcoming of all qualified students. We have more to do and far to go. But in the midst of this current storm, we clearly see the need to redouble our efforts to educate for justice, forming young men to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ.
Recently, I drew tremendous comfort in hearing the words of graduating senior Robby Klanac '20. In pre-recording his valedictory speech last week for a July 31 commencement ceremony that he will be missing (as he has to report to the Naval Academy at the end of June), I was moved by his exhortation to his fellow graduates to become agents of real and systemic change:
“Currently, there is so much uncertainty in most everything, but it doesn’t have to stay this way. We can be the generation to find cures for diseases, curtail poverty, and end international conflicts. We have been listening, understanding, and sacrificing for others these past four years, but it cannot stop here. We must continue to listen and understand the inequity, injustice, and brutality that exist in our world, and we must become the beacons of light who fight for justice. We must love as we are called to do every single day. So, our Ignatius journey as students may end as we graduate today, but our life as Ignatius men starts out there, in the world, tomorrow.”
Join me, then, in praying for an end to the violence, the vandalism, and the vitriol, which we roundly condemn as immoral. Join me in praying for an end to racial injustice, so long the shameful bane of our country’s existence. And join me in recommitting ourselves, as members of the Saint Ignatius community, to discerning a path forward for each one of us to become agents of real and systemic change, guided by Christ himself, who “came that we might have life and have it to the full.”
Yours ever in Christ,
Rev. Raymond P. Guiao, S.J. '82
President, Saint Ignatius High School