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Courage, Compassion, Gratefulness and Hope

A Message From Head of School Jon McGee

Dear Saint John’s Prep Families, Alumni and Friends,
We pray this note finds you and your family well during these trying times. Thank you for your ongoing support of our school and our students. We appreciate your warm messages of care and concern.
Today, Friday, March 27, we completed our second week of online instruction. We are among the first secondary schools in Minnesota to be fully online. Our faculty and staff have rolled up their sleeves and committed themselves to providing our students with the very best academic experience and emotional support they can during this disruptive time. Our residence hall, Saint Michael Hall, remains open as we strive to meet the continuing needs of our boarding students.
You’re welcome to visit our webpage about our actions and response to coronavirus (COVID-19) as we share updates with our family and community.
Our highest priority is the well-being of our students, faculty, staff and families. In particular, we understand the impact and sacrifices our young people are making as they finish their semester at home without the close contact of friends and teachers. Head of School Jon McGee shared the following message with our students this week. This message of courage, compassion, gratefulness and hope may resonate with you as well. We will continue to pray for you and welcome your prayers for our school community.


A Message To Students From Head of School Jon McGee
You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore. William Faulkner

Some days, doing the ‘best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect – on any front – and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.
Mister Rogers

Dear Prep Students,
We have sent you many messages recently, mostly describing changes we have enacted at school in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and describing how your classes will work in the coming days and weeks. We have tried to prepare you for what clearly are significant changes to your school life. All of that is well and good. But we have not yet written directly to you as young people wrestling with how to deal with changes you never wanted. And I apologize for that.
I apologize that your year has changed so dramatically and abruptly. None of us imagined anything like this. Just a few weeks ago, social distancing was unthinkable. Then it became inconvenient. And now it is life-changing (and, just as much, life-saving). You – and our seniors in particular – are entitled to grieve for what could have been or should have been. Our faculty and staff grieve with you.

This is my first year as Head of School, the greatest job I have ever had. It has been a remarkable year. You are amazing. Smart. Curious. Talented beyond anything I could have dreamed of at your age. Funny. Engaged. It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to be a part of your lives. Like you, I too feel robbed of the happy year-ending we all expected as a matter of course.

This pandemic will have long and far-reaching effects. It will in many ways redefine our lives. That happens with all great historic moments. But if you look beyond the loss of the familiar or expected, you will see that you now have a choice. You can let this moment define you. Or you can define this moment for yourself. I encourage you to choose the latter. Choose this moment to reflect and learn and grow. Keep four things in mind as you do:

Courage. I have lived long enough (though I might not be as old as you think) to know that life very often is what happens in between our plans. It’s rarely a straight path. It takes courage to live, to navigate the forks in the road. In the face of fear and uncertainty, choose to live with courage and conviction. Live as if your life matters as much today and tomorrow as it did yesterday. It does.
Compassion. Without doubt, this pandemic will impact many people in many different ways. The Rule of Benedict provides wonderful guidance for us: “Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love.” (RB 4:25-26) Think kindly of others. Reach out to those who need you. Focus on empathy rather than judgment. Live compassionately. Leave the people you meet better off for having encountered you. Love something greater than yourself.
Gratefulness. It is very easy to get lost in what we have lost, what should have been, what was rightfully mine. Find your way out of that kind of thinking. This also is a time to reflect on all that we have, all that is good, and all that is wonderful – and hopefully find space in our hearts to simply be grateful. For family, friends, our homes, our lives.
Hope. This is perhaps the greatest tool you have for moving beyond the fears and challenges of the moment. Saint Benedict’s Rule calls us to wake up and “run while you have the light of life.” (RB Prologue) You have decades and decades of living in front of you. Now is not the time to stop imagining and dreaming. Dream away. Everything remains possible. Live forward. Keep running toward your future. It’s waiting for you to make it.

Like you, I grieve what we have lost. Like you, I sometimes find the changes and challenges of the recent days frightening. But I am convinced that far better days await. Try not to make this your scariest hour, but rather your finest hour. The flame of your future will burn as brightly as you stoke it. And know that our support and prayers will be with you throughout.

With Hope,

Jon McGee
Head of School