Seasonal Reflection: Returning to School

Jocelyn Thomas Features

As the school year got off to its start in late August and early September, several friars who either are students or work in an educational ministry took time to share with HNP Today their thoughts on the year ahead. A student friar, a school president, two college administrators, a campus minister, and several teachers discuss what they are doing this year in their various educational roles.

A Student’s Perspective
Jeffery Jordan, OFM, 
who is studying at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and living at Holy Name College, welcomed the new school year with mixed emotions. He said:

“As August came to an end, I must confess that it was bittersweet. It was a time of great joy and hope but also a time of sadness and closure. With great hope and excitement, I returned to Holy Name College, looking forward to reuniting with my Franciscan brothers and beginning another exciting academic year. At the same time, it hurt to leave the wonderful community and ministries at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in New York City.

“Without a doubt, being at Holy Name of Jesus this summer was a wonderful experience, both fraternally and pastorally. In many ways, my feelings turn to the truth and reality of the Paschal mystery.

“As the new school year begins, I’m particularly excited, given it is my fourth year of theology, and it is somewhat of a “capstone” year.  At the same time, I realize that at the end of this year, I will be leaving the familiarity of school and of friends made through the last three years to begin a new venture with my internship.

“It is bittersweet, and, yet, so full of hope.”

Thoughts from College Staff Members
As Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., celebrates its diamond jubilee anniversary, it is clear that the school has changed dramatically over its 75 years. What has not changed is the friars’ commitment to living their evangelical life among their brothers and sisters in an academic ministerial setting. The friars are as excited as ever about inviting young men and women to share in the nearly 800-year-old Franciscan intellectual tradition, according toKenneth Paulli, OFM, chief of staff to president Kevin Mullen, OFM, and associate professor of education.

“When they opened Siena’s doors for the first time on Sept. 22, 1937,  the friars were expecting the 40 men who had registered, but 90 showed up,” he said. “From these hunble beginnings, the now 20 friars connected to the college, as faculty, adminstrators and professors emeriti welcomed to the 200-acre campus just over 3,000 students — more women than men, with a first-year class of nearly 800 students, the most diverse ever and among the most academically talented ever.”

Kenneth, class of 1982, who is overseeing the implementation of Siena’s new strategic plan, “Living our Tradition,” said the plan’s “first priority is academic excellence by way of student engagement.” He talked with some of his fellow friars about what their upcoming academic year looks like.

Dennis Tamburello, OFM, ’75, professor of religious studies, said:“I especially look forward to teaching a section of Introduction to Religious Thought that is open exclusively to the college’s new transfers. This represents one way by which Siena gives transfer students a more personal introduction to Siena, as well as helps them to get to know each other.”

Julian Davies, OFM, professor of philosophy and college archivist, added:“I’m excited to teach an expanded course — one I taught 50 years ago. My first classes, though, are the same — sorting out the difference between philosophy and religion for young folks who might easily confuse them.”

Views from High School
Robert Sandoz, OFM, president of Christ the King Prep School in Newark, N.J., said the mission of the school closely aligns with the renewal of the Church.

“Using an innovative work-study model of education, we are providing a Catholic, college-preparatory education to urban students with limited economic resources. Through this effort we advance not only the life of the student, but also impact the family and the larger community as well.

“For me, personally here in Newark, this ‘restoration’ is one of hope. The young people here come from an environment of hopelessness. It is for me in my interactions with them to share the hope that animates my heart. Just yesterday, I met a young man on the street here in Newark, one of our graduates, who is starting his sophomore year in college. He was home for the weekend to do the grocery shopping for his invalid grandmother. I saw joy and promise and hope in the face of this young man as we greeted one another. Anything that I offered to him while he attended this school was returned to me many times over. I, too, am restored by these students.

“Pray for us and our mission here in Newark. Through the ministry of two friars — me and Gregory Gebbia, OFM— one religious Franciscan sister and one Secular Franciscan, we are committed to restoring the Church of Christ here in Newark.”

In Lakeland, Fla., Paul Santoro, OFM, is campus minister at Santa Fe High School. He recently returned south from a summer assignment in New York City and described his thoughts.

“As campus minister and moderator of the student government, I was responsible for the activities to welcome the new students to our school. I was able to do what I do best, offer hospitality.

“I only had one week back at school before the new students arrived and I have to admit that school without students is boring,” Paul said. “I was happy to welcome the new and old back to the place where they will spend a good number of their waking hours with their SFC family, where they will be nurtured in mind, body and soul and accepted, loved and respected. And the students, although some may never admit it, are glad to be back as well. My own enthusiasm of being a part of this ministry is clearly felt by others at school. I am glad to be back to a place where our theme for the year is ‘called to greatness — to share Christ’s love with all.’

“This year marks my 18th year in education as a teacher or administrator. I have to admit that it never gets old and each year brings with it a new enthusiasm and love for one of the greatest ministries of our Church, the education of her youth.”

— Compiled by Wendy Healy with research from Jocelyn Thomas

Editor’s note: The HNP Communications Office welcomes friars to submit reflections about holidays, feast days and other topics of a timely nature. Those interested in submitting a reflection for consideration for a future issue of HNP Today should contact communications director Jocelyn Thomas by email at