Reflections By Mr. Matthew Keough, Principal
The Mission of the Christian Brothers is “To provide a human and Christian education to the young, especially the poor, according to the ministry which the Church has entrusted to it.” During Saint La Salle’s time, the word poor was used to describe the economically poor children of France. The modern interpretation of the word poor has frequently been debated with most Lasallian scholars settling on a broader definition. Personally, I have settled on a simple definition of poor that was first described to me by the new Brother Visitor of the District, Brother Dennis Lee as, “those without.”
We are all “without.” Yes, our school seeks to make a CBA education affordable to every child, regardless of their financial capacity, but more importantly, we strive to meet the needs of every student in their personal way of being “without.”
“Without” the calmness in approaching the college process.
“Without” the ability to walk.
“Without” feeling accepted for who you are.
“Without” believing in your ability.
“Without” a faith in God.
“Without” a solid support system.
Consequently, the student-teacher relationship is at the core of a CBA education. To respond first entails to know. An educator cannot respond accordingly without first knowing and understanding. It is an individual discernment process for each child, each day.
Beyond the walls of CBA, we strive to teach our students that being Lasallian means seeking out and caring for all of those “without.” As Jesus taught, we go to the peripheries, to reach those most in need. Throughout the summer and continuing into the fall, our students have adhered to Jesus’s call by seeking out those “without.”
This past summer, senior religion teacher Mr. Horan accompanied 25 students to Camp Sunshine, a camp for children with cancer in Casco, Maine. Mr. Horan and these students sought out those “without” the gift of good health- helping children to take a break from the reality of cancer and enjoy the happiness of sports, crafts, boating, and games.
Mr. Horan reflected on the experience of our students, with these words: “When you engage other people without artifice or facade, communicating heart-to-heart, your true vocation – to love and respect other people in all circumstances – reveals itself to you and to the people you encounter.”
Mr. Horan’s reflection is strikingly similar to the words of Frederick Buechner, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” This place that Mr. Horan and Frederick Buechner speak of is the place that we hope all of our students find.
Recently, our JV football coach, Mr. Cotter shared the following experience from their game against Central Square:
As the clock was running down in the 4th quarter with just a few seconds left, their (Central Square) coach approached us about putting in one of their student athletes with special needs. They put him in and we talked to the boys about the situation. He ran the ball down the sideline with both teams running along with him cheering. As he crossed the goal line, both sidelines emptied and both teams came together in the end zone, to celebrate this special moment, not just for the Central Square community but a special moment for our boys as well. To be a part of something like this is special and even though our boys came up short on the scoreboard, it was amazing to see everyone on the field, and sidelines, come together for this young man and celebrate the moment. The boys showed their true character today, and it is the moments like these that make our school so special and make us proud to be Brothers.
After the game, I had numerous parents, CS players, and people from their community come up to me, to thank us for this special moment. They were very appreciative of the boys for their sportsmanship and inclusiveness. One father came up to me in tears, struggling to speak clearly, mentioning that his father coached at CS for 20 years and this was the most memorable moment that his father had ever experienced on that field. He also said “I thank you, and your boys, for allowing our community to have this special moment. You have no idea what this means to us.”
It was an amazing experience for our boys. Afterwards, a few of the boys were talking and one of them said, “That’s what being a Brother is all about.” I couldn’t have said it any better than he did.
Video from CBA-Central Square Junior Varsity game: https://www.facebook.com/CentralSquareFootball/videos/1266953476743712/
Quite often, each of us falls into the trap of thinking of service as a hierarchal relationship- of those “with” providing for those “without.” It is often viewed as someone who has been blessed with so much then in turn giving to someone who has so little. I suggest that service is better viewed as a reciprocal relationship, remembering that we are all “without” in one way or another.
Last Monday morning, junior Justin Miller eagerly approached the Main Office. As he passed through the hallway and entered my office he quickly took out his phone and said, “I have to show you this Mr. Keough!” I hesitantly nodded as he scrolled through the text message that read, “Justin, I just wanted to tell you how much I loved Open House. My mother was also so impressed with how polite and intelligent you were during the tour. Is it alright if we keep in touch in case I have more questions?” The conversation continued with several inquiries regarding busing, athletics, courses and teachers. Justin continued to explain to me that he had provided the young man, who he had led on a tour at Open House, with his cell phone number in case he had any further questions. The young man who toured with Justin was “without” the comfort of his own environment, “without” the comfort of friends and familiar faces. Throughout the day on Monday, my email continued to accumulate with endless compliments for our many tour guides who, like Justin, made those students who were “without” comfort, feel just a little more comfortable learning about being a Brother.
Throughout the fall we have been fortunate to witness so many of our students reaching out to the peripheries- finding their own calling to help those who are “without.” Marina Hatem organized a used dress drive to collect previously worn dresses. The dresses will eventually be provided to the students who are “without” the capability of purchasing a new dress for prom or ball. David Gross and Luke Frontale helped to organize a “pink out.” Morgan Long assisted in coordinating a fundraiser for the families who were devastated by the hurricane in Houston. These students, as well as countless others found the place that Frederick Buechner described, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
During the days and weeks since that Central Square football game, it is the following reflection of Coach Cotter that I often revisit, “As he crossed the goal line, both sidelines emptied and both teams came together in the end zone, to celebrate this special moment, not just for the Central Square community but a special moment for our boys as well..” Strikingly similar, I revisit the words of Mr. Horan, “When you engage other people without artifice or facade, communicating heart-to-heart, your true vocation – to love and respect other people in all circumstances – reveals itself to you and to the people you encounter.” Visually, the reciprocal beauty of service was in the smile that Justin Miller displayed after being able to comfort a student touring our school. All of these examples remind each of us that service is not “to,” but “with,” and it is in giving to those “without” that we receive in ways that we never envisioned- making each of us more whole.
“[It is] not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not “a man for others”; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.” ~Father Greg Boyle