Homeward Campaign Update

An Update from the Director of Development:

Dear Parents, Alumni, and Friends of Gregory the Great Academy,

ChrisSmithOld homes are often old loves. Powerful moments in life memorialize not only people, but also places. After four formative years embraced by the walls of our beloved Academy building in Elmhurst, I have a home-like affection towards her and was profoundly moved in returning to that home fourteen years later. Walking through those halls alive with memory and promise, I smiled to myself. The old girl had aged a bit since I last saw her, but she is still a beauty.

As you are likely aware by now, in December of 2016, I joined Sean Fitzpatrick and the team at Gregory the Great to launch our Homeward Campaign. We set out to raise $1.6 million to purchase a permanent property, the Academy’s original location in Elmhurst, PA. I was brought on board for this exciting and essential project as the Director of Development and to help lead the charge towards this important goal. And we have made incredible progress. The generosity you have shown has been awe-inspiring, and I wanted to share with you some of the milestones and successes you have helped achieve.

  • Our opening phase, which announced our plans to purchase the Elmhurst campus, generated a tremendous show of good faith and support from our loyal benefactors through the early months of 2017. This initial announcement phase brought in nearly $500,000 and allowed us to proceed with confidence through the next steps.
  • In February, we held our second annual Soiree outside of Washington D.C. With a rousing talk from Professor Anthony Esolen, a lively auction, and exquisite food and drink provided and prepared by alumni, the night was a smashing success, raising over $100,000 for the campaign.
  • On March 24th, 2017, we officially acquired our new-old home and moved in with our students during Holy Week. Thanks to you, we were able to place a larger down payment on the property than we had initially planned, saving $67,000 in interest and fees over the life of the loan. For an institution of our size, this is a significant savings which will help us achieve our financial goals with more speed. We were blessed and delighted to hold our commencement ceremonies at the Elmhurst campus this Spring, joined by hundreds of family and friends. To see that beautiful building filled with youthful song and laughter for the first time in five years was a marvelous thing to behold. It was truly a joyous occasion that would not have been possible without you.
  • On April 26th, 2017, the Academy launched a $100,000 Matching Gift Challenge through the generosity of the Fr. Edward E. Sipperly Foundation. If we raised $100,000 before July 31, the Sipperly Foundation would pledge an additional grant of $100,000 towards the campaign. I am thrilled to announce that as of June 30, we surpassed the $100,000 mark and qualified for the Sipperly grant!

With the $200,000 from the Matching Gift Challenge,

the total amount raised during this phase of the Homeward Campaign is $800,000,

50% of our ultimate goal. Thanks be to God!

With benefactors like you, we are confident we will achieve our overall goal of $1.6 million over the next two years. Reaching this goal is crucial for the permanence of the school, as paying off the entire cost of the building will allow more boys to experience this uniquely beautiful formation for generations to come. Your contributions have and will continue to change the lives of so many boys, just as they did for me when I was a student.

It is difficult to express sufficiently my gratitude for this overwhelming show of support from our community, but I will nevertheless make a humble attempt. On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students of Gregory the Great Academy, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. The sacrifices you have made throughout the years have been to the Academy as a nurturing rain, and we are finally able to put down roots. We ask you to continue to pray that God blesses our work. We will most certainly keep you in our prayers as we strive side by side towards the Homeward Campaign finish line.

In Christ,

Christopher D. Smith (Class of 2003)

Director of Development

A Championship Season – Graduation 2017

coach_davis2017Dear Parents, Family, Friends, and Students

I am Garret van Beek the athletic director and head coach for the Highlanders.

As I know you are very well aware, the Highlanders have brought home the 2017 Pennsylvania State Championship Title for Boys High School rugby. Gregory the Great Academy is the best and most successful team in this state, and this was achieved by your sons.

(pictured right: Coach Garret van Beek with 2017 rugby captain Jack Davis)

This is true if your son was the captain, which meant he had to be the decision maker and both friend and leader of his fellow men on the field of battle; if he was a starter, earning his jersey and number, in order to leave it in a better place; if your son was a substitute, charged with the difficult task of always being prepared to come into a match at any time: if he was a junior varsity player, building up the team and fostering the courage to challenge the varsity players, knowing that it is the only way the varsity will be successful on the weekend; if your son was a manager, staying up late in the evenings to have food ready for the players, and doing countless nitty gritty and tiresome duties; if he was a touch judge, helping to officiate the match, and therefore not being able to watch the match in leisure; if he was a water-boy, running on the field to give players the hydration they need, knowing they were too focused on the match to say a thank-you; if he was an enthusiastic and passionate fan and supporter, chanting the Academy’s very own Haka developed by former player and coach Brendan Landell; if he was the bagpiper, waking the student body up with their music and encouraging them during the match; or if your son was the President, Founder, and Sole-Member of the Highlander’s Audio Visual Club, supplying the coaches and players with video for analysis.

A tremendous amount of work was done to get the trophy within the walls of this building we now call home.

For those who never saw our previous location in the Poconos: imagine that we had two fields – yes two fields – but only twice the size of this refectory, which equals about a ¼ of a standard rugby pitch. To state the obvious—it had its challenges and required some ingenuity from both coaches and players.

We pushed and encouraged this team to strive for excellence in the smallest of details such as micro movements in passing. The students developed and strengthened their bodies in the weight room to prevent injuries, slamming tractor tires with sledgehammers. We taught them mental fortitude through such exercises as a trip to the stream for a quick dip in the cold months of March. We told them to dream big: and they did, bringing home the PA state title. We created an environment for self-reflection and honesty through preparation note taking and mini-group discussions. This team was selfless, playing this beautiful game not for themselves but for their brother, the school, and ultimately for the Lord.

There is an extra quality this team has developed over the past few years and which has come to fruition this 2017 season. Rugby – and life – does not always happen as expected. To be successful on the field and beyond, therefore, I had to intellectually turn over much control of the team to the players themselves. We would stop practice or video analysis and give players the opportunity to talk, discuss, and strategize about the problem that lay in front of them that needed solving. This demanded the players be open, honest— sometimes brutally honest with their peers – and to make demands and concessions for the greater good.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, as the saying goes. This season is a testament to the players for putting their trust in the coaching staff, and most importantly in each other.

I hope that you never forget the feeling you had when the final whistle sounded and you were crowned champions. Seeing Aidan Hoffbauer jump for joy with his hands not in his pockets for once, but straight up in the air, says it all. This state title is well deserved and I look forward to telling the story of this season to future Highlanders – as well as hearing the stories spread from student to student, especially when it gets to the point where Vincent Duhig was 6’4” and 230lbs!

I speak for myself and for the rest of the faculty and staff and those that have represented the Academy in past years when I talk about the great admiration we have for this team. This admiration is evident in the number of alumni both old and young that came to watch you beat the number #1 ranked Cumberland Valley. I thank you and am proud of all of you.

2017 Graduation Mass Sermon


by Father Christopher Manuele

Truly this is a season of departures, saying ‘goodbye’, yet not abandoning. Our Lord left his Apostles and you seniors leave this Academy today. On that occasion, our Lord spoke these prophetic words to His disciples: “Amen, Amen, I say to you, he that believes in me, the works that I do, he also shall do. And greater then these shall he do.” Today these words are the prayer that we the faculty and your parents have for you as you depart from us: that you do greater than what you have already done and even greater than we ourselves have done.

How mysterious and strange are these words of our Lord Jesus. No doubt, a man like us; yet He is God. How is it possible for a mere man to do greater things than God? And yet the divine promise was given, and so it must be. Not so strange, however, that you seniors do greater than we have done here at Gregory the Great.

St. Gregory’s, if it is anything, it is modest: modest in its purpose, modest in its means, modest in its intention. Gregory the Great has made no attempt to be a ‘school of the wise’ – that is the privilege of a life well lived and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Gregory the Great does not pretend to make you scholars – that is the purview of institutions of higher learning. Rather our purpose simply was to teach you how to PLAY.

Perhaps, you did not realize this. Perhaps, this was even hidden from your parents as the real purpose of this school. But, in fact, this is what Gregory the Great is about. You might have thought you came for a high school education, and, indeed, you received that. Your parents were told this education is an education distinct from all others by its being a schooling in poetic knowledge: to awaken in you the very desire to know the truth, to desire what is good, to be captivated by beauty by leading you into contact with what is real: to discover by experience the totality of what is, in its whole-ality before we begin to articulate what it is. In a word, ‘to play.’

Does not wisdom call,

Does not understanding raise her voice?…

at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:

“To you, O men, I call,

and my cry is to the sons of men…”

Hear, for I will speak noble things,

and from my lips will come what is right;

for my mouth will utter truth;”

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,

the first of his acts of old.

Ages ago I was set up,

at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

When there were no depths I was brought forth,

when there were no springs abounding with water…

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

then I was beside him, like a master workman;

and I was daily his delight,

playing before him always,

playing in his inhabited world

and delighting in the sons of men.

And, now my sons, listen to me:

Happy are those who keep my ways.

(Proverbs 8:1, 3-4, 6-7, 22-24, 29-32)

per singulos dies ludens coram eo omni tempore ludens in orbe terrarum et deliciae meae esse cum filiis hominumludens, playing  ludens coram Deo.

Can play, so perfectly exemplified by the child, also be the same activity of the wise man?

Play is the activity of wonder: to discover and touch a mystery, to delight in the inexhaustible treasures of everything. Play. Is it not to imagine what could be, ought to be from what apparently is not so? Is it not to create and to destroy and so to create again, a thousand times over? For what we have made we discover is not quite what it is.

We play because we delight in what God has made: He has left His mark, His inexhaustible truth, His all-encompassing goodness and the splendor of His beauty in all of His works: to behold them is to behold Him.

How unthinkable that He who is wrapped in darkness, a mystery so inaccessible; yet it is for us to glimpse Him – though as in a whisper, covering us by His almighty and creating hand to behold the backside of His uncreated glory.

At St. Gregory’s, if we have given you anything, if we could give you anything, it has been to delight with you in the works of God, to play before Him, to begin to learn this activity of the wise man.

You and I, indeed, – we all have played – though perhaps, it seemed like a labor. But all the activities here at Gregory the Great, all that you have done, were done so that you & I could play and play we did.  The rigors of Euclid, Latin and Algebra, our dabbling in philosophy and theology so as to know the truth; reading history and literature, to parade before our imagination what is noble: the images of the virtuous and evil men so that we might choose the good and flee from evil; the discipline of rugby to subjugate the body and train the passions for what is better; a common life to learn sacrifice and to fall in love with what is beautiful, by creating beautiful things, to delight in what is good.

But this play is hard because we live in a cynical age, we have forgotten how to take delight in what is good. For we have been taught that there is nothing beyond ourselves which is desirable. So we had to learn how to play again. So simple our purpose here: not just to know (the truth), but also to become what we know (the good) and this desire to become them happens only when we first delight in them (the beautiful).

To know what justice is, is not enough- indeed, so exceedingly wonderful and worthy to be known; but to be a just man – that I, Christopher, be a just man – this is more to be prized. And so if, and when, I am persuaded by justice, captivated by its charm, when I take delight in just acts, then, perhaps, – God willing by His grace – I will be a just man. You looked to just men, living here and there; we have looked at the great men of old – saints, statesmen, scholars – and in them we have discovered the splendor and beauty of justice; by poetry and literature our hearts have been enflamed to be like them.

This is why beauty is so prized here at St. Gregory’s. Beauty is the bridge between knowledge and goodness – between what is and what is desirable for me. Beauty is to delight in things – but for me to become, for me to take hold of. And so of the multitude of things we do here at Gregory the Great – these thin encounters with reality which delight us so – is so that we might delight in God himself. ‘To know God’ is exceedingly good; but to be with God: to love and serve Him, to be as holy as He is holy is most excellent. And this is possible because we first have glimpsed the beauty of God, which arrests, draws us to Himself. And so we have delighted in Him.

Only before Him is the ugliness of this world, marred by sin, healed and restored; only there in the divine light is meaning bestowed and hope renewed; only in Him does the beauty of every man and creature shine with such brilliance and clarity that we can but cry out “it is good,” “it is very good.” This is why we never tire of contemplating Jesus, the Son of God; He is the Beautiful Shepherd, who by His incarnation persuaded us, taught us by his example how to be sons of God.

It is on purpose that you and I end our days here at St. Gregory’s in this playground- this chapel- in the Divine Liturgy of the Mass and of divine praise. Daily we have played here, we have been delighted and have delighted in the Lord and in the sons of God. This is why at Gregory the Great the sacred liturgy has first place, this is why the sacred liturgy must be -before all else- beautiful; it must be holy- not merely because of what it is: a mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise; not merely because it is our mystical service to the Lord; but because by beauty we can take delight in the Lord, to stand before Him.  So captivated by His grace and His charms, we will desire to be with Him now and in the age to come.

This is why our divine play looks to/ends in the Holy Eucharist – the communion of you and I in God – the foretaste of the divine communion of beatific knowledge perfect in love hereafter. You and I learned the true delight of man: man to God and man to man. Beauty, indeed, we are told will save the world, this beauty will save you and me. For this is the very promise of our Lord Jesus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:23-24)

Gentlemen, today is a day of rejoicing, we have marked it by this Divine Liturgy, we have begun this day in divine play and we will pass this day playing. You have spent these many years learning to play: in the liturgy of divine worship, in the life of Gregory the Great Academy and you have made it your own. We will behold, we will delight in your husbandry – your own handiwork of beauty – in the “Woodcutters Dream,” where truth and goodness embrace in beauty. You will go forth this day playing, growing wise by this play, and you will teach your children how to play. And having forever recourse to the play of the Divine Liturgy you will enter into the presence of the Lord to take delight in Him unto the ages of ages. Amen.