NEW BEGINNINGS –
Greetings Verbum Dei Family,
On September 18, I was given the honor and the responsibility of being inaugurated as President of Verbum Dei High School. What follows are the thoughts that I expressed at the installation ceremony.
I have great appreciation for the community of the Verb, and I hope my words can help you understand the reason that I am committed to the success of the school.
Friends, Benefactors, Corporate Partners, Students, and the most wonderful faculty and staff with whom anyone could hope to work – Thank you for coming this morning.
I want to especially thank Mr. Rick Caruso (brilliant entrepreneur, and a focused philanthropist) and Mayor Garcetti (represented by his Chief of Staff, Ana Guerrero), who are the principal supporters of this event. It was actually Mayor Garcetti’s idea to have some event that would focus on Verbum Dei and the wealth of untapped potential that exists is South Los Angeles. I want to thank Fr. Michael Gilson, Assistant to the Jesuit Provincial for Pre-secondary and Secondary Education for being here for this installation.
I could not be a prouder than to be the fourth Jesuit president of this amazing high school. I would like to briefly reflect on the history of Verbum Dei High School and then offer a few comments about my vision for the future.
1962 – The Society of the Divine Word (Societatis Verbum Dei) was given permission by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to found a high school in Watts. They did a tremendous job to educate generations of fine young men – surviving a number of challenges including the riots in both 1965 and 1992.
Same book, different chapter.
2000 – The Divine Word fathers and brothers had to withdraw from the school because of lack of personnel and because the financial picture had changed. That year, Cardinal Mahony offered the school to the Society of Jesus and suggested that the Jesuits explore the new Work-Study, College Prep model of Catholic School that had been founded by the Jesuits in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.
Verbum Dei became the third school in what is today known as the Cristo Rey Network which is made up of 28 secondary schools across the country. These schools are staffed by a variety of religious orders of men and women, and all operate on the same model of education. It took some years to implement the model completely at the Verb, but under the leadership of Fr. Bill Muller for the last six years – 100% of the graduates of Verbum Dei have had both corporate work experience and have been accepted to college. Amazing!
With the advent of the Jesuits, Verbum Dei continued as a school of the Archdiocese with the addition of Two Key Networks:
First, Cristo Rey Network (28 schools growing at the rate of two a year) – It provides our model of education:
Serving the underserved – if the student and his guardian want to be here, we will find a way to make it happen
College Prep – academically rigorous to prepare young men for post-secondary education
Work Study – professionally focused to prepare young men to take their place in future careers.
Accountability – requiring all students to perform to the absolute best of their ability
Second, The Jesuit Network – an international family which has various institutions in the Los Angeles area that include:
Loyola High School
Loyola Marymount University
Blessed Sacrament Parish
Dolores Mission Parishes
The Novitiate of the Three Companions
The Loyola Institute for Spirituality
The Jesuit effort with its many distinct but mutually supportive ministries provides the guiding values for Verbum Dei High School
What do we hope to accomplish?
For the School:
We want to be not only a safe harbor for our students, but also a good neighbor in the Watts community,
Partnering with Urban Compass, LAPD, Operation Progress, the office of Council Member Buscaino, and with the many civic and non-profit organizations in the community – to create a better future for all our children and all our people
In addition, we want all Los Angeles to see the Verb as the most unique and innovative secondary educational institution in Southern California.
For the Students:
Guided by the Jesuit vision for the Graduate at Graduation we challenge the students to be:
Open to Growth (open and reflective to a variety of perspectives and experiences)
Spiritual (aware of God’s unconditional love, who feels free to profess that faith in his own religious tradition)
Intellectually motivated (a life-long learner)
Loving (committed to being a man “with and for others”)
Work Experienced (who has learned the value and importance of being dependable and responsible in the work place.)
Committed to doing Justice (confident that he can make a difference in the world through his life)
In a word – to be all that we know that he can be
Bottom line: What is my vision for Verbum Dei and our students:
In 10 to 12 years I want the students that are seated in the bleachers today to join with the friends, benefactors and corporate sponsors that are sitting in the chairs in this gym.
I want them to be the civic leaders, the business people, the clergy, the teachers, the police officers, the corporate sponsors and benefactors for future generations of Verbum Dei Students.
I want these students to join with you – our valued guests – to make a difference in this world; that is,
People who take seriously the prophetic words of Fredrick Douglass, former slave turned orator, statesman and abolitionist, who said that “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
People who instead of complaining about the problems with the youth of today are insightful and committed to challenge and support our youth to live up to their full potential
That is my vision for the school, for the students, and for our partnering community.
Many Blessings to the readers of these words and to all the members of the wonderful community of Verbum Dei.