A year of uncertainty met by the community of Chaminade Julienne results in an experience of grace, support and compassion during a time of loss and sorrow. Dan Meixner '84, president, shares how the year 2022 is unfolding, and how the school is moving forward in a time of healing to a season of joy.
Finding Our Way
As we embark on the journey of Lent, we continue to find our way through a school year that has presented blessings and challenges in ways none of us could have imagined.
As we planned for the start of the 2021-2022 school year last summer, we held hope that pandemic conditions had evolved sufficiently so we could return to some level of normalcy in our operations and interactions with and between our students. That hope was dashed with significant upturn of the delta variant of COVID-19 in August and September, requiring that our universally masking policy remain in place, and that we continue to follow the safety measures of contact tracing and quarantine.
The omicron variant necessitated that all our safety measures remain in place through the end of February, calling upon our teachers, staff members, students and parents to remain persistent in their creativity, perseverance and compassion for others. In fact, our school theme, chosen at the beginning of the year was entirely appropriate, and fortuitous: #BeCompassionCJ.
By the middle of February, the omicron wave subsided in the region and at CJ, allowing us to begin to relax our safety measures. Face coverings are now optional for students, staff, and visitors — and we have not experienced any new cases of COVID-19 among students or staff in more than two weeks. How good is the good God! We can see faces of our students and each other - more fully seeing the joy in understanding, the look of confusion, or the smile of greeting.
While dealing with the challenges presented by the pandemic, our community experienced even greater losses over a span of six weeks in September and October: the deaths of Ann Szabo ‘72, alumni relations coordinator; Judi MacLeod ‘88, founder and director of Cuvilly - CJ’s special education program; and Leo Lehner, a member of the class of 2025.
Then, early in January, Rich Kidd, a longtime assistant coach of the men’s basketball team, died after a brief illness. With the passing of a beloved and encouraging mentor to young men, our grief from the fall was renewed. Nonetheless, our community came together in a now familiar way, to extend prayers and support to Rich’s family and to those who loved and knew him — and to support and care for one another through another period of grief.
Our community has become good at supporting each other in this time of healing, and we certainly appreciate the support and prayers that we have received from our people throughout the CJ community, and many from the Catholic community in our area, and our Marianist and Notre Dame partners across the country.
Today, we stand inspired by these four individuals who have meant so much to our community — to continue their work to serve our students with encouragement, compassion — and find our way to joy! . . . a characteristic that all four of these community members embraced as they fulfilled their mission on earth.
Inspired by their example, we sought opportunities to help lift our hearts with hope and joy this semester . . . Catholic Schools Week, celebrated at the end of January, provided us with a great starting point.
The ministry and service team and the CJ fun committee saw to it that school this week had plenty of surprises and planned activities in celebration, which included special food and treats. Pizza, donuts and an ice cream cart that rolled into the student cafeteria, bringing smiles. Special events gave us a break in routine. Among the variety of activities was a hip hop concert by Catholic performer Joe Melendrez — and our traditional Catholic Bingo!, which won an out of uniform day for the lucky winners.
Collectively, we were able to enjoy some welcomed, light-hearted fun . . . that extended into a second week! — courtesy of snowy weather. The thrill of a snow day certainly added to the excitement.
Big and little, Catholic Schools Week activities gave us opportunities to laugh, smile and share in some good moments together — all helping us through the healing process.
Just as importantly, it gave us the opportunity to recognize, celebrate and express appreciation for the blessings of this Catholic school - Chaminade Julienne. Those blessings certainly include our teachers, students, and alumni - and we celebrate some of their accomplishments:
Like, CJ STEMM coordinator, Meg Draeger and educator Amanda Ooten, who were awarded $5,000 in grants, each. Meg’s project centered around an enriched exploration of STEMM fields for sophomores, and Amanda’s project will allow students to work with neuroscience and brain-machine interfaces in the CJ STEMM Center.
Or, Judi MacLeod, posthumously awarded the annual Respect Life Award by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for her commitment to make Catholic education possible for students with special needs. Her husband, Don MacLeod, CJ teacher, accepted the award from Archbishop Schnurr during Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains.
And, many of us watched in wonder and delight as Amy Schneider, Class of 1997, completed an historic 40-game winning streak on the game show, Jeopardy. We congratulate Amy on her outstanding accomplishment.
In February, we welcomed eight new members to the CJ Athletic Hall of Fame for their accomplishments and contributions to the Eagles program. Congratulations to Christian Myton, class of 2009, and from the class of 2010: Todd Barhorst, Micaela Cronin, Madeline Kaminski, Joe Staley, Matt Vest and Samarie Walker. And a special award was presented to Bill Cheslock for his success as our baseball coach in the 1980’s.
We celebrate the accomplishments of our students, like:
Jeffrey Wall ‘23 was one of only 10 students nationwide to receive the Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Award from the NCEA - National Catholic Educational Association for his project: Golden Age Karate. Jeffrey made it his mission to reach out to the senior population and introduce them to the art of Karate, teaching classes free of charge. When COVID made in-person engagement with his students impossible, Jeffrey created a Secret Santa program that adopted all residents of a local senior community. During a surprise lunch with his friends, Jeffrey received his award virtually from NCEA president Lincoln Snyder.
Amaira Cochran ‘25 won the regional poetry recitation competition, Poetry Out Loud, bringing CJ back to the State championship stage. She follows in a rich tradition of previous CJ regional champions, which includes four State contenders and one State Champion.
And Ethan Mata, class of 2024, won the Wright State University Fall String Festival Concerto Competition in October, giving him the opportunity to perform “Summer” by Vivaldi, Concerto No. 2 as a guest soloist with the Wright State Chamber Orchestra in February
Our robotics team won a competition “Make Heater Fly,” which involved their participation in creating a version of the mascot for our minor league team, the Dayton Dragons, which will take to the skies over Dragons’ games this season.
A member of our swimming team, senior Matt LaBianco, qualified for the OHSAA Division II state championships by swimming his personal best in the 100 Breast Stroke. At state, Matt placed third.
We’ve had a lot ot celebrate . . .
Moving through the remainder of this school year, we walk with uncertainty for what lies ahead having already experienced the loss of friends and colleagues, the lingering toll of the pandemic, and now a world at war with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But, we are reminded that we do not have to find our way alone. Through the season of Lent, we join the faithful in praying and reflecting on how we may love and serve as Jesus did. To fuel action with prayer — as our teachers and staff members so beautifully modeled on March 4 during our day of service to the Dayton community. Through our Lenten conversion, we are renewed as a people of Easter — Christ for each other.
With hope and joy and the promise of Christ’s kingdom, we persist guided by words of wisdom and encouragement by our school’s founders. Blessed Chaminade calls us to read the signs of the times and adapt and change as necessary, and St. Julie gives us hope in her words “I am confident that the good God grants you the grace of becoming ever more strengthened by the trials God makes you pass through.”
We are a dynamic and vibrant community. Please join us for upcoming events so you can experience what makes Chaminade Julienne a special place.
Attend the CJ Fish Fry on Saturday, March 19
Spring sports get underway in just a few short weeks. See our baseball, softball, lacrosse, men’s volleyball, tennis, track and field teams in action.
Join us for Reunion Weekend on June 24 & 25
You can find out details about all these events at our website - cjeagles.org.
We continue to pray for you, for our community and for our world, and we ask for your continued prayers and support as well.
And may God bless you in great abundance.