End of the Year Reflection

At our first annual Prayer Service & Convocation on Wednesday, May 31, 2018, Mrs. Merkl-Deutsch addressed the DePaul Prep community with a meaningful and warming reflection of the 2017-18 school year. We are humbled to share her words below.

Convocation Reflection
Wednesday, May 31, 2018
Flo Merkl-Deutsch

Over the past two weeks, I have been asking students which moments and events made the biggest impression on them over this school year. Several students mentioned the interreligious panel we hosted with Rabbi Conover, Imam Nazim, and Fr. Benson. Students were universally impressed by what these three faiths share in common.

One of my own takeaways was Rabbi Conover’s response to the question, “Why does Chicago need houses of worship?” She replied, and my paraphrasing will not do her justice, that “We need places of beauty, peace, and quiet, places of reflection, in our busy, hectic city lives.”

Her words sum up why we gather in prayer, this morning. We are making time during this season of transition, of exam preparation, making summer plans, looking for summer jobs, and closing the books on the school year, to reflect.
To honor the joys and challenges from this school year.
To sit with these shared experiences and allow them to take root in us.
Otherwise, their impact may be lost!

Other events that students singled out were the guests at our assemblies: How Fr. John Kartje showed us that faith and science are not at odds with each other but give insight to each other. Hearing Lori Lightfoot’s story inspired us. Grooving to the Alan Gresik Swing Shift Orchestra was a joyful way to move into Christmas vacation and taught us about swing music in the process. We relished victories and tested our resolve in sports and academic competition, while building character.

In painful contrast, the horrors of gun violence in high schools this year rattled our sense of school as a safe and peaceful space. We gathered in prayer and solidarity with the students of Parkland, Florida, and other schools. We wrote letters to our representatives in our efforts to make our schools safer. We move forward, knowing that we are not quite the same, but resolving, with teens across the country, to be a force for change.

What were the moments that changed you this year? Who challenged, surprised, enlightened or affirmed you? Who made you laugh when you needed it, or said nothing but was present to you, and it made all the difference?

Sometimes these aha moments come in small ways. As one of our Kairos leaders, we need to be open to how the ordinary small moments make an extraordinary impact. Take a moment today to thank someone for having an affect on you this year!

Our school has also been in transition… and has been for some years. We just graduated our first class that entered the school under the DePaul Prep name, and we say goodbye to the principal who shepherded us through our first years with a new identity.

This convocation, the scripture and the music, serve to reground us in our Core Values, and in OUR identity as a Catholic School through all that we do.

The Book of Wisdom speaks of the value of wisdom;
in comparison, gold might as well be sand.

We heed Saint Paul’s words to his beloved church of Philippi,

Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, or gracious.
Think about these things.

We are no different from that community of two millennia ago.

And from the gospel of Matthew, we hear Jesus’ mandate,

Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least
brothers of mine, you did for me

The rich relationships we built this year through service with Misericordia, Gigi’s Playhouse, Rincon Family Services and other organizations taught us what that mandate looks like in the city of Chicago.

These are the truths that anchor us, that make us who we are.

These are the truths that Mr. Birch, Mr. Lang, and Dr. Quaid have dedicated their lives to imparting on emerging adults and how blessed we have been to have them here with us. They have been instrumental to the success of this school through its transition, and their contributions are forever part of our foundation... and our legacy.

Just as Rabbi Conover spoke so eloquently about why we need houses of worship in our city, this year speaks to why we need faith-based schools, that are grounded in the core values of Faith, Respect, Excellence, and Service.

It is a celebration of gratitude, and an exercise in knowing who we are, why we do what we do, and why this place matters.

So, as we enter into the season of summer, embrace the opportunity to rest.

Rest is sacred, and renewal is necessary.

Enjoy quiet moments to listen and allow for the gifts of this year to become part of you.

I offer one last thought from Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?