St. Xavier celebrates anniversary with Mass, dinner

The St. Xavier Community Choir, comprised of faculty, staff, students and alumni, sang at the school's 150th anniversary Mass Oct. 11 at the Cathedral of the Assumption. A program followed at the Galt House Hotel. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

The St. Xavier Community Choir, comprised of faculty, staff, students and alumni, sang at the school’s 150th anniversary Mass Oct. 11 at the Cathedral of the Assumption. A program followed at the Galt House Hotel. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of St. Xavier High School gathered Oct. 11 to celebrate the school’s 150th anniversary.

The evening began with Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth Street. A dinner and program followed at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville.

In his homily at the Mass, Father William Fichteman, a 1959 St. Xavier graduate, recalled the many challenges the first Xaverian Brothers faced when they arrived in Louisville from Belgium in the 1850s.

“Every step of the way, sacrifices were made. … They did what it took for St. Xavier to reach its full potential and to remain at the feast,” he said, referring to the parable of the wedding feast in the Gospel of Matthew.

Father Fichteman noted the thousands of young men educated at St. Xavier and said all evidence shows that the Brothers’ “sacrifice has born fruit.”

Former principal, Xaverian Brother Edward Driscoll, addressed those gathered at the dinner celebration and noted that fewer than 10% of the institutions that existed in 1864, the year St. Xavier High School opened, exist today.

What distinguishes St. X, Brother Driscoll said, are three things — a mission that is consistently responsive to the needs of youth; courageous leadership; and foundational beliefs that work beyond the material world.

“We find one of the first expressions of our mission in the words of our own founder (of the Xaverian Brothers), Theodore James Ryken, when he said ‘I want the brothers to devote themselves completely to the education of young people by religious instruction … so that they may be given back to the church and given back to the society as perfect Christians,’ ” said Brother Driscoll, who is the Superior General of the Xaverian Brothers.

The “zeal and passion” of St. X’s mission that inspired the brothers to devote themselves completely and totally to their students, Brother Driscoll said, is also the “zeal and passion for the mission” that continue to inspire and motivate the women and men who educate St. Xavier students in 2014.

“Whether in 1864 or 2014, young people need to know that they are loved by God unconditionally,” he said. “They need to know that they’re OK just as who they are. They need to know that they belong to a caring community.”

Dr. Perry Sangalli, St. Xavier president and a 1976 St. X graduate, said there are four markers that define the culture at St. X — Catholic identity, the heritage of the Xaverian Brothers, a sense of community and academic rigor.

“Our Catholic identity is first and foremost and very important to us. Everything that we do … is rooted in mystery, it’s rooted in mission, it’s rooted in ministry,” he said.

Sangalli said the faculty and staff at St. Xavier try to help the students understand they are part of a church, a Xaverian network and a culture that calls them to recognize the gifts they have and to be prepared to use them in a significant way.

“Our Catholic identity provides a lens through which we look at life. It provides a lens where we understand the dignity of life. It provides a lens through which we make decisions even when we are not sitting next to the chapel. … It’s the backdrop for all that we do,” Sangalli said.

The Mass and dinner were part of a yearlong series of events to recognize the school’s sesquicentennial. A lecture, part of the school’s Grisanti Lecture Series, will take place Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. The sesquicentennial celebration will conclude Dec. 3 on the feast day of St. Francis Xavier with a Mass at 11 a.m. at the school.

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