Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's t-shirt time...

One never knows what gift might be the favorite.

When I visited our Jesuit friends in the Jamshedpur Province in India, along with Johnny Gill and the Klarichs, we brought a bunch of supplies with us, including some 300 t-shirts we had printed by Greg McDermott for our young friends at the St. Paul Miki School. I had badgered Fr. John Deeney, SJ before our trip for St. Paul Miki's school colors. Fr. wrote to me that this was a small rural school and they had no school colors. Johnny joked that we should have asked what their mascot was. So, of course, we made them St. Joe's crimson. When we arrived we found that their school uniforms were blue -- which would be their school colors!

I'm happy to report that half of the second batch was received -- in St. Paul Miki blue ;-)

If interested check out the Jamshedpur Jesuit website, in particular the pictures of Fr. James Shea, SJ, the Maryland Province Provincial, who visited the same tribal areas as we did.

It's t-shirt time in Pandabir, India...

Dear Tom,

Peace of Christ, loving greetings from Pandabir!

With grateful heart I acknowledge that two of your parcels had arrived in Loyola Niwas about a month back but unfortunately I could not bring them this side those days. I brought them here last week and distributed to our K.G. and 1st grade children. Thanks a billion for the nice t-shirts for our lovely children, some nice spiritual books, beautiful jacket of St. Joseph's Prep for me, delicious Irish whiskey, rosaries, basketballs, and a t-shirt for Fr. Sushil Jojo, S.J.

Forgive me for my so much delay as I have to blame every time for our bad energy system and dodgy internet. The school kids are very happy. I have taken a picture of myself with the K.G. kids. I will definitely send you in my next mail. We had organised the annual sports day for our school children, it was a grand success and this year there was coverage from the media (newspaper). I am having a very tough time these days as admission for all the classes are coming in great number especially K.G. I do know how will I be able to squeese so many. I have gone up to 82 seats for K.G.(new batch). We usually don't go more than 60. People of this area have realised and learned about us and also the school. As the years go there will be more pressure for admissions leading us to make two sections of K.G. At present it is not possible.

It looks like I may have a transfer in May........ more later only when it is out as I do not know the details. Once again my sincere thanks to you, your Ignatian prayer group and our friend Johnny Gill for his generosity.

Greg S.J.

Gregory S. D'Silva S.J.
St. Paul Miki Centre, Pandabir
C/O St. Xavier's High School
P.O. Box - 10

Greg D'SIlva, SJ, Gulshan Kujur, SJ and catechists at St. Paul Miki.

Dear Tom,

Peace of Christ!

Thanks a lot for your email. I am happy to forward to you the picture of our school kids with the teachers, catechists and Fr. Gulshan and myself.

I am fine and I do believe you and your prayer group are in good health too. Very soon we begin the lenten retreats in the villages for our Catholics. Every year during Advent and Lent we arrange retreats in the villages itself. Coming days will be very hectic (even now) with new admissions, results, supply of books for kids etc. One picture is of our parishoners (two of them on my side) whom I will be sending for jobs to Mangalore on 30th March.

Thats all for the time being.

Once again thanks to you and all our friends who visited us.

Greg S.J.

Fr. Greg, the fine teachers, and the beautiful kindergarten and 1st grade students of the St. Paul Miki School. The school is operated by the Jesuits and serves the growing educational needs of the Ho Tribal Catholics in Border and Pandabir.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy St. Joseph's Day!

Today is the Feast of St. Joseph, our patron saint who took the Lord Jesus as his son! We celebrate this day with the fathers of our Prep students. God blessed our Prep fathers with sons who give the Prep faculty and staff a great deal of joy each class day. The sons, too, who are not so engaged and the sons who get into trouble! All are carrying gifts into a future, gifts that will mature in times of challenge and opportunity.

I give thanks for the Prep fathers who have met the responsibilities of fatherhood, some with both sons and daughters; I pray for those who are struggling to meet their challenge more fruitfully; I ask your prayers that we at the Prep can be enthusiastic partners with the fathers of our students.

St. Joseph, pray for us! Help us to know Your Son as You knew Him.


Rev. George Bur, S.J. '59

A • M • D • G

St. Joseph's Preparatory School

1733 Girard Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19130

Monday, March 7, 2011

Jaywalking laminations...

Last year Fr. Terrence Toland, SJ (former president of St. Joe's) and I took in a game at the Hagan Arena. Since I was with a Jesuit I figured it was OK to park at the Jesuit Residence for the game. While walking down to the traffic light at 54th Street Father told me that his predecessor, Fr.William Maloney, SJ, advised him of two things; 1) watch the small bills because they can add up, and 2) never ever jaywalk on City Avenue. And as he finished that sentence he began to jaywalk across the street. I hope he was better watching the small bills ;-)
Yes, the SE Brothers appreciated the First Principle and Foundation laminations Mrs. 44.
With the Klarich brothers...
Welcome to Old St. Joe's... please turn off all cell phones and electronic devices...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

In defense of vouchers...

Oh well... it appears that the Philadelphia Inquirer will not publish my letter to the editor ;-(

Here it goes...

Re: School voucher debate heats up at state hearing Philadelphia Inquirer 2/16/2011

An interesting article by Ms. Lu on the ongoing school voucher debate. Excellent points were made on both sides of the argument yet I think an important distinction be made that "public education" does not have but one definition as it depends upon your ZIP code. There is a great difference between the quality of public education a child will receive in Cherry Hill and Lower Merion as opposed to Camden and North Philadelphia. I suppose for some this "separate and unequal" model is acceptable if you're in the suburbs but to defend the status quo that mandates that generation after generation of the poor receive a substandard education is, perhaps, a mortal sin.

Personally I grow tired of the rhetoric of certain voucher opponents as the hypocrisy knows no bounds: We have a gentleman attacking vouchers for the poor who represents the affluent suburb of Haverford Township. A former Philadelphia public school superintendent, who while leading the Philadelphia public school system -- chose to send his children to private schools. We also have the current mayor of Philadelphia, a man I admire, bragging during an election commercial that "my daughter attends public school -- where else?" A surprising statement since he himself was educated at Transfiguration of Our Lord Grade School and St. Joseph's Preparatory School. That would constitute a "where else", would it not? But it sounds as if their children all received a quality education. I suppose it's laudable that they care about inner city students but I would be more impressed if their children attended those same under-performing and dangerous schools that they continue to defend. 50% of Black and Hispanic males in Philadelphia do not graduate from high school. Is this what they're defending? Should the quality of an American child's education depend solely on their parent's wealth, the ability to move to an suburb with fine public school system, or the ability to pay for a private education? Or is it time to think outside the box and let the parents, regardless of their standing in society, choose what school may be best for their children?

Of course some have already grown tired of waiting for the government's (broken) promise to provide a good education to the poor. One such group is the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) who have started the Cristo Rey initiative, with schools throughout the nation, now in over 20 inner cities. The first Cristo Rey school was founded in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, a majority Hispanic neighborhood predominated by children of undocumented aliens seeking a better life for their children. The local public school mirrored the same anemic graduation rates seen in Philadelphia. No voucher opponents, the intention was not to "skim" the best students. The Cristo Rey schools partner with businesses for an innovative work-study program for high school students called the Corporate Internship Program, whereas students work for those companies five times a month in order to pay for 67% of their tuition. They not only receive an outstanding college preparatory education but valuable work experience as well, often in industries previously unfamiliar to the kids.

I volunteered to coach basketball at a charter middle school in North Philadelphia for a few years, and you would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated group of teachers in the world. And they would be the first to tell you that it is not just about funding. Many of the 8th graders I knew would have gone on to William Penn High School, which after being named one of the Commonwealth's persistently dangerous schools (see 08-09 statistics) in seven out of nine years was finally closed. The most important component to a child's success in the classroom is the parents, and no amount of dollars directed at a school can overcome parental neglect. We as a society must do our best to eradicate the structural sins that lead to poverty. We can look at educational alternatives such as vouchers, or we can continue to build new prisons that cost $30,000 per inmate per annum. While visiting India I stood in Kolkata, on a side street, witnessing the worst poverty in the worst slum I had ever seen. I asked my friend Fr. Hansel D'Sousa what would be the cure for this. He gave a one word answer; education. So whether in North Philadelphia, Camden, or Kolkata -- the answer is the same.

A comparison can be made to the original G.I. Bill which provided college or vocational training for servicemen returning after World War II. These fixed sum payments were made to the veterans to be used for tuition payments, books and lodging. It didn't matter to the government whether the veteran chose a secular institution such as Temple University, or a religious institution such as St. Joseph's University that as part of the ratio studiorum mandated Catholic theology classes, usually taught by Jesuits. They let each veteran make their own choices where to attend school. How refreshing would it be to have another such omnibus bill passed, this one though a parents bill of rights for their children's education. To allow parents, regardless of their income level, to choose the best schools, public or private -- regardless of affiliation, for their children. To give them the same choices that only people of means have now. People in wealthy towns such as Haverford, former superintendents, and current mayors who claim to know what's best for other people's children but would never, ever send their own children to a school such as William Penn. Vouchers would allow parents to opt out of schools that no one wants to attend in favor of another public, charter, religious or non-sectarian school -- the same choice that those in the middle and upper-middle classes can now make. Vouchers are not a miracle panacea but they can and should be an option.

I also find it ironic that some on the left look to Canada and other Western nations to emulate their health care systems yet ignore the fact that those same nations financially support all of their schools, both public and private. Yet the argument that gives me a chuckle is the concern over proselytizing. A local example is the Gesu School at 17th and Thompson, once a parish school closed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia but resurrected under the auspices of the Jesuits and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that now has a Protestant president guiding the school. Approximately 80% of the children who attend the Gesu are non-Catholic. Their parents sacrifice greatly to pay the subsidized tuition and choose a faith based education for their children. Should they grow disenchanted with the school -- they can choose to send their children elsewhere. Simply put -- let the parents make the decisions.

But let's be honest -- red herring arguments against vouchers are made by those with everything to lose. Giving an opportunity for lower income families to opt out of failing public schools, to give them a choice, would not benefit the NEA or AFT at all, and only result in a decline in membership. Teachers' unions are a special interest just like the NRA and any other PAC and make their decisions based on whether it is good for their dues paying members -- not whether it is good for the society at large. So why voucher opponents and teachers' unions may be commended for their commitment to public education -- know full well that they are dooming yet another generation of children in the inner cities. And most of those will be students of color. Whether the reasons for the defense of status quo are ignorance, self-interest, or bigotry... the results are the same. And the parents of today's school children, just like their parents and their parents before, will never see their children realize the American dream. But don't look for alternatives, don't allow the poor a choice in their children's education -- just build more prisons. Should you have the time an interesting exercise would be to see how many of the congressmen and congresswomen we send to Washington send their children to the DC public schools. And let me make one thing perfectly clear... President and Mrs Obama would never send their children to those schools either. Click here to read what our President thinks about them for his daughters.

Senator Anthony Hardy Williams is to be commended. I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiments; "I'm here to speak for a generation that has no one speaking for it. I'm compelled by my conscience and my compassion. I'm here because it's fair. Those who have can make choices. . . . Those who don't are obligated and relegated." Those who are relegated in life need someone, finally, to speak on their behalf.

Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again... but expecting different results. I think our children deserve better.

Thomas F. Brzozowski

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Prep's Communion Breakfast...

Another great day at 17th and Girard! For more pictures click here and for the introductions click here.

Me, T, and St. Ignatius ;-)

Pergolins x 4!
Two great Preppers: Mike Farrell and Joe Ruggeri.

With Joe, Tom Prior, and Bob Carson, SJ.

How I do I find Jesus...

John Swope, SJ
Rev. John W. Swope, S.J.

How do I find Jesus in my apostolic work today?


A backpack full of life experience …

If Ignatius of Loyola were with us today, he would probably agree that the quality of a Jesuit life depends in part on reverently looking into my "rear view mirror." By engaging in this spiritual exercise on a regular basis, I sense that I am able to examine my life and draw wisdom from it. I am not so much talking about looking back in order to reconstruct a "one-thing-after-the-other" chronicle, but rather to discover the mystery of the presence of Jesus in the "history" of my apostolic life. If Socrates' assertion that "the unexamined life is not worth living" is true, Ignatius turned that life wisdom into a spiritual art to help men and women actually lead an "examined life." At my best moments during the day (I wish there were more of these!), I have this sense that God's spirit empowers me to bring together whatever wisdom my life offers, and let it lead me in every single encounter with others. But more importantly, when I sense this more contemplative attitude, the many faces of Jesus Christ that I have met throughout my Jesuit life form a kind of emotional and spiritual "scaffolding" for me as I attempt to be attentive to the person or task before me.

John Swope, SJIn my mission as the founding president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, my life now revolves around finding Christ in our city, one of the most violent cities in the United States. I see the daily crime summaries in the newspaper and the stories on local TV news that attest to the crisis in the neighborhoods of beloved Baltimore. In our city, hearts break and tears flow and men and women bend beneath heavy burdens. At the same time, I see business leaders, politicians, community organizers, faith-based social service providers and individuals standing up to be catalysts of hope in those same neighborhoods. As in other times in my life, I experience suffering with Jesus who was crucified, and moments of great joy and hope with Jesus who was raised from the dead.

In August 2006, with a staff of four holed up in cramped rented offices in Baltimore's Mount Vernon section, and with a committed small group of trustees, we trusted and followed the instruction that Jesus gave to Paul after his conversion, "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do" (Acts 9:6). I have had a deep sense that where following Christ requires risk, that effort will bring forth great fruit and attract others to join. Highly qualified teachers have joined the Cristo Rey Jesuit mission to serve the young men and women of Baltimore. They repudiate the quality of the schools in our city, reject the voices that place the blame for low academic achievement on our young people, and pour themselves out for the Cristo Rey Jesuit mission.

Cristo Rey Jesuit received its first 9th grade class in September 2007 in the midst of the deep social pathologies of our city, and at a time when quality college-prep educational alternatives for the overwhelming majority of the city's young people were simply out of reach. Most of our young men and women come from the most distressed neighborhoods in Baltimore. And yet, in the midst of that chaos, our students aspire to a life of greatness. Here we are, four years later, on the threshold of our first graduation in June 2011. The Class of 2011 has worked for justice and peace in our neighborhoods, succeeded academically, cried and laughed together, been the first in their families to be accepted into college and are dreaming of creating a far better world. "Jesus of the Cross" as I look out over our City … "Jesus of the Resurrection" as I see our committed staff and our young people go forth to realize their dreams.

I think that the authenticity of my Jesuit apostolic life here in Baltimore depends on my encounters with these two faces of Jesus.