Archive for the ‘High School’ Category

Jesuit Founder of Cristo Rey Jesuit Houston Profiled by Hometown Paper

Jesuit Father TJ Martinez was recently profiled by his hometown paper, The Brownsville Herald of Brownsville, Texas, about founding Cristo Rey Jesuit in southeast Houston. “Within 24 hours of graduating from Harvard [with an MA in educational leadership], I was on a plane from Boston to Houston,” Fr. Martinez recalled. “My first assignment as a new priest was to start this new school.”

Part of the Cristo Rey network of schools, the high school exclusively serves children living at or below the poverty line and charges no tuition, supported instead by donations and a work-study program in which students are employed at local corporations one day a week.

“We wanted to see if we could launch not just a Catholic high school but, more importantly, to at least begin a movement of Catholic education reform focused on children who are most in need. We started with nothing but a good idea,” said Fr. Martinez.

The school celebrated its success with its first graduation ceremony this past June. The entire first graduating class received scholarships, most covering full tuition and expenses, to some of the most prestigious schools in the country.

When the school was founded in 2009, Cristo Rey Jesuit relied heavily on donors in the city of Houston for financial assistance. However, Fr. Martinez also sought to “involve the community in the bigger concept. … We didn’t want just donors and corporate sponsors. We wanted them to become supporters so that they would take ownership of the movement.

“If we could turn someone who was being supported by the taxpayers into someone who contributed to our community,” achieving the goal would change Houston, said Fr. Martinez. “I was shocked that the support came from as many non-Catholics as Catholics. They realized that we could change the landscape. … It’s an investment.”

Cristo Rey Jesuit students participate in a work-study program that employs them in entry-level positions one day a week to earn the remainder of the tuition not covered by donations. According to Fr. Martinez, the jobs allow these students who have grown up in the toughest neighborhoods and come from the most broken families to re-imagine themselves as future business leaders and future family leaders.

“It’s almost like pressing a reset button on their minds,” Fr. Martinez said. “It ignites a positive potential, a ‘divine spark’ that I believe exists in every child.”

This fall, Fr. Martinez will travel to Kenya on a six-month mission to meet Jesuits who are considering opening a similar school in Nairobi. After his time abroad, Fr. Martinez will return to Cristo Rey Jesuit for another term as president. [The Brownsville Herald]

Los Angeles Times Highlights Success of Jesuits’ Verbum Dei High

Verbum Dei Class of 2013After the Jesuits took over Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles in 2000, the school began accepting only low-income students and doubling up on core classes. Evidence shows that their Cristo Rey Network model is working: all 60 graduating students of the class of 2013 announced they would be going to college at the school’s commitment day ceremony this year.

The all-male high school in the Watts neighborhood of the city was the subject of a recent feature story in the Los Angeles Times’ Column One section. For the sixth straight year, the college acceptance rate was 100 percent for its almost entirely Latino and African-American students.

This celebration of the school’s success highlights the dramatic changes made in Verbum Dei’s recovery from financial problems. In 2000, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which long kept the school afloat, announced that Verbum Dei was on the verge of closing. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony asked the Jesuits to take over, and they linked the school with the Cristo Rey Network of Catholic schools in 2002, which provides a college preparatory experience for disadvantaged urban teenagers.

By 2009, Verbum Dei was fully operating under the new program. The school, once an athletic powerhouse, directed its focus toward new achievements. “You might not see any more championship athletic banners in the gym,” said Paul Hosch, vice president for mission advancement at Verbum Dei. “But what you will see is five to six college acceptance letters per student.”

Students’ days at Verbum Dei are highly structured, the schedule designed to bring underachieving students to grade level. “Every student here has obstacles or challenges, and we accept that,” Principal Dan O’Connell said. “But that cannot be an excuse. The real world is not going to allow them to use that as excuses.”

The school condenses six years of learning into four, with double sessions of core classes such as English and math. In addition to schoolwork, students work one day during the school week as part of a corporate work-study internship that pays half of their tuition. Parents are asked to pitch in what they can afford, and the remainder of the tuition is made up through grants and fundraising.

School officials said the work at law firms, banks and engineering companies inspires the teens. Ricardo Placensia, who will be attending the University of California, Riverside in the fall, interned at Locke Lord law firm. “I see I made [my mother] proud,” said Placensia. “That’s the one thing I’ve wanted to do.” [Los Angeles Times]

Jesuit Novice as Chaperone, Coach and Confidant

Jesuit Daniel Gustafson Jesuit Daniel Gustafson is a second-year novice who just finished his long experiment — a key part of the Jesuit novitiate, as it enables the novice to work in a Jesuit ministry and “test out” his vocation. For his experiment, Gustafson taught religion and worked in the Mission and Ministry Office at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, but he found that was just his official job description.

In addition to those duties, Gustafson was made assistant tennis coach, and he also helped by chaperoning mixers, leading the weekly Examen over the intercom and helping to plan, lead and direct retreats and service events. Once, he even found himself cutting tiles to be installed in a house that Prep students helped to build over spring break.

Another part of his unofficial duties were the many conversations he had with students throughout the day, at a retreat or during a tennis match or service trip. As Gustafson came to know the students better, he had two realizations.

The first was that “each and every student was looking for essentially one thing and one thing only — acceptance. A place and person or group with whom they could be themselves, relax, take a deep breath in the midst of a typically busy high school day, and know that they are cared for,” he wrote.

The second realization he had about these talks was that as the students became more comfortable around him, every now and then the seriousness of the conversation would deepen, from discussing a student’s fears about moving away to college to a struggle with believing in God to a difficult situation in the student’s family life.

“In seeking acceptance and an opportunity to share something challenging in their lives, these students helped me to recognize that this is a universal human characteristic,” Gustafson wrote. “These are the same thirsts that I feel and that all of us feel. And it is exactly where God wants to meet us: listening to us, helping to carry our burdens, loving us at each and every turn.”

Through these students, Gustafson found that “God showed me that being a companion of Jesus will also bring me to what may be a run-of-the-mill conversation or may lead to listening to someone vulnerably share an issue that has been plaguing him or her for years.”

Read more of Gustafson’s reflections on his long experiment at www.jesuitvocation.org.

Canisius High School Appoints Jesuit Father Joseph Costantino as President

Fr. Joseph Costantino Canisius HighJesuit Father Joseph Costantino has been appointed as the new president of Canisius High School, in Buffalo, N.Y., beginning July 1. Fr. Costantino is returning to the site of his first assignment as a Jesuit novice in 1978.

His appointment also marks a return to a Jesuit president for the 143-year-old school. He succeeds  John Knight, the first lay president in the school’s history. Knight left Canisius in 2012 to lead St. Ignatius Preparatory School in San Francisco. In the interim, P. Joseph Koessler served as president while the Canisius High board searched for a permanent replacement.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to have a Jesuit back at the helm of Canisius. That was one of our key objectives we were seeking to fulfill,” said the chair of the school’s board of trustees David Kersten.

Fr. Costantino has been the pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in New York City since September 2006.. A Brooklyn native, Fr. Costantino entered the Society of Jesus in 1977 and was ordained in 1987. Fr. Costantino is also a member of the board of trustees at Canisius College, where he spent three years teaching philosophy. He holds a bachelor’s degree from New York University, a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University and both a Master of Divinity and Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. (now the Boston College School of Theology).

He was executive director of St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset, N.Y., for seven years, and is a former board member of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, which provides service opportunities for retirees with the poor. Fr. Costantino also served as director of vocations for the New York and Maryland Province Jesuits.

“Living in community with the Jesuits who served at the high school and working alongside a group of seasoned Canisius lay faculty members in the Higher Achievement Program, I experienced the joys of teaching and learned about the magnificent work of this special Jesuit apostolate in Buffalo,” said Fr. Costantino, recalling his time at Canisius High as a Jesuit novice. [Buffalo News, Business First]

Jesuit Father James Van Dyke Named Principal of New Cristo Rey School in Atlanta

Jesuit Father James R. Van DykeJesuit Father James R. Van Dyke has been named founding principal of the new Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, opening in fall 2014. Fr. Van Dyke, who currently teaches English and religion at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx, N.Y., has worked in Jesuit secondary education for 24 years.

Cristo Rey Atlanta is a newly sponsored ministry of the Maryland, New England and New York Provinces of the Society of Jesus. The 500-student school will be part of the Cristo Rey network, which provides low-income students with a rigorous college prep curriculum. Students also participate in a corporate work-study program, which defers tuition costs.

Fr. Van Dyke, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Virginia; a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology from the Weston School of Theology (now the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry); and a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md.

After entering the Jesuits in 1981, Fr. Van Dyke was ordained in 1993 and professed final vows in 2004. Before teaching at Fordham Prep, he was a teacher and faculty chaplain at Xavier High, chaplain of Regis High School in New York City and an English teacher at Canisius High School in Buffalo and at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, N.Y. In addition to his teaching duties, he has also served as student chaplain, retreat director, yearbook moderator and coach of swimming, crew and mock trial.

Fr. Van Dyke has volunteered extensively as a Sunday assistant at parishes, most recently at the Church of St. Thomas More in New York City, and served on the boards of the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo, Regis High School and Fordham Prep. [Xavier High School, Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School]