The following is a copy of a letter from our President, Brother Domenic Viggiani to our Grade 12 students last week ahead of Founders Day:
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Dear Grade 12 Students,
"The measurement of life should be proportioned rather to the intensity of the experience than to its actual length." – Thomas Hardy
Greetings to you. I hope this brief letter finds you and your family in good health and managing well with the current circumstances. It is an understatement to say that no one could ever have imagined at the beginning of this academic year, that we would find ourselves near its completion, having been physically absent from the school since March 12th. Life does occasionally take on some strange twists and turns. It certainly has this year.
I trust you would agree that the Administrative Team, your teachers and counsellors have done an exemplary job in doing their best to ensure you are able to continue your studies and prepare you adequately for the next year. There may be some gaps you will need to fill in over the summer months, and I encourage you to do your part to get ready for your post-secondary journey.
Even though I believe we have done our level best to provide all our students with an effective program that can be delivered online, we do feel very bad that you have not been able to benefit fully from your teachers and peers to enjoy the things that are associated with a graduation year and are part of our special customs and traditions. Just being denied the possibility to be together at school and create memories while at school is a definite loss for you as a group.
One of the basic tenets of a Catholic education in the Lasallian tradition is that we are called to figure out what life brings, the good and bad, with eyes of faith. What does this really mean? In my view, I think this way of approaching life is one by which we sort out things that makes sense of things without sinking into hopelessness and despair. If I have one major criticism of contemporary society and how we choose to face realities is that we are unable or unwilling to withstand obstacles and recover from difficult situations. Too many people have lost the capacity to face challenges and failures and transform them into something useful and salutary.
This letter is not meant to be a substitute for an address I would give at graduation, which God willing, we will have before September. I will refrain from my usual bent to the more philosophical issues to another time, if I am granted this opportunity.
Here, I want to let you know in the first place we do miss your presence at the school. (I must admit that I did enjoy the peace and quiet of the first few weeks of your absence, but this wore off even for me.) Second, your graduating group will go down in history as the group whose school year was interrupted by a serious health pandemic that required the unprecedented measure of closing schools outside of war-time. Although I would not describe your situation as cataclysmic, it is certainly disappointing and unfortunate. Yet, at the same time, I do believe that in some real sense, this unique set of circumstances has placed you in a privileged group. As I have stated in my written addresses to the school community over the last number of weeks now, it is not the time to criticize or speculate on how things have been handled by our civil and ecclesial officials. There will be a time for all this, and history will sort things out eventually. What concerns me most is what you do with this experience. I am convinced that not only will your generation need to learn from this confusing period, but also you can and will determine, I think better than we have and will, a path forward when future situations like this occur. My generation tends to be extremely obsessed with our own comfort and convenience. Unlike our parents and grandparents, many of us are unaccustomed to adversity and consumed by our own careers and self-image. This selfishness comes at a cost. I urge you to reflect on what has happened recently and determine in your own minds and hearts how to create a better world where we place the love of God and love of neighbour before our own myopic interests.
It has been a source of joy and pride to have been informed of the efforts of many recent graduates who have responded to the pandemic with creative and useful projects to help those in need. As well, I know of a good many Lasallians in medicine and research who are serving others and seeking solutions to the current problems. You share in this legacy and moral imperative. I have thought in my quiet moments these last few weeks, as people struggle with lockdowns, school closures and sealed Churches if the Good Lord isn’t giving us a pause to reflect on a few key issues that need to be faced. Perhaps, the Lord has given us more time at home to re-discover the importance of wholesome Christian family life. I think we might admit that we spend too little time together as families, and the family has lost its central importance in Christian life. Others should look at the love in a Christian family as a model to follow. Perhaps, our schools have been closed so that we will learn to appreciate one another’s gifts and talents again. I believe the Lord is telling us to get back to the basics and knock off the fads. Schools are not just about learning; they are about learning to live together. They are not shopping malls, recreation centres or medical clinics. Sadly, our Churches are closed for communal and private worship. Perhaps, the Lord is revealing his displeasure with our hardened hearts and tepid faith and so pleading to us to return only when we have truly contrite hearts and genuine spirits. Our Churches are sacred spaces at all times and must never be confused with common gathering places. I don’t need to tell you, I hope, that while the pandemic is responsible for far too many deaths, abortion, addiction, alcoholism, cancer, depression, euthanasia and suicide are responsible for a multitude more casualties, some on a daily basis.
To those who bury these truths in platitudes or wish to deny them or worse proclaim these evils, you and I must not remain silent. Our silence and inaction cannot continue. Your generation, you as De La Salle students, must take a stand. There is much talk, most of it good, about coming together during times of crisis. Generally, it appears Canadians have responded patiently and responsibly to the current crisis. This is a good first step provided our patience is not complacency, and our sense of responsibility is not simply subservience. You, as students, have, for the most part, taken your responsibilities quite seriously and have demonstrated discipline given that the restrictions placed on you are often contrary to the spirit of your adulthood. However, when we do begin to piece things together in the coming months, you can and should play a role. It is my hope you will not surrender human dignity, a dignity each and all deserve and that you will promote with the talents and gifts you have been given, a culture of life, based on trust and hope and not fear and anxiety. If you intend to call yourself a Lasallian, this is the kind of ambassador you will need to become.
I close with the words of St. John Paul II: “ Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed, but with what it is still possible for you to do. We need you to follow your dreams and use your many talents and gifts to make a better place. Do not bury them. Never let fear impede on your ability to manifest your dreams. There is always tomorrow, and life gives us other opportunities to do things well. Cherish your dreams and visions as they are the children of your soul.”
Until we meet again, know that you remain in my prayers that the Good Lord grant you good health and cheer.
Live Jesus in our hearts. Forever.
Brother Domenic, fsc