By Eli Pacheco
As the nation prepares to celebrate National Catholic Schools Week later this month with the theme “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community,” one high school in Cincinnati is taking center stage.
At Roger Bacon High School, the Franciscan spirit is alive and well and doing Christ’s work. The school has a devoted faculty and staff, three friars on-site, and a student body putting its Franciscan values to work through community service.
St. Francis is everywhere at Francis Bacon.
“We want students to be people of dialogue, to seek to understand their neighbor and realize the need to be people of action,” said Johanna Becker, director of spiritual life. “It is not enough to say you believe in Jesus. You need to walk the talk, too. In most cases, we need to walk more than talk.”
For principal Tim McCoy, ‘02, that means helping students realize they’re part of something bigger than themselves by making community outreach part of the curriculum.
“A sense of community is extremely important, and it’s something that can get lost in today’s world – how important your neighbors are and how to treat people the right way,” he said. “If we can have our students learn that there is something out there that is bigger than themselves, and being part of something bigger than oneself is unique, it will help them be successful in all areas of their life.”
A brief history of Roger Bacon High School
Opened in 1928, Roger Bacon High School’s co-ed campus has a proud tradition of academics and community outreach. Franciscan values direct academic programs, leading to student development in body, heart, mind, and soul.
Roger Bacon is preparing the next generation of Franciscans. It also draws in those who have been blessed to be here. Dean of Students Ray Butler, ‘97, spent 21 years working at another Catholic school before taking a leap of faith and returning home.
He felt that familiar family atmosphere immediately.
“Walking the halls, I felt like a teenager again,” Roger said. “It was a homecoming for me.”
Br. Gene Mayer, OFM, has seen a focus on the Franciscan charism flourish in his 31 years at Roger Bacon – 22 as a teacher, nine in the development office.
“Possibly from the presence of (more) friars, there was less emphasis on the charism, as it pervaded the school,” Br. Gene said. “As the friar's presence diminished, that emphasis grew.”
“You always feel like you’re welcome with the friars,” said Josh Becker, a junior. “They are always like that.”
Senior Daphne McCade is a member of the school’s prestigious Assisi Scholars Program. Designed to offer rigorous academic, spiritual and leadership growth, scholars are rewarded for their achievements with a pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy, in their senior year. The friars’ presence plays a vital role in Daphne’s high school education – and her considerations for her life.
“Sometimes it's difficult to imagine living a religious life, and seeing how they live every day is inspiring,” she said. “It helps open (religious life) to me as a possibility.”
Values and virtues everywhere
IT specialist Br. Mark Hudak, OFM, has been at Roger Bacon for 18 years. He knows it is tough to explain the Franciscan charism at times – but he knows when he sees it.
“Friendship, family, faith – and our sports teams would add ‘football’ to that,” Br. Mark said. “We get to share not only information about our lives but also love for Christ and one another.”
Several years ago, administrators at Roger Bacon were asked to define what it means to be Franciscan. The result: A list of 16 values. The school teaches one each quarter. For first-year students, that means all 16 by graduation.
Alex Rodriguez joined Roger Bacon two years ago and serves as director of community outreach. He hears students talk about “being Franciscan” all the time – something that the 16 values keep front and center.
“Sometimes they tease each other and say, ‘Oh, that’s not very Franciscan of you.’” said Alex, who is also a theology teacher. “There’s truth in that, even if they are tongue-in-cheek. It is still in their minds.”
English teacher Kelly Krebs says the community at Roger Bacon makes everyone happy to be there. “That is what we do best.”
The Good Soil Campaign
As it looks to its next century of service, Roger Bacon has launched an initiative to build its first dedicated chapel with room for 160 people. (The current chapel room maxes out at 30). It is part of a broader campaign to enhance student life.
Students such as Kayla Kilgore recognize what such additions could do for her school.
“Theology classes share faith, but Mass brings everyone together, and the family community embodies faith," said Kayla, a junior.
Steven Smith is a science teacher and moderator for the Student Senate. He also coaches the academic team and is part of the transfer committee. To see Roger Bacon students living this life affirms the future is safe.
"They’re the decision-makers and the actors, and they’re the people in charge of what the world will look like,” Steven said. “They need to be a fraternity for each other.”
Photos for this article were provided by Br. Frank Jasper, OFM