St. John's Prep, a Catholic, Xaverian Brothers sponsored secondary school for young men, is committed to educating the whole person. Our rigorous academic and extensive co-curricular program encourages students to develop their spiritual, intellectual, moral, physical, and creative potential, and inspires them to honor the diversity that enriches both our school community and the world beyond St. John's. We challenge our young men to grow in faith and wisdom, to promote human dignity, to act with compassion and integrity, to pursue justice and peace, and to live lives of service to society.
As a Xaverian Brothers sponsored school, we embrace the spiritual values of our founders - compassion, humility, simplicity, trust and zeal. These values define our community and call us to lives of faith and service.
To deepen our understanding of our Xaverian tradition, we focused this year on the value of humility and how it animates our thoughts, prayers and actions - as individuals and as a school community. At the end of the school year, members of the school community shared reflections about humility during our closing liturgy, and in response, students posted their own statements of commitment on boards highlighting the ways in which humility animates school life. Click through the slideshow to read the reflections.
Lawton Powell '13: Humility empowers us to accept and affirm our unique gifts and the gifts of others.
The word empower has a few meanings, the first is: to give someone the authority or power to do something, and the second: to coax someone to do something. Giving someone the power or authority to complete a task might sound like an easy task, but the challenge comes in trying to motivate that person and assist him or her in any way they need to succeed. Here, at St. John’s Prep I have experienced numerous examples of empowerment in the community. Last year I took the songwriting class offered in Ryken, and to be honest, I went into that class with absolutely no musical talent, and coming out of that class I have grown somewhat in my musical skills. My story of empowerment came from my fear of performing in front of the class and, for my final exam, in front of an entire audience of people. Even though I quickly became friends with everyone in that class and I felt comfortable around them, I still could not get over my fear of performing my attempt at a song in front of the class. The first few songs we wrote I remember I did not volunteer to go up and perform, but instead I actually waited and hoped Mr. Hamill would forget I hadn’t performed. After the first few songs I was more comfortable with the idea of singing in front of my classmates, but I still had that stage fright when it came time to perform. Every class I would try to get as much help from Mr. Hamill and my other more musically talented classmates, and each class and each performance I seemed to slowly progress in not only my actual music, but in my confidence about my music.
By the end of the semester it came time for our final exam, which entailed us performing three or four songs in front of all of our families and friends. As you can expect I was terrified, having to perform in front of people I didn’t know and wasn’t comfortable around. I actually skipped most of my homework the night before the performance just to try and practice my music and critique it until it was a little more presentable. As the night progressed and it slowly came time for my performance I became more and more nervous but I kept thinking back to what I had learned all semester from my classmates and teacher, and when I went out and performed I personally think I did alright.
This idea of empowerment was shown here because although I was terrified of my classmates and my teacher’s response to my songs, I put it all behind me and did whatever I could to enhance my musical skills. Mr. Hamill and a few of the students in the class were in some particular instances the motivators to help me through the class and they helped for this story of empowerment whether they know it or not. My friend Connor Kilday seemed to progress every week in his songs and he always was comfortable performing, and John McKeon was another student who helped grow in my musical talents. Even though they may not be aware of it their attitudes towards performing, their support, and just being able to joke around with them in class helped me overcome my obstacle which was performing in front of people. The help I received helped me overcome my challenge, and in the end it paid off. I finished the class, and performed all of my songs with ease at the final exam.
I want to leave you all with a thought: if you see someone struggling, don’t be afraid to help him or her out. Whether they tell you this or not, any assistance you give to help someone overcome an obstacle will be greatly appreciated. I truly can understand the meaning of empowerment now that I have been encouraged to accomplish a task, and I want to encourage others to achieve their goals by overcoming their fears.
Kevin Low '13: Humility leads us to serve others.
Good Morning. About two and a half weeks ago, I received an email from Ms. Angell asking me if I wanted to speak here about the theme of service relating to this year’s theme of humility. However, even writing this reflection required answering a few questions: what is service and how does it relate to being humble?
At St. John’s, we are surrounded with extraordinary examples of service: from studying the early apostles in the bible to reading about the priests and lay ministers in Mr. Mackinson’s Maryknoll magazines. Even in our own community, twice a year we all receive emails with pictures of students helping the impoverished in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. We get newsletters in the mail, extolling a Prep grad that has made multiple trips to provide healthcare for an orphanage in Nepal. Greater yet, we meet honored Xaverian Brothers in the classroom and in the hallway every day – men who have devoted their entire lives to serving God. So what are we students to do? How can we live up to these standards of service?
I see the answer every day. I see it in the student who carries the bag of his classmate after he broke his leg snowboarding. I see it in the freshman who just joins a club, eager to help, and the senior who makes him feel welcome. I see it in the library when the frustrated math student puts his head down in despair, and his friend instinctively picks up his math book to help him, just for the sake of helping. Service itself consists in sharing your gifts with others, a phenomenon that occurs here daily. To paraphrase the words of our previous headmaster, Dr. Skip Shannon, your gifts are for others; they are not yours to keep.
So the question remains, what does math homework, service, and humility have in common today? Humility brings to mind the captain of the football team who credits his success to the support of his friends and family, or the smartest kid in class who is always willing to help out on a problem, but insists he only knows it because of all the time he spent studying.
However, the humility Jesus envisioned, the service he envisioned was much greater than these examples: he himself washed the feet of his own disciples; he recognized that he, the son of God, was here for the sole purpose of serving others. Nothing more. This is the humility we are called to. While we all have our own human flaws and challenges that may make this service seem impossible, it is out job to try; it is our job to act; it is our job to learn how to serve.
Despite what many may think, humility is not a trait you are born with, an innate “goodness” if you will; humility is an action, an action I see on campus every day, an action I encourage everyone here to develop. Jesus challenges us not only to act with humility, but to develop this humility, this sense of service, so that we may move from these charitable acts to those of social justice; from helping our friends in math to advocating education reform, from helping our disabled friend to providing healthcare in the villages of Nepal; from being students at St. John’s Prep to becoming full disciples of Jesus Christ.
Jhoneidy Javier '15: Humility awakens us to listen to God’s call.
Upon coming to St. John’s, I was granted an opportunity to have success and to show the world what I was capable of. With much enthusiasm, I pursued all my interests and all my curiosity. I strove for anything that immediately grabbed my interest. Anything, from music and philosophy, to sports and academics. I took any chance to go after my own interests. I would play piano for hours when I had the chance. If I was not able to play, I would go to a club or I would go to the library and get some reading done. I never did join clubs for the right intention. The real reason I went was because I thought it looks nice when applying for college. I was constantly at work on something. One day, when walking down a hall, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to hang out. I, of course, said no. I was apparently busy that day. He remarked by saying I’m always busy. And that’s when it hit me. I was so distracted from all the these things that I wanted to do, that I forgot about a mystery that I had been surrounded by from the first day of school: the students in St. John’s. I had been hanging around with the same group of friends all year; it isn’t bad, but it’s always better to meet new people. It may not seem likely at first, but everyone here has their own story to tell. To be honest, I thought a lot of kids at St. John’s were all similar just because they were white. But soon enough, I was able to realize that that was not true, everyone has their own goals and their own pursuits. So one day, instead of doing my usual business, I decided to relax and just talk to kids from my classes and get to know their story. I decided to sit outside the library with a few close friends, and see what would happen. After a few minutes, a couple of my classmates passed by, and I asked if they wanted to join my friends and me. They said yes, and sat down. It was a little awkward at first since none of us had ever talked to each other, but soon we were all able to connect. In truth, we weren’t that different from each other at all. In fact, they were completely different from what I first suspected. They weren’t snobby, they weren’t filthy rich. They played basketball and soccer. They read books and watched movies. We were there talking until it was time for me to leave for the bus. After that day, I learned a few things: I should relax a bit more, I shouldn’t make assumptions of anyone, for everyone’s different. But most of, I should remember to listen and to hear people out. I can’t imagine how my first year would’ve been if I had never taken time to listen to what others had to say, and discover other people’s backgrounds. That is why my challenge for you is to listen to what others around you have to say. You never know what you might discover in yourself by hearing out to others.
Marcus Soule: Humility awakens us to listen to God’s call.
In Mark Chapter 9 Jesus shows his true nature to the disciples, removing the mirage of the visual field for them, allowing (forcing, really) them to see him as the Son of God. But in the absence of God’s direct hand, the cues are more subtle; much easier to dismiss. So how are we to awaken ourselves from our slumber, to lift the veil of our perceptions? While I do not know the complete answer, I can offer three suggestions. First, challenge your perceptions of your place in the world. Second, challenge your perceptions of the world itself. And third, strive to understand completely the relationships that you’ve built in this world. By being patient, intentional, and deliberate; one arms oneself with the tools needed to pick up these subtle signs and get closer to seeing the world for what it really is.
If the key lies in trying to shift the views and structures we have, first we must strive to understand the external aspects of our existence: the universe. I have always found great value in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and I am inspired by Emerson’s reflection on the night sky. He writes:
If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.
Emerson invites each of us to question how we see the night sky and as an extension, how we see the wonder of the universe and our position in it. I am lucky enough to have an addiction that grants me the opportunity to see the night sky frequently. Spending many nights fishing for striped bass, I have witnessed meteor showers, full moons, partial eclipses, satellites and many other things. On the best of evenings I am taken by the immensity of the universe and of my relative insignificance, other times I see no more than the usual pattern of lights above Ipswich Bay. Some nights I become closer to understanding the nature of the universe while on others I’m just fishing. Both have their rewards but only one brings me closer to grasping Emerson’s City of God. When you look up at the stars tonight, will their admonishing smile awaken something in you?
While there is much to learn by the kind of passive observation of the universe of which Emerson is known, there is also much to be learned through the active pursuit of understanding. Richard Feynman is a contemporary physicist whose groundbreaking contributions to the fields of quantum physics, particle physics, and nanotechnology have brought him much fame. Yet it is his singular unwavering dedication to understanding from which I draw inspiration. In response to a challenge that scientists cannot appreciate the beauty of a flower Feynman writes:
I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it's not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there's also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the scientific knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower.
Feynman does not diminish the conventional beauty of the flower, but uses his understanding of the complex nature of the universe to lift the veil thus finding further beauty, gaining deeper understanding and holding greater appreciation. By diligent and rigorous exploration of our world, we can more clearly see what is true: we too can be closer to lifting the veil. So the next time you look at a flower what will you see?
My final suggestion is to challenge your perceptions of the relationships you have. Relationships are how we tie together the many living threads of our existence and are a reflection of our character and what we believe in. I have no great philosopher or physicist from which to draw inspiration, instead I draw it from a two-year-old boy named Benjamin. The birth of my son did not change my place in the universe, it did not change my understanding of the universe, but it did change my relationships to everyone in it. It is hard to lose faith in humanity when you see first-hand the love that a small child’s smile evokes in strangers. Hard to ignore the power of the bond that links a family together through sleepless nights, tantrums, teething, nightmares, road trips, and (so I’m told) the college acceptance process. It is hard not to be amazed at a universe that contains a simple pile of sand and plastic shovel that so amuses and engrosses a two year old boy for hours. Pay attention to your relationships and to the people that these relationships bring into your life and you will learn much. The next time you see your mother/father/grandparent, how will you see their importance?
Attempt to gain a better understanding of these three positions. Challenge your perception of your place in the world, challenge your perception of the world itself, and finally challenge your understanding of the relationships you’ve built in this world. By immersing yourself in the awe of the night sky, by acknowledging the many-fold beauty of the flower, and by examining the excitement of a young boy playing in the sand, you listen to those subtle cues. You place yourself in the position of the disciples to have the mirage of visual field lifted. Only then might you look up to see the world as it really is.
Tucker Plante '14: Humility inspires a sense of connection in the Prep community and beyond.
Hi, my name is Tucker Plante and I am a sophomore. Everyday I am inspired being at St. John’s Prep. The prep has many gifts to give us as students and it is up to us to take advantage of them. It is our very own strength and courage that allows us to take advantage of these gifts as we learn from them and become better people.
Inspiration is defined as “an inspiring influence, any stimulus to create thought or action.” To be inspired is a powerful gift to receive. To inspire others is sharing your passion with others. To follow that inspiration and learn from the lesson it presents is taking charge of the gift to be inspired.
This past year, I have been inspired by one of our very own Xaverian Brothers. The Xaverian Connection is a program run through Campus Ministry in which every Tuesday you get to go down to the Brother Barn and hangout with the retired Brothers, drink some soda, and eat delicious cookies. What originally drove me to the Xaverian Connection was that I needed service hours for National Honors Society. I never imagined myself developing relationships through this program.
Through my time at the Brother Barn, I have befriended and developed a relationship with Brother Clem. Brother Clem embraced me and I admired his ability to tell stories. After a few visits, we found some common interests, he enjoyed eating at seafood restaurants along the Gloucester and Essex waterfronts, in which I could give advice on where to dine, because that is where I live. We also bonded through photography. I hadn’t had much experience in photography at all, but to say the least, I was very interested in his photos and his knowledge about photography. A few more visits went by and he showed me his portfolios and told me some interesting stories about photography.
On one of the visits, towards the end of October, Brother Clem did not show up. At first I was concerned because he was never late. Five minutes passed, and he then came walking into the living room with one of his most prized possessions, his camera. This camera was not like anything I had seen before. It was not like my digital camera. It was a film camera, with a de-attachable back, which is where the film was loaded. He spent hours teaching me how to adjust the lens, how to work the viewfinder in relation to the camera, and how to set the focus so the pictures would be as crisp as possible After his lesson was over on how to use the camera, he handed it to me and told me to explore and experiment with the camera. At first, I thought there was no way that I could take Brother Clem’s gift. However, he convinced me that doing something different and taking time out of my busy schedule would allow me to find another hobby. He told me that he wanted to let me borrow it for as long as I wanted to, and to take as many pictures as I wanted. The only thought running through my head was why he let a sophomore in high school take home his expensive camera? I realized that his gift to me was to share his passion. He told me to take some pictures, bring them into him, and he would correct them and show me what I did right and wrong. This showed me that learning comes through trial and error. With him giving me the camera, I realized that I had to break out of my normal routine, take the time to take the pictures and get them developed, which dared me to do something different, to be different. Brother Clem inspired me. Through his actions of giving me the camera, it painted a bigger picture for me. A picture that allowed me to realize I need to be more than a student focused on academics, more than a student just studying in the library, but rather a student that seeks alternative interests bringing me a feeling of accomplishment, of doing something that brings me happiness. Brother Clem’s inspiration has lead me to new heights. As my grandfather has always said to me, “life is always about the choices you make,” so the question is, which choices will you make, and how will they be inspired?
Stephanie Giglio: Enables us to accept our own limitations and those of others.
Much like empower, enable means to give someone the authority or means to do something; to make possible.
Most of the time I believe this is my job description – I would like to think I enable students to understand, and perform chemistry – I hope to provide you each with the background knowledge (water is a polar molecule), the skills (read FOUR sig figs off that graduated cylinder), and the opportunity to demonstrate all that you have learned to do (our final is Monday 8:30 am, by the way).
And I’ve been told I’m a little energetic while I’m doing this….and upon sitting down to think about the word enable – I realized, believe it or not, my energy does not just come from drinking coffee. My energy comes from all of you.
Each time you come to class prepared, push yourselves on a challenging problem, remember to read the board as you sit down with a notebook, bring your calculator to class, show up before school for extra practice - you enable me to do my job better – and that is what is really exciting me – THAT’s where my energy comes from.
When my D block class tells me that I do not need to be “calm teacher” and meets my energy with enthusiasm of their own. When my B block class, maybe the funniest class I have ever had, works so diligently and tries so hard, that I know I can let them work independently and they will actually get work done! When my F block class, the quietest class I’ve ever had challenges me to learn a new way to teach, enabling me to be a better teacher (and thank you to the few kids that did participate every single day). And my G block class, who has a few of the most diligent students with a huge amount of integrity, who on lab days do such an incredible job. This is when I gather energy.
I was so scared coming up to speak today. But upon sitting next to Tucker and Jhoneidy who were so calm and collected, and seeing Dan and Sovannarath wave hi across the stage, I realized that I can be myself here. You all enable me to be myself.
And you enable each other as well. As Mr. Soule said, pay attention to your relationships with one another. You have an effect on each other. You enable each other to be better people.