Thursday, October 04, 2012

Thank God and John Kass - G-Men Meet Leo Men

John Kass again reports on the great young men of Leo High School.  Today, John presents the story of the visit of Jeremy Clark, Darryl Johnson and Mike Braxton to FBI Headquarters in Chicago.

At the start of the CPS Teacher Strike, John Kass of the Chicago Tribune paid a visit to Leo High School and talked to the great young men who work to become contributing people who will make a difference in Chicago's inner city.

Leo High School is a Catholic college preparatory high school, founded in 1926 at the orders of Cardinal George Mundelein to serve poor kids from neighborhoods south of the stockyards.  Leo has never been what some might call an elite secondary school and God willing never will be.  Some people term a school, that in reality is an exclusive school - where tuition and tests make it impossible for blue collar sons to find a seat in the classroom.  Leo is elite - it is blessed by God.

In the late 1960's, I heard street talk that Leo High School was on its last legs.  In the 1970's, when I began teaching high school, folks in the know  placed no chips on the Black and Orange ( Leo's Colors).  In the late 1980's, when I was teaching at La Lumiere School, alma mater of Justice of the United States John Roberts, word was out that Irish Christian Brothers were planning to leave Leo. In the 1990's Cardinal Bernardine ended all Archdiocesan financial support to Leo and the Irish Christian Brothers ended their sixty year presence at Leo, with exception of the heroic Brothers Rupert Finch and Steve O'Keefe.  Bob Foster became the first lay Principal in the school's history and the smart set gave fierce Foster  six months to one year until the Lion's roar would end.  The Lion roared louder behind the leadership and stewardship of the Leo Alumni. The Old Lion leaped into the New Millenium clawing and biting.  When President and CEO Bob Foster retired, everyone with half a brain sang the same old song.  Only a Father Pfleger could save Leo.  Wrong again.

Irish Christian Brothers, Cardinals, Educators, Business Wheels, and mythological heroes like Bob Foster and Mike Holmes,or quietly fierce leaders like Pete Doyle and Dan McGrath are merely human beings. Catholic schools are God centered.  God Provides.

Leo High School faces tough times financially and it always has. Enrollment goes up and down, because inner city families are challenged to pay what they honestly are able to do.  Support from Alumni and friends is always limited - there is only so much money. We would love to have piles of gold and swag to provide more for our wonderful, funny, challenging and sweet young gents, but we thank God for reach day, each gift and each opportunity to do more.

Life is prose and not poetry.  It is quotidian, messy, unsettling, costly and challenging - it is supposed to be. God provides the gestures from good souls like John Kass.

There is always God.  I do not believe that John Kass came to Leo merely to do a solid for old an pal, or get a great story. I believe that God's hand gave Kass's shoulder a shove. The same hand that wakes me up and sends me Leo High School, guides my hands on the wheel of the Canaryville van, keeps my tired old lamps focused on the proper Dan Ryan lanes and back to 79th & Sangamon with the Young Lions.

Thankl God it is not just up to me.

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