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Founder's Week Liturgy Marked by Gratitude and a New Ryken Award Winner

Founder's Week Liturgy Marked by Gratitude and a New Ryken Award Winner

Director of Community Formation Steve Ruemenapp makes his way to the stage to accept the 2023 Ryken Award.


St. John’s 31st Ryken Award recipient doesn’t just fit the criteria, he personifies them.

Imagine being tasked with actively creating, molding, and growing a genuine sense of  community in the 2020s. With social interaction and the spirit of belonging already subject to a digitized, single-serving, and decontextualized framework, tack on a global pandemic and a person-to-person pivot away from gathering and, quite literally, into the guise of a mask.

Technically speaking, this year’s Ryken Award winner at St. John’s Prep has tried to tackle that assignment since 2018. But frankly, he’s been doing it his entire professional life, and knocking it out of the park. 

St. John’s 2023 Founder’s Week Liturgy culminated with the annual Ryken Award ceremony and was marked by what surely flirted with a record-long ovation for an individual at an all-school gathering. Following a celebratory Mass, attendees rose and stood for more than two minutes for the honoree called out by St. John’s Head of School Ed Hardiman, Ph.D.  P’19 ’21 ’26. Director of Community Formation Steve Ruemenapp, now in his 20th year at the School, was clearly a popular choice. 

The assemblage’s enthusiasm mirrored the passion with which colleagues both past and present speak about Ruemenapp. 

"In a very overarching way, he simply cares, and people sense that,” said St. Thomas Aquinas High (NH) Principal Michael Orlando ’02, Ed.D. who spent 17 years as a member of the St. John’s faculty and staff, the last five of which he worked closely with Ruemenapp as the Prep’s assistant principal for mission and identity. “That’s an important quality in a colleague, in a teacher, in a community member—one we can’t overlook in today’s world.

"He often said over the years that we take our work seriously, but not so much ourselves—the serious piece is about fulfilling our mission,” Orlando continued. “The work is daunting and we see it from so many different angles and perspectives working with students, colleagues, and families. I think he’s always created the space to step back, laugh with that famous laugh, and really help us to understand our greater good, our greater cause. And, importantly, he’s done that with great humility.”

In keeping with tradition, St. John’s Head of School Ed Hardiman, Ph.D.  P’19 ’21 ’26 punctuated one of the most anticipated events of the weeklong celebration by gradually revealing the identity of the Ryken Award recipient. During the course of his remarks, Hardiman praised the as-yet unnamed winner for “constantly seeking to ‘affirm his sisters and brothers and empower them to help place their gifts in the service of God and others.’” It wasn’t until Hardiman noted the winner’s “gift of laughter” that the audience began to buzz. 

While it’s true, as Hardiman delineated, that Ruemenapp “shares faith through reflection and is always ready to own his mistakes, learn from his experiences, and to share insights with others,” this year’s winner is indeed well-known for the distinctive sound of his laugh, which booms through and across any space he inhabits like a blast from a ferry horn. The unmistakable expression of myrth, in fact, represents auditory validation that Ruemenapp, as Hardiman noted, “lives the Gospel in word and deed.” 

Longtime colleague and campus minister Lawrence Molloy is awed by the manner in which Ruemenapp lives out the Xaverian mission. In large part because it seems like Ruemenapp seems incapable of seeing life any other way. 

"It's always an invitation with Steve,” says Molloy, now in his 18th year at the Prep. “I can think of nobody who’s worked harder at trying to build up that camaraderie here on campus with all the various things that he offers the faculty and staff to get them to come together. For him, doing his job has to do with personal relationships. Seeing it way beyond the typical logistical stuff that you need to do to fulfill your obligation. It’s the way he lives his life. It’s through the work he does, and through the ministry he embraces.”

Now in its fourth decade, the award is the highest honor given by Xaverian Brothers Sponsored schools and is presented annually to a member of the staff or faculty for exceptional dedication and commitment to the vision and goals of Xaverian education worldwide. Past St. John’s Prep recipients span multiple academic subjects and departments, including school counseling, information services, and front office staff. 

Not surprisingly, Ruemenapp, who spent 14 years as the School’s Assistant Principal of Mission and Identity before assuming his present role, exuded humility, disbelief, and bashfulness about the honor, insisting that he owes the Prep far more than the School could ever owe to him. 

"The description of the Ryken Award winner is pretty much my job description, so it doesn’t seem fair for me to win an award for doing my job,” quipped Ruemenapp, who came to St. John’s from another, nearby Xaverian-sponsored school, Malden Catholic. “The only thing the Prep has ever asked of me is to be the best person I can be. I’m surrounded by so many good people. I’ve worked for and with so many folks who have taught me so much. People more deserving of this award than me. St. John’s has been a gift to me. It’s made me a better husband, a better dad, a better teacher, a better brother, a better son—just a better child of God. I’m so thankful and completely accept this as God’s grace.”


Friday's liturgy was an opportunity for school leaders and religious to remind students of the meaning behind Founders Week and the accompanying remembrances, reflections, and conversations that take place. The Founder’s Week Liturgy commemorates Theodore James Ryken and the continuing influence of the Xaverian Brothers in Catholic education worldwide. A poor cobbler with no formal education, Ryken became a visionary who founded the congregation in 1839 in Bruges, Belgium. The liturgy is celebrated each year by the 13 Xaverian Brothers Sponsored Schools in the United States, including St. John’s Prep. 

"We, like the thousands of Xaverian Brothers who preceded us, need to always be moving forward, stepping toward our opportunities and our challenges, commit each other to the Gospel and embrace every situation we encounter for the good of others,” said Hardiman in his remarks that opened the ceremony.

To mark the occasion in this 117th academic year of the school’s history, celebrant Father Jim Ronan ’62 put an even finer point on the matter.

"Theodore Ryken recognized that in order to carry out the kind of education necessary in the name of Jesus Christ within the congregation of St. Francis Xavier, that he would not only educate the minds of the young men, but he would educate their hearts and their faith and their morals in order to inform their character,” he said. “What’s that look like? It’s communities coming together and people respecting each other. Barriers are broken down, differences fall away. Mutual support and growth occur. This is what it is to be Christian.”



Student Reflections

Each afternoon of Founder's Week, select seniors shared written reflections on each of the Xaverian Spiritual Values to conclude the school day. The full reflections can be read below.

Compassion: Will Guggenberger '24 and Harry Block '24

"Compassion is the warmth within us that allows us to find the needs of others and raise them up. We are called to stand alongside one another in times of hardship: supporting and encouraging all of our brothers and sisters, no matter how poor, weak, or vulnerable they may be, as they too share the Love of God: they too were made in God’s divine image. Compassion motivates us to live life through God’s lens, to serve others, and to be the eyes, ears, and hands of our loving God.

Compassion is having the openness to let yourself be impacted by the lives of your brothers and sisters around you. Throughout the Prep community, this value presents itself in many different settings. In the classroom, compassion is present in the teachers who go out of their way to ensure that their students understand the concepts that are being presented. Outside of the classroom, students give up their afternoons each day of the week to serve those in the greater community who are in need. Holding the value of compassion in mind, let us pray…

Loving God, grant us the grace of compassionate hearts, one that understands without judgment, and embraces with kindness. In moments of challenge, help us to choose empathy, seeing the struggles of others as our own, and responding with love. 

May our words bring comfort, and our actions a reflection of understanding. May compassion be a constant companion, a light that shines in both bright and shadowed moments.

God, strengthen our faith, hope, and love through interaction with each other. Help us to find promise and fulfillment in the challenge of being stewards of these communities of faith with selflessness and compassion. 


St. Francis Xavier, pray for us.
Theodore Ryken, pray for us."

Simplicity: Will Vittiglio '24

"Simplicity. A way of thinking, feeling, and acting to center ourselves, and focus on the most essential parts of our days. Simplicity frees the heart, mind, and the soul from temptation, materialism, and the excess competition that we deal with each and every day. Through simplicity, we aspire to live with less rather than more, we force ourselves to have gratitude for the small things in each day, seeking beauty from all aspects.

Here at the Prep, we cherish this powerful value through the small moments in our days that are often overlooked. During the school day, when we arrive at a class and wait for our lesson to start, we instantly turn towards our classmates and start talking about anything that comes to mind. These small conversations are such simple acts that happen in short moments, but they inherently structure our day. These moments relieve us from the heavy workload or the test we have next block, and help us appreciate the people around us. When we are able to live simply we can appreciate all that is around us.
When we await instructions each morning, we often take for granted how we are taught. Our teachers walk in everyday prepared and full of enthusiasm. They too come to the same class everyday with aspiration for everyone in the room to learn. Coming in everyday with a smile, slides, and a lecture is essential to a college prep school. But creating a room full of engagement and keenness shows the power of simplicity in our day. From simple websites and activities our teachers create, they help spark curiosity on subjects they could be completely new, while making students eager to learn what's next.         
It is in the clarity of simplicity that we find the truest expression of beauty and understanding, a timeless reminder that amidst our fast paced days, the profound power of simplicity is a guiding light. Embracing simplicity is not a reduction of ourselves, but an elevation, a transformative lens through which we discover the profound in the uncomplicated, and in doing so, find the extraordinary in the ordinary."

Trust and Zeal: Mark Ghiu '24 and Aithan Bezanson '24

"Our school is founded on Xaverian values. These five fundamental spiritual values; humility, compassion, simplicity, trust, and zeal, guide our education and make our Xaverian Brothers education special. Today, we wanted to talk about trust and zeal specifically.

Trust is total confidence in our God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is the meeting place of mind, heart, faith, and courage. This trust allows people to look toward the transcendent to grow in faith, in spite of life’s difficulties. It flourishes in contemplation, and encourages, enlightens, and inspires all believers. Through trust, we are joined together in our faith and efforts to build our community, comforted and inspired by the understanding that 'in harmony, small things grow.'

Zeal enables us to share God’s love as nourishment for others, as bread that is broken through a life of gospel service. Zeal unifies the Xaverian Brothers Sponsored Schools community in a single minded devotion, and intense passion for the formation of the whole person, and the joyful and enthusiastic commitment to the mission of the Catholic Church, which God has entrusted to us, knowing “'that nothing special is achieved without much labor, effort, and zeal.'

Trust and zeal are often together because they are essential to one another. Without trust, our zeal has no basis, no substantive meaning. And without zeal, our trust is complacent and leads to inaction. I wanted to share with you today a time that I saw trust and zeal alive in the prep community. Coming into sophomore year, I had the opportunity to be in Mr. Farrington’s sophomore year English. I didn’t know what to expect because we were coming back from a freshman year where our class was split into cohorts for three quarters of the year. There were still many kids I did not know, and I wasn’t sure if a class, like English, which is usually discussion based, would be fruitful if we did not know each other. However this A block class was enjoyable to be in from nearly the first day. I was surprised, but I think this was a testament to how our class lived out the values of trust and zeal. Firstly, this was because of Mr. Farrington. Mr Farrington was such a genuine teacher, and created a space where everyone felt comfortable and could be themselves. In opening himself up, he allowed this baseline of trust to be formed early on in the class. He was fun to talk to, and was always open to discussion about any topic. He balanced the dynamic between casual conversation and insightful analysis so well. While we could have our fun at the beginning of class or while reading Macbeth in British accents, the moment it was time for us to be serious he would flip that switch and we would talk about topics that stayed with me even now.

These ideas of forgiveness and atonement of one’s past in the Kite Runner, or the effects of human nature in the Lord of the Flies, were important, but what I’ll remember is the zeal we had having those discussions. The lessons of the novels would have never stuck with me if I had not learned many of them from my classmates in discussions. Because Mr. Farrington went above and beyond to make it an inclusive and engaging class, everyone wanted to participate, everyone trusted their voice was valued and heard, and this led to insight and perspectives I would have never thought the guy sitting next to me would have. Our classroom was a place where we heard others' ideas about life, and we truly bonded and connected with each other on a personal level. From this class I got to know some of my best friends at the prep. And I think it was the trust we had that our words were valued, and the zeal we had to share our ideas with the class, that made these friendships and bonds.


As we settle in nearing the end of our school day we pray,
We lift our hearts in thanks to the legacy of theXxaverian Brothers that surrounds us during this founder's week. We are reminded of their dedication to education, faith, and service as we strive to live out their values in our daily lives.

Thank you lord for your grace in gifting us knowledge and granting us the opportunity to learn and grow in our Xaverian community.

We pray to you lord for strength when trying to follow in the footsteps of our founders. May you strengthen us with trust in our brothers and sisters, as well as zeal so that we may face the challenges of each day with courage and determination.

As we reflect on all that the Xaverian Brothers have accomplished and elevated in recent years, we ask for the grace to recognize potential in ourselves to make a positive impact in the world. May we be filled with the spirit of generosity, faith and service just as the Xaverian Brothers exemplified throughout their lives.


St Francis Xavier, pray for us.
St. John the evangelist, pray for us."

Humility: Flynn McDonnell '24

"This year, we are asked to focus on humility as our Xaverian spiritual value. Humility calls us to understand what we accel in, along with what we struggle with. We are also called to see these same traits in others, and bring up our brothers and sisters in moments of weakness. Valuing humility is a huge part of our success here at The Prep—it allows us to work and learn from one another, while simultaneously expressing God’s love. With humility comes acceptance and appreciation for all. In my seven years at the prep, I have watched peers and faculty exemplify humility on all levels.
Humility simply flows throughout our campus everyday. It comes to life during the common, ordinary, unspectacular flow of life, that phrase that’s repeated to us all like a mantra. I see humility in the unnoticed actions of day to day life. Humility is holding the door an extra two or three seconds, to help the person who is in that awkward distance away from the door. It’s picking up someone else’s trash at the lunch table, who somehow forgets it everyday when they leave. It’s saying hello to anyone you cross paths with, and not treating yourself like you are above them.
I’ve found humility in all of my teachers, who spend countless hours behind the scenes grading tests and essays, and staying after school for hours giving us additional help. I particularly find this in my English teacher Mr. O’Chander, who is up at 4:30 am in the morning most days editing and tweaking my supplemental essays for schools I am applying to.
I’ve found humility in my peers, who use their strengths to pick me up when I am weak. My teammates and I find our greatest success when we put the team ahead of ourselves, and utilize the gifts God has given us. Humility shines during the late night study sessions on FaceTime with classmates. By going over problems and reviewing specific topics, we enhance each other’s knowledge and build to each other’s success. St. John’s is filled with humility, and from this, I have been able to understand the gifts that have been bestowed to me, and been able to recognize when I need help.
Let us pray,

Loving God, we ask that you allow the St. John’s Prep community to acknowledge the gifts you have blessed us with. Allow us, with these talents, to build a community that loves and accepts all of its members for who they are and what they value. Bless us with the ability to be vulnerable in exposing our weaknesses, and receive the proper aid we need from others. Help us all to find the humility we have within us, and act as servant leaders for those who are in need of our support. We ask all of this in Jesus’ name, amen.
St. John the Evangelist, pray for us. 

St. Francis Xavier, pray for us."