August 2018

It's All in the Roots - Environmental Project Outside Stadium

New life springing forth from our Marianist heritage

This spring, in conjunction with the Marianist Environmental Education Center (MEEC), students volunteered in completing an environmental restoration project just outside of Roger Glass Stadium - Home of the CJ Eagles.

Peter Evans ‘13, who was with MEEC through his volunteer year with Marianist PULSE (Partners in Urban Leadership, Service and Education) coordinated this project. He shared his reflection on the culmination of the project below:

“The misty morning of Wednesday, April 25 blossomed into a sunny, warm afternoon – ideal for a final step in our urban environmental restoration project: sowing prairie grass seeds along the edges of Roger Glass Stadium – Home of the Chaminade Julienne Eagles. Tossing grass seed onto two narrow strips of topsoil may sound ordinary, but it completes an extraordinary story that began with the construction of Interstate 675 in 1985.

Building an interstate is complex, as we travelers encounter through the endless cycle of summer highway repairs. Many properties along the path of I-675 were bisected by this new artery – including another Marianist property, the over 160-acre Mount Saint John (MSJ). Today, the Brother Don Geiger, SM prairie abutting I-675 and other MSJ natural areas are stewarded by the Marianist Environmental Education Center (MEEC) where I’ve volunteered since 8th grade, as have many other CJ students who provide land service. MEEC collaborates with eight other Marianist ministries at MSJ including the Bergamo Center for Lifelong Learning, where many CJ students have attended school retreats.

How did the prairie and MEEC emerge? To provide material for the interstate, 17 acres of the undeveloped eastern side of MSJ now accessible by walking trails were excavated for sand and gravel that had been left behind by the last continental glacier 17,500 years ago. Typically, borrow pits like these are re-planted with the common Kentucky bluegrass we see growing in the mowed areas of highways – a cool-season grass of European origin. It thrives in cool, humid climates of its European homeland, but due to its shallow root system, it struggles in the hot, dry spells that frequent Midwestern summers. Left unwatered, it’s an unattractive brown by August.

Thankfully, visionary plant physiologist Marianist Brother Don Geiger, a 1951 graduate of Chaminade inducted into the CJ Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2016, knew of native prairie grass species that would not only survive, but also thrive there. Unlike Kentucky bluegrass, whose roots extend only a few inches, prairie grass root systems reach five to seven feet into the soil. These store water soaked up during rain events and can access deep groundwater. And because one-third of the root mass dies back every winter, the grasses also build their own soil rich in organic material that the living roots can draw nutrients from in following years.

These Midwestern prairie grasses, such as big bluestem, Indiangrass, prairie dropseed, and little bluestem, have evolved under our local conditions for tens of thousands of years, and have become very well suited for our soils, weather conditions, and the soil creatures and land animals that have evolved alongside them. These prairie grasses do not falter, but thrive during harsh summer droughts, punishing winters, and even the occasional wildfires that used to briefly blacken the landscape in pre-colonial, pre-agricultural times. 

Bro. Don acquired tremendous quantities of prairie grass seed mixtures to spread with volunteers across the borrow pit early in spring 1986. Thankfully, the seeds established and have grown, thrived and spread to cover most of the prairie borrow pit today. Bro. Don’s vision for rebuilding the landscape inspired the foundation of the Marianist Environmental Education Center (MEEC) at MSJ in 1994, to steward the MSJ land and educate others. MEEC’s mission of restoring communities of land and people by using native plants to transform degraded landscapes back into flourishing ecosystems has grown and diversified through many partnerships and projects – including CJ’s little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) prairie grass along Roger Glass Stadium.

How did the MEEC Prairie seeds get to CJ? This past year, I served as a Marianist PULSE volunteer at MEEC and live in an East Dayton community house. Marianist PULSE is a post-graduate year of service program (similar to AmeriCorps) sponsored by the Marianists. Each volunteer annually commits to living in intentional, continually formed faith communities while each serves at different nonprofit agencies.

As a 2013 CJ alum, I was excited to link CJ and MEEC. In November 2017, I led several CJ groups in collecting little bluestem prairie seeds from the MSJ Bro. Don Geiger Prairie. These included the men’s cross country team, the REACH after-school service groups, and students Aaron Meixner ‘19, James Blackshire ‘19, Noah Jackson ‘19, and Kelsey Wolf ‘19 who partnered with MEEC for their Integrated Social Justice Research Projects (ISJRPs).

After months of cold winter storage, the seeds were ready. Side by side, the CJ students and I worked with Michele Banker, MEEC’s land manager and volunteer coordinator, to disperse the seeds in an almost biblical fashion - we cast them on the good ground of the stadium edges.  There will also be “biblical patience” needed with these special plants. They aren’t designed to instantly burst green like typical lawn grasses. Instead, during their first year, the little bluestem will grow slowly above ground while they invest most energy in establishing long roots. In spring 2019 and thereafter, we’ll see brilliant bunches of aesthetic blue-green foliage that will remain robust even during the worst summer droughts.

Truly, for these prairie plants and the CJ students, it’s all in the roots. During the project students learned about the importance of our local ecosystems, what positive impacts we can have on them, and how this is a rich part of our Catholic faith tradition. We’re living out Pope Francis’ spirit of integral ecology in caring for our common home. It’s also part of the roots of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur part of our CJ-tradition. Sr. Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN ‘49 gave her life to restoring the Brazilian rainforest trees with its dwellers. In working with Marianist Brother Don, MEEC, PULSE and current CJ students, I am so grateful to be continuing the tradition of deepening and extending Marianist roots to serve future generations.

What could have been an ordinary lawn of grass along CJ’s stadium is now a deep-reaching prairie planting that already tells a fascinating story of environmental restoration, student service, and the charisms of our Marianist and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur heritage alive and flourishing in our community."

Peter Evans ‘13 first met Brother Don Geiger SM when he began volunteering at MEEC with his father, Dan, for his Confirmation service hours as an eighth grader at St. Albert the Great School.  While a CJ-student, he continued volunteering at MEEC and organized groups of CJ students to join with him both in the nature preserve and vegetable garden. Peter continued his service leadership with UD and CJ students while attending University of Dayton as a Biology major, River Steward, Marianist Leadership Scholar, and Marianist Student Community member.  Following graduation in 2017, Peter committed to a year of service with Marianist PULSE and was placed with MEEC.  He has recommitted to a second year with PULSE as a MEEC intern and welcomes CJ and other student and adult volunteers working with him.

Posted August 6, 2018

CJ Principal Travels to the Holy Land

While many administrators take time off during the summer months, CJ principal John Marshall ‘86 chose to deepen his faith with an inspirational pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

“The Archbishop of Cincinnati allocated professional development funds from the recent campaign for principals to attend pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” Marshall explained. “Staff from the Archdiocese office of Evangelization and Discipleship invited me to attend. I said yes with a, ‘concerned blessing from my wife and children’ and the support of CJ president Dan Meixner ‘84, with the goal of deepening my own faith life as well as educating myself on the Judeo Christian foundation of our Catholic faith.”

The eleven day journey took Marshall and 50 others from the Cincinnati and Dayton area to dozens of locations across the Holy Land.

“We arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel and journeyed to Jerusalem,” Marshall said. “Over the next several days we visited, celebrated Mass, and prayed together as a group. 

“We experienced the Gospel stories from Jesus’s birthplace in Bethlehem, His ministry in Nazareth and Cana, and His death at Calvary,” Marshall continued. “We walked the journey of Mary, when pregnant with Jesus, meeting Elizabeth, when pregnant with John the Baptist. We toured the Church of the Visitation, Jordan River (Baptism of Jesus) and a Monastery on the mountain where Jesus was tempted by Satan after fasting for 40 days in the desert. We visited Jacob’s Well, where Jesus met the, ‘woman at the well’ and even drank a cup of water from it, and took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

“I prayed at the Western Wall, holy place for our Jewish friends, and reflected in the Upper Room and the Garden and Cave of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed before his arrest. I walked The Way of the Cross and Celebrated Mass at the Tomb of Jesus.”

When reflecting on the most powerful experiences during the pilgrimage, Marshall shared, “Before Jesus was turned over to Pilate he was sent to Caiaphas’ house where He was questioned and was alone, while His friends fled and Peter, outside in the courtyard, denied Jesus three times. I was there and my heart broke, as I imagined the loneliness Jesus must have felt.

“I believe the Primacy of Peter, the first Pope, was significant, and seeing how now Pope Francis is the continuation of this apostolic faith is incredibly awesome to be part of. I also have renewed appreciation of the need for people to seek out and accept experiences that can refresh their spirit and enhance their faith. My family and I hesitated a bit about my going on this trip, but it has been a life changing experience for which I am very grateful. Everyone has the responsibility to cultivate their own spiritual journey; no one can do it for you.” 

Marshall added, “I look forward to the next part of the pilgrimage by participating in a series of Bible study and group discussions with a cohort of principals as we deepen our understanding of this wonderful Catholic Church tradition.”

Posted August 2, 2018

Eagles Return to Steubenville Youth Conference

More than 20 students spent a weekend this summer diving deeper into their faith at the Steubenville Youth Conference.

“Steubenville is a weekend long youth conference with world class Catholic speakers, live music, daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration,” explained religion teacher and chaperone Tim O’Loughlin. “This was CJ's second year going to Steubenville and, both years, the most powerful moment was when they processed Jesus (the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance) up and down every aisle throughout the entire arena.”

Students who attended the conference for the first time, and those who returned for a second year, shared some of their most powerful moments from the event.

“At Steubenville, we listened to talks from inspiring and passionate speakers,” shared Ella Waldspurger ‘20. “They talked to us about our relationships, working towards a better life and a better familiarity with God. We praised with songs sung by a band and we prayed and had adoration. That was extremely powerful and really put the talks into action so we actually could feel our relationship with God growing. I soaked in all of the talks and information that was shared at the conference and it opened my eyes to new ideas and better ways to live my life as one of God’s children.”

“While at the conference you experience so many different emotions and feelings and the people around you are your support system for the weekend,” Mikayla Jette ‘21 added. “They comfort you and carry you through everything that is going on. Nothing can prepare you for how amazing of an experience you will have and how blown away you will be by the faith and by God. My mind is still blown anytime I think about it and a smile spreads across my face. What a wonderful God we have!?” 

Elaine Bonner, annual giving coordinator, and who also chaperoned noted, “Watching thousands of youth fully come alive through praise and worship to God was quite a sight and has inspired me to reach deeper in my faith life.”

Many of the Eagles shared that the Adoration on Saturday evening was their most memorable experience from the conference.

“Adoration on Saturday is always my favorite part because of the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit that you feel especially when the priest walks around with the monstrance,” said Matt Reuter ‘19.

“We were all in the moment,” added Madeline Frasure ‘21. “We were praising and glorifying God and we didn't care who was around watching us because Jesus was right in front of our eyes — it was so beautiful.”

Matthew Eifert ‘21 agreed, “My favorite part of the conferences was Adoration, because it was a very
enjoyable religious event with live music and a powerful atmosphere that left me breathless at the end.”
All who attended shared that the conference was life-changing for them.

“Steubenville was just such an amazing experience which opened my eyes to a new way of life and made me deeper understand who God is and why he is so AMAZING!,” Riley Ferdelman ‘21 said.

“Steubenville is an amazing and life-changing conference because God is so present in the hearts of everyone there,” agreed Kate Schinaman ‘20. “He will move in and work through anyone who is willing, and I experienced gifts from God at Steubenville that I didn't even know existed beforehand. I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity to go to Steubenville and grow in my faith.”

Posted August 1, 2018