October 2017

Posted: October 6, 2017

Dear Parents,

This summer, the Jesuit Schools Network (the body coordinating the work of all Jesuit schools in the United States and Canada) distributed a pamphlet entitled “Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice.” This document articulates that “Jesuit schools must provide a curriculum and a school environment that helps young women and young men focusing on these goals: 1. to form their consciences 2. to learn from the Jesus of the Gospels how to match their talents to the needs of their times 3. to balance social and political points of view in discourse steeped in Ignatian discernment that leads if not to agreement, then to mutual respect and a desire for reconciliation.”

In many ways, what has been happening on campus these past few days has been aligned with this lofty imperative. The students who kneeled before the football game on Friday have been working very diligently in the formation of their consciences, with meetings at school last Saturday morning, and every morning before school this week. They shared the fruit of that labor with their peers at lunch on Monday at our Town Hall meeting, where they listened to questions from their peers, and explained what led them to take the action that they did. There have been some great moments this week when students have said things along the lines of, “I don’t agree with what they did, but I understand now why they did it.” Yesterday, students participated in a DACA awareness day, where they were afforded opportunities to understand how this issue impacts their peers. This afternoon’s TEDx event on Free Speech will challenge us to consider what free speech looks like at our Catholic, Jesuit school. I think that as a school campus, we are well on our way towards reconciliation, although we still have work to do, because the Jesuits call us to both justice and reconciliation. We cannot have one without the other. If justice isn’t at the center, then we really haven’t reconciled ourselves in any meaningful way. And if reconciliation isn’t incredibly valued, then the justice we seek hasn’t been fully valued.

We also recognize that students kneeling in a public forum at a football game extends the gesture far beyond our Bellarmine campus, and that’s where we still have much work to do. While internally we are on our way to reconciliation and justice, externally, there has been much division, upset feelings, and deep hurt. The message of justice and the desire to support the marginalized has been lost in many cases. The method of expression the students chose – of kneeling during the National Anthem – is not one that I would have chosen myself. In fact, I deeply wish that they would have chosen another way. Many have told me of the hurt and anger they have experienced, particularly police officers, members of the military, veterans, and first responders. Those stories have been very hard ones to hear. And yet I understand the words of one father who said to me, “I don’t agree with what they did and I probably never will. But I’m deeply proud of them for how committed they were to stand up for what they believe.”

We have work to do to rebuild everything that the title of this document speaks to: companionship, mission, reconciliation, and justice. We need to bring the community together, and we will do so two times next week, as a start. Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. Mrs. Luscher and I will make ourselves available in the Sobrato Theatre to listen to your concerns and answer your questions to the best of our ability. We’ll do the same again on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. We hope you’ll be able to join us at one of these events. We deeply desire to reconcile with those who have been hurt, and we hope that these opportunities can be the first step in that long process.

When I spoke to the students at the Mass of the Holy Spirit, I told them that that this year’s Summit on Understanding Race in the 21st Century was going to make us deeply uncomfortable. I had no idea how quickly and how uncomfortable it would make me. I have grown enormously over the course of the past week, as I have done my best to listen to everyone’s reactions. I know that many students on campus have grown enormously as well. And I’m hopeful that we all can be willing enough to continue to engage, even while hurt, in a fashion that will help us to grow and make Bellarmine an even better reflection of the society that we hope to help build.

Sincerely,

Chris Meyercord ‘88
President
cmeyercord@bcp.org

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