On Thursday, Cardinal Egan joined JFK’s faculty, administration and student body in Somers to mark the inception of this high school’s founding 80 years ago by the Sisters of the Divine Compassion. He kicked the celebration into gear by stating, “That this is the best Catholic preparatory school in the nation,” but then joked, at least that’s what they told me to say. Although judging from the reaction of the audience and his familiarity with the human infrastructure of the institution, he was nothing but serious about the words that preceded the punch line.
In fact, it was a
His prayer for the students of JFK professed a hope that they will grow to be women and men of justice, compassion and honor. Easy enough to say, but when put into practice through a lifetime, “It’s going to require courage,” he says.
Courage Christ demonstrated when confronted by Pontius Pilate as to whether he was the King of the Jews. He might have come up with some clever answer to save himself, according to the Cardinal, but simply answered, “ I announce the truth and take the consequences. Cardinal Egan went on to convey that honor and truth sometimes comes at a personal price, whether you’re a carpenter from Jerusalem or a junior at JFK.
Cardinal Egan shifted to Shakespeare to demonstrate the importance of justice and recognizing the rights of others. Recalling the verse of the playwright from his youth, he describes a character from Othello who pleades that the good name of a person is “the immediate jewel of his soul,” and he who’s robbed of that loses everything.
Important especially when idle chatter in the school cafeteria or someday around the water cooler can damage reputations and inflict unnecessary pain. A compassionate follower Christ seeks to alleviate pain and become “people who hurt when they feel someone else is hurting,” he says.
Living up to the inspiration of Christ takes more than courage, though, and his hope is that the students of JFK become men and women of prayer. The future will mean knowing how to speak to God and knowing how to listen to him because, “justice, compassion and honor requires a constant conversation with the creator of this world,” said the Cardinal.
Before leaving the stage and reminding students to thank their parents and guardians, Cardinal Egan received a gift from the student body. As the vice president of the student council, Tricia Watson, presented him with what appeared to be an article of clothing – possibly a robe – he shook her hand and accepted her gratitude.
He then revealed to the audience, “I asked if it was an extra extra large, and the vice president said, ‘no it’s a blanket.’” To which he gleefully proclaimed, “This fits all.”
Cardinal Egan then received a walking tour of the school from the man he ordained and appointed principal, Father Stephen Norton. After walking into the main office to the delight of its occupants, he stopped off in several classrooms. His advice to the sitting trigonometry class, “seize the opportunity to learn now,” because the brain is best built for it at this age.
He then extolled the virtues of a Catholic school education, while Father Norton can assure that the hallmark of his school consists of students who conduct themselves like ladies and gentlemen in the community. Beyond the present, he hopes, “We’re providing the ethical values of being a good citizen of the United States and obviously a good Catholic Christian, he says.
The spiritual aspirations of the school, along with the high academic standards and 120 hours of community service required, appeals to Ann Marie Imbriale, JFK parent and JFK parent advisory board member. “It puts them on a journey that they would not have entered if they had gone to a public school.”
For Christian Rivera, student council treasurer, the multifaceted nature of the JFK experience has given him the opportunity, he says, “to express who I was, as I figured it out through the four years I’ve been here.” And along with the rest of the leadership of the student council, “Challenging” is how they (Bernie Zipprish, Tricia Watson and Adam Rodriguez) described in unison the demands the institution puts on its students.
Even so, they clearly recognize the foresight of their parent’s choice of JFK, as President Zipprish expressed their great gratitude with few words. “Thank you pretty much sums it up,” he says.