November President’s Pen: We have a great team, problem-solving while responding to what our students and community need.

If you could point to one month out of the year that epitomizes Cristo Rey St. Martin, it must be November.  No month better defines who we are as a school community.  November begins with the Feast of St. Martin de Porres and ends with the Feast of Cristo Rey.  Both celebrations focus on creating a different and better world.

St. Martin de Porres was rejected by the society of his time for being mixed-race.  Discrimination, poverty, and social marginalization were part of his daily life. Yet, his responses to these manifestations of hate and discord were always and unfalteringly ones of love and care for others. At the time of his death, he was confessor for the Viceroy of Peru, the local Archbishop, and the Mayor of Lima.  He died a respected healer and renowned person of faith and goodness.  Love won then and it can win again.

As we now face the COVID health pandemic, let’s remember that we are also facing a pandemic of racial divide not unlike what Martin experienced.  Our individual and collective responses can mean the difference between maintaining an unhealthy and unfair status quo or taking an empowering step toward equality and healing.

Cristo Rey translates into English as Christ the King.  This Feast celebrates a King like no other:  one who leads by serving, whose power is found in vulnerability, whose greatest triumph was couched in his greatest defeat – dying on the cross.  A king who celebrates the last over the first, the poor before the rich, the selfless over the selfish.  A King who teaches that we should love in the face of hate.  A King who comes to turn our world on its head.  Perhaps during these times when our world seems totally upside down – when there is unrest and fear and uncertainty everywhere we look – there is also the opportunity for Cristo Rey to reign.  “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Love one another as I have loved you.”

I am really so grateful to be part of the CRSM community.  We have a great team.  We are not panicking right now, despite never having had to deal with something like this before, we simply are continuing to problem-solve while responding to what our students and community need.  Our hybrid schedule that allows those students who want, to attend classes in-person one day per week and attend synchronized classes from home two days per week is working fairly smoothly.

  • Our daily attendance (both in-person and remote) over the first semester has averaged 99%.  This is an incredible testament to the sense of community and belonging that is established across our community.
  • Likewise in terms of academic measures like AP test results, CRSM leads the Cristo Rey Network of 37 schools.
  • We have been using a hybrid schedule since July during summer school and now during the Fall Semester.  In all that time, we have not had a single case of COVID that was contracted on campus thanks to a community-wide disciplined adherence to distancing, mask-wearing, symptom checking, and maintaining a clean campus environment

As our Principal put it, “These results do not happen through happenstance. The collective efforts of the entire community (students, staff, community and business partners, board members, donors, etc.) make these results possible.”

Let’s be clear everything is not all rosy.  COVID has hit Waukegan and North Chicago much harder than surrounding suburbs.  Several students have lost family members – parents and grandparents.  One of our students lost her mother to a non-COVID condition but she could not be with her in the hospital when she died because of COVID protocols.  Heartbreaking stories like these certainly aren’t exclusive to our community but they do seem to be happening more frequently here than elsewhere.

Many friends and donors like you have stepped up to help by supporting our CRSM Emergency Fund.  Because of you, we have been able to give out $95,971 since the pandemic shutdown.  Over 137 families so far have benefited from your support.  In the last couple months, we have been able to help 93 families with high school and college tuition, and distributed funds for groceries, winter clothing, rent and utilities.

Author and activist Lisa Sharon Harper describes Cristo Rey like this, “Evidence of the presence of the Kingdom of God is thick wherever and whenever people stand on the promise of God that there is more to this world—more to this life—than what we see. There is more than the getting over, getting by, or getting mine. There is more than the brokenness, the destruction, and the despair that threaten to wash over us like the waters of the deep. There is a vision of a world where God cuts through the chaos, where God speaks and there is light. There is a vision where there is protection and where love is binding every relationship together.”

God cuts through the chaos and lights the darkness through us.  Our small acts of love for one another bring God’s Kingdom closer.  That is what we are about at CRSM.  November reminds us of who we aspire to be through the examples of St. Martin de Porres and Cristo Rey.  You remind us, too, that love ultimately wins.  We are so grateful for your support during these topsy-turvy times and we continue to pray for your safety and health.  St. Martin pray for us!  ¡Viva, Cristo Rey!