Neil Pasawala understood Cardinal Dolan’s message at the Mass on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the opening of Xavier High School’s 175th anniversary year at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Dec. 3. The Xavier High senior has experienced it and plans to continue experiencing it after he graduates.
“What I’ve realized about Xavier, it’s not just the academics that matter,” Pasawala, 17, of West New York, N.J., told CNY. “Xavier is a premier academic institution. Their key mission, like the Cardinal said, is building the person behind the grades, building the body, the soul, the mind, all at once, so that you can go into the world and be a man for others.
“So what I’ve learned is to be a brother—not just to the people in my school community, not just to the people in my town, but to people wherever I meet them, whether they’d be strangers or whether they’d be family.”
Xavier was founded in 1847 by Father John Larkin, S.J., a year after Fordham University was placed under the direction of the Jesuits. Located in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, the all-boys school currently has an enrollment of more than 1,000.
School was closed so students could attend the cathedral Mass with alumni, faculty, staff and administrators to kick off the 175th anniversary year on its namesake’s feast day.
Cardinal Dolan explained to students who St. Francis Xavier was as one of the original followers of St. Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus in 1540.
“At the cost of great sacrifice and great struggle (St. Francis Xavier) spent his years in India, China and Japan literally bringing tens of thousands of people to Jesus, Jesus’ Church, through his electrifying preaching; through his loving, tender charity and through his administration of the sacraments,” the cardinal said.
“That you would be named after him is splendidly appropriate for a Jesuit high school because if you read the normative documents of your magnificent school mission, mission is very important. Mission is very important in the life, the ministry and the identity of Xavier High School. Mission meaning what’s God’s purpose for me in life, what is the Lord calling me to do and, most importantly, mission means what I’ve gotten I give away. What I’ve gotten here at Xavier, my sacred duty for the rest of my life is to share that with others.”
Cardinal Dolan added that Xavier has educated the mind, heart, body and soul of its students for 175 years.
“Mind, heart, body and soul that’s integrated, that’s holistic, that’s the full person, and they’ll say when they left Xavier with that formation, they were on fire in mission to the world,” he said.
“So why not today, I not only want to praise God and thank Him for the 175 years of blessings and graces that He’s given our beloved Xavier High School, I want to praise God for its alumni who have taken that out on mission to the whole world and who, when asked to give a reason for their success, for their hope, for their faith, will point directly to what they learned and how they were formed at Xavier.”
Matteo Moessner, a senior from Hoboken, N.J., greeted people as they entered St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He was dressed in his Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps uniform. The regiment, part of Xavier’s tradition and history, became a mandatory military program at the school in 1935 before becoming optional for Xavier students in 1971.
“I think Xavier is still standing after so long because of its incredibly strong traditions,” he said. “It all comes together to form a school with the strongest community. Xavier is a special school.”
Kim Smith assumed the role of headmaster at Xavier in July and quickly learned about the school community, history and mission.
“I hope they’re inspired,” she said of the students who attended the cathedral Mass. “It’s hard to sit here and not feel the inspiration and the call to God’s grandeur. I hope they felt that and recognize they’re a part of that.”