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Our Priests and Our School

by Joseph D. Hollowell, President of Roncalli

The last issue of the Update I wrote a column called “Our Priests and Our Schools” that generated a lot of feedback for me personally.  I was a little nervous about publishing the article in the first place as it is very difficult to summarize the 78 page report issued by Notre Dame in the 750 words I usually have for this article.  The issues are so complex and they also seem to be unique to each individual school and pastor.  Nonetheless, there were some common themes in the Notre Dame report and I tried to touch on those within the aforementioned limitations.  The people that contacted me were very grateful for the frankness of what I wrote.  I got the sense that this is an issue that many people would like to see explored more.  For those that want more, the official title of the report is “Faith, Finances, and the Future – The Notre Dame Study of U. S. Pastors”. It is published by the Alliance for Catholic Education Press.  A quick internet search can give you the rest of the details.

However, I’d like to go in a little different direction this time around.  I have titled the article “Our Priests and Our School” which is meant to be a reflection on Roncalli and our priests.  First of all I believe that Roncalli holds a very special place in the Archdiocese.  I am especially aware of this with the ordination of two of our alums - Jeremy Gries and John Hollowell (yes, he is my son) – who were ordained priests the first weekend of June.  This is the second time that two Roncalli alums have been ordained simultaneously.  The last time it happened was in 2002 when Fr. Joe Feltz and Fr. Eric Johnson were ordained.  Fr. Johnson is the Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese and Fr. Feltz is the newly named pastor of St. Malachy which is one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese.  Additionally, we cement our claim to this special place in the Archdiocese by also counting among our alumni Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, Fr. Dan Mahan, Executive Director of the Marian College Center for Catholic Stewardship, and Fr. Joe Newton, Associate Pastor of St. Luke. There is no other high school in the Archdiocese to claim half as many priests active in the priestly ministry in this Archdiocese.  It makes me think we are doing something right.

When one also considers that five of our alums - Dustin Boehm, Scott Lutgring, Andy Syberg, Ben Syberg, and Tim Wyciskalla - attending major seminary in preparation for the priesthood and that no other Catholic high school in Indianapolis has more than one, it gives us pause to consider why our education program seems to be so productive in this area.  In asking my son John about it he thinks it starts with Roncalli’s claim to be the “Life Prep School”.  This is not so much a claim as it is our philosophy of our school’s unique role in participating in the formation of young people into whoever it is God has called them to be.  An education at a certain school is sometimes considered to be stamping a ticket to the next level of success.  That’s not the true role of a wholesome education.  The purpose of an education is to expand our mind to the possibilities that God has offered to us as we each take our unique role in the unfolding of the drama of creation.  Within that education should be the opportunity to experience a wide variety of academic subject areas and co-curricular activities that broaden our view of what it is that is our passion and what it might be that God is calling us to.  

That such a relatively high proportion of our students over the years have heard the call to the priesthood is a testimony to this view of who our students are and how each of their unique combination of skills and gifts is to be nurtured to fruition.  It is a pleasure to join all of our parents in this sacred partnership.  Having 1,100 souls in our charge for such a big part of the day is an awesome responsibility.  We are so mindful of our shortcomings that we know we can only do it through the grace of God and with the special support of the entire Roncalli community.  Thanks for your loyal support of our work and for your sacrifices on behalf of our students, past, present, and to come. It is a holy work that you support and it is having broad-ranging impact across the world.  God bless you! 

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