Grab the nearest defibrillator, as today’s 100 Words is exactly 100 words—how many words does it take, after all, to say WE MADE IT? Yes, DJO, we made it, and while this landing point was impossible to envision earlier this year, not only have we made it, we did so safely, happily, and together. And we did so with many a silver lining, some of which are evident now, as others will be in the future. Yes, DJO, we made it—thanks be to God! Here’s to a safe, happy, and carefree summer break. See you in late August.
"100 Words" serves as a self-framing for me to keep things short and sweet, an homage paid and recognition to an expression I hold near and dear: less is more. Each of these reflection pieces lands quite close to the 100-word mark and provides me an avenue through which to share with you, the O'Connell community, a reflection from week to week on any number of my thoughts, observations, opinions, takeaways, musings etc.—falling within the realm, and in no patterned way whatsoever (trust me), of the prosaic to the lyrical, the informational to the aspirational, the serious to the whimsical, the arcane to the profound, the secular to the spiritual...you get the picture.
My goal and hope is for you to get to know me as I get to know you, the members of the Bishop Denis J. O’Connell community, and all I ask from you is that you take less than a minute each week to read (more or less) 100 words. God’s Peace.
The title of this year’s brilliant and evocative O’Connell yearbook, “Affected but Connected,” describes in exquisite pin-point fashion and unvarnished but hopeful terms how seamlessly aligned and copacetically well things went this year, relatively speaking, and that through it all—which had to have included for each of us varying degrees of uncertainty, sadness, disappointment, angst, and heartache—the school’s student body and faculty/staff continued—many at jaw-dropping levels—to look out and care for one another, perhaps like never before. In my view, “Affected but Connected” is a most apt tagline for this year’s senior class. They are a marvelous and exceedingly likable group of 300 who a few short hours ago became our youngest alumni in an in-person graduation ceremony marked by beauty, grace, elation, well-deserved affirmation, and nary a dry eye. A group not unlike many of O’Connell’s storied past, this band of brothers and sisters are marked by countless favorable characteristics—exuberance for life and an ever-evident forward-lean near the top of any list. Commencement 2021 was, and is, exactly that—a beginning—as this delightful, impossible not to like cohort, who has been shaped by the unavoidable and the surreal that has faced all of us these past 15 months, has the capacity and I believe the will and appetite to vault into this next phase of their lives, as young adults, with a feral drive so as to make up for lost time in creating and molding a better, kinder, and more gentle world, wading confidently and fearlessly into this next chapter. Time will tell, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if 2021 makes its mark, individually and collectively, as one of the finest and most cohesive classes in O’Connell history—for in dealing with and managing the landslide of all that was thrust upon them, this group of young people has become preternaturally poised and purposeful, and remains at least somewhat unsated. Making their mark in service to others and to the Lord will be their response, I believe, and soon enough all that they have had or felt the need to keep bottled up emotionally, dreams yet unfulfilled, etc. will come avalanching out. Class of 2021, we’re all pulling for you to show the world what you’re made of and who you are: brilliant, electrifying, empathetic, intuitive, completely in tune with time, place, and opportunity, and motivated and inspired by your own awesome growth potential and that which the world—through the lens of faith, hope, and love--has to offer. You got this, youngest DJO alums! We believe in you, unwaveringly and passionately, so get out there and make all of us proud!
No school could be high-functioning, empathetic, purposeful, inspiring, and happy--as is Bishop O'Connell—were it not led and conducted by a faculty, staff, and administration comprised of those very same characteristics and outlooks. Leading by example and loving others as one love him/herself sits at the core of who and what my extraordinary colleagues are, and I write today—here near the end of a particularly heavy-lift, hard-slog of a year—to laud the twelve dozen of them, each marked by his/her own unique personal version of “joyful creative hope,” those three beautiful words, and sentiments, at the heart of the IHM order. The reaction of my faculty and staff teammates to leadership's recent decision to invite all students from grades 9-11 to campus for the final two weeks of the '20-'21 school year was to absorb and think about the decision, internalize it fully, and then embrace—with hallmark O’Connell positive energy—a plan for the happy return of all of our beloved Blue AND Silver freshmen, sophomores, and juniors (800-plus of them) with the typical goodness, grace, and aplomb that typifies their work, their calling. I’m sure that each of my teacher colleagues in preparing for this daunting but affirming mission said to him/herself, reflexively: "Okay now, how do I create the very best and most welcoming and community-building learning opportunity for these wonderful kids?" Earlier this month, O’Connell was commended by a group of visiting educational accreditors for a whole host of things, with three areas in particular standing out to them: Catholic identity, sense of community, and wise use of strategic resources. Knowing what I know, and feel, in having seen over the past year this professional learning community in action, I would respectfully suggest to these visitors that a fourth star among the stars be noted on their list: O’Connell’s student-centered approach.