By: Mike Swanson
A convocation is a group of people that comes together, formally assembled for a unique purpose. St. Rita of Cascia High School is a very unique and special institution for many Chicago-area families.
On the morning of Wednesday, August 22, 2018 the St. Rita of Cascia High School community, including parents, gathered in the St. Rita Shrine Chapel for the Annual Academic Convocation that has quickly become a cornerstone ceremony for the members of the St. Rita family. The tone of the day was set by the music which was provided by the legendary St. Rita Band under the direction of Mr. KC Perlberg. The convocation (which marks the official beginning of St. Rita’s 114th academic year) celebrates the school’s academic excellence, ancient and venerable Augustinian heritage and the traditions that developed over the course of the last 113 years the greatest of which is the bond that exists among all Ritamen brothers.
"We are indeed blessed and that is why the theme of this year will be “Thankfulness.” We have been given much and so we must give back much." - Fr. Paul
For this year’s freshmen class, that bond is especially relevant. The 158 freshmen, the Class of 2022, physically signed their names on parchment paper, enrolling them in the sacred “Book of Brotherhood” at St. Rita. After signing, each freshman received from a student government representative his St. Rita chapel tie which is worn each Wednesday for all-school Mass.
The event's master of ceremonies, Dean of Student Leadership Mr. Josh Blaszak '02 introduced three student government leaders, Stedmon Ihejirka, Michael Henze and Liam Ohle who spoke about St. Rita’s core values: Veritas (Truth), Unitas (Unity) and Caritas (Love), respectively.
As the ceremony continued, the crowd heard remarks about St. Rita’s academic excellence and college-preparatory curriculum from Mr. Wes Benak ‘81, Dean of Academics. Mr. Mike Zunica, President, gave remarks about the storied history of St. Rita.
Finally, St. Rita’s Head of School and CEO, Fr. Paul Galetto, O.S.A., Ph.D., gave the crowd an overall “State of the School” address and then took the time to speak directly to the freshmen telling them what is expected of a Ritaman and what the school community has to offer them. At the end of his remarks, Fr. Paul lit the 2018-19 “Lamp of Learning” from the flame of the Easter Candle in the St. Rita Shrine Chapel.
Fr. Paul said, "St. Rita of Cascia High School is a Catholic college-preparatory high school in the Augustinian tradition. The beginning of the academic year is a rite of passage for our freshmen. The Academic Convocation marks this important milestone while teaching new students and families the history and traditions of our school and reminding us all of the unique opportunities that exist here. This is a very exciting time at St. Rita with multiple new construction projects nearing completion and enrollment increasing. The excitement for our future was palpable at the Convocation. People want to be a part of St. Rita. I’m very pleased with the direction our school is headed thanks to our dedicated and talented faculty, staff, parents and students. We are indeed blessed and that is why the theme of this year will be “Thankfulness.” We have been given much and so we must give back much. We must be the example for others to emulate."
After the formal gathering was over, St. Rita parents and students enjoyed a quick reception with light refreshments.
St. Rita’s Academic Convocation is a unique tradition. It’s very important to Ritamen and their families because it is a public statement of all that St. Rita stands for: academic and athletic excellence, student involvement and Catholic, Augustinian affiliation and leadership. The Convocation displays and solidifies St. Rita’s welcoming environment for all to see.
By: Ed Leiser '04
At the conclusion of the 2017-18 school year, St. Rita held its inaugural “minimester week” for students in the freshmen, sophomore, and junior classes. The new minimester program is a required 30-hour course incorporated into the academic calendar of the school and is designed to teach students outside the classroom. The philosophy of minimester is that students sometimes learn by touching, seeing, and doing things outside the traditional classroom setting. By selecting their own high-interest experience, unique life lessons could be learned by our Ritamen.
Some minimesters occurred during the school year (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter breaks, etc.) or over the weekends during the year, but “minimester week” removed the last week of classes for all students, to allow faculty to chaperone trips and make the necessary accommodations. Students who already had their minimester were not required to go to school during the week of May 29 – June 1 (they were NOT complaining about that!)
Several minimesters took place in Chicago or nearby areas, while others featured travel to various parts of the United States. There was even one minimester trip that went to France and Italy for touring and site-seeing, as well as learning about culture, art and much more. Some minimesters required no cost to enroll in, while others required a small fee to be paid by parents. The larger trips that required travel cost a little bit more, but all costs were kept as low as possible by the St. Rita administration to ensure as many students could attend as were interested.
See below for some of the highlights of the minimester week trips and outings that were done by St. Rita freshmen, sophomores and juniors and their dedicated faculty and staff chaperones. By all accounts, minimester was a success this school year!
Forty Ritamen and four chaperones flew to Texas for a week and represented well in the Lonestar State. Students had Mass at the San Fernando Cathedral and took a trip to the Enchanted Springs Ranch for line-dancing and to see actual longhorns in person. They also had an on-field tour of Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, the home of the University of Texas football team. The Ritamen also visted St. Edward’s University, the alma mater of Theology teacher, Brother Joe Ruiz, O.S.A. The trip was made complete with a day visit to San Antonio for a cruise on the Riverwalk, a trip to the San Antonio missions, and of course, they remembered to visit The Alamo!
Water Water Everywhere!
This minimester focused on, you guessed it, water in the Midwest and how we use it. Students and faculty experienced the water by kayaking on the Chicago River, and travelling to Wisconsin for a boat cruise to learn about water depth, shipwrecks and they learned how to operate a sailboat, too. Luckily, no one fell in the water from what we gathered! St. Rita students learned about our countries’ sometimes careless use of water and how we can properly conserve it as well, throughout their week on the water.
Nearly 40 students and adult chaperones boarded a plane and headed west to visit Colorado on a three-day minimester trip. The students enjoyed all that Colorado has to offer, visiting the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a day-long tour of the facility, a definite highlight of the trip. Students also spent time hiking and doing outdoors activities, while squeezing in a trip to Coors Field in Denver for a Colorado Rockies game, too! They also started off their Sunday the right way, with Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
Approximately 40 Ritamen visited our nations’ capitol for an unforgettable experience to learn about our great nations’ history. Upon arrival, the trip visited the Lincoln Memorial and spent Sunday morning at Mass at the National Basilica underneath the Holy Trinity Dome. As the week continued, the minimester visited Arlington National Cemetery, The White House, and the Capitol Building. Ritamen spent Memorial Day at the parade, and visited the Archives, Portrait Gallery, the Newseum and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Upon visiting the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, students and faculty were able to identify St. Rita graduates who lost their lives in the Vietnam War, a very moving experience for all. Somehow, the minimester group managed to fit in a baseball game at Camden Yards to see the Baltimore Orioles play, too. The trip ended on a high note before the long bus drive back to Chicago, with a visit to the Washington Monument!
The Smoky Mountains
A group of 12 students and two teachers got their adventurous side out of them, and braved a trip to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Ritamen spent a lot of time outdoors as you’d imagine, with various hiking trips and outings throughout the week. Students got a chance to do zip-lining and white water rafting, in between the hikes on the trails. The pictures looked amazing, and one Ritaman was heard to say “This feels like I’m in the Amazon!” For most of the students, they had certainly never experienced anything quite like mountain-life.
Chicago History and Architecture
Some students opted to “stay home” for minimester and sleep in their own beds, so the Chicago History minimester was just right for them. They lucked out with sunny days and temperatures in the 80s and 90s for their week-long visits to some of the famous sites of Chicago. Our students took a Chicago Crime Tour on a guided tour bus, visited the Chicago Theater downtown and spent time at Wrigley Field for a visit to the field, dugout, press boxes and locker room areas of the 2016 World Champions. The Sox fans may not have loved that, but it was non-negotiable! They also had a boat tour down the Chicago River on one of their days, and learned all about the unique architecture and developments of Chicago’s beautiful downtown area. Last but not least, was a trip to the Chicago History Museum. Even though many of the students live in Chicago, it was amazing to see the number of them that had not experienced all that our great city has to offer!
High Tech Chicago
This minimester offered our students a chance to see a different aspect of Chicago, namely that of innovation and technology in various sectors. Students toured the NBC 5 News studio and learned about the technology involved in collecting, organizing and broadcasting the daily news segments. The 24 Ritamen also visited Loyola University to see undergraduate tech projects from students there and saw a robotics demonstration. They enjoyed the opportunity to meet and interact with college students, especially ones that are in fields they wish to someday pursue.
Earlier minimester outings in the school year occurred in Philadelphia/New Jersey, college visits to Boston, Europe, and a college football spring practice tour to the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, and Northern Illinois University. There was also a trip to Charleston, South Carolina for our baseball team on their annual spring trip where their minimester was held.
Local minimesters also included a holiday baking minimester, genealogy and family history, introduction to astrology, and several more also. In total, there were nearly 20 minimester options for our students to choose from. It all depended on their interest level, cost (if any) associated with the program, and their schedules with school, sports, work, etc. The courses concluded with an assignment (paper, quiz or test) to be submitted to the faculty and staff moderators.
We are already excited to launch year #2 of minimester and already have some new minimester ideas to make the experience even better!
Read the latest edition of St. Rita's exclusive satirical online publication: The Natir!
St. Rita and the Chicago White Sox—two legendary south side institutions with intertwining histories. Both were founded in the first years of the 20th century. The White Sox were founded in 1901 and St. Rita started in 1905. Many students from the 63rd Street Campus fondly recall the Opening Day walk-a-thons from 63rd and Claremont to Comiskey Park at 35th and Shields. The walk-a-thon partnership was so strong that the White Sox granted tickets to St. Rita for the Opening Day of the New Comiskey Park in 1991, when the walk-a-thon originated at the new 77th Street Campus. St. Rita Hall of Fame member Ed Farmer ’67 was a standout pitcher for the Sox and is currently the Sox radio announcer. The histories almost seem more than coincidental. For instance, did you know that the last weekend of games for Comiskey Park in 1990 was also the last weekend that St. Rita Stadium at the 63rd Street Campus hosted a St. Rita Football game? Fr. Bernard Danber, O.S.A. ‘68 who was St. Rita principal at the time, remembers WGN-TV covering the significance of the simultaneous end of the line for the two iconic stadiums. Also, not-so-coincidentally, Fr. Danber is the White Sox chaplain. The Sox and St. Rita even have similar lines in their fight songs, with the Sox using "Go Go White Sox!", and of course, all Mustang fans know the line "Go Rita Go!"
It just seemed right to revive and strengthen the St. Rita/White Sox partnership in 2017 with a St. Rita Night at the Sox game. That tradition continued this year with the second annual St. Rita Night at Guaranteed Rate Field for the Sox vs. Mariners game on Monday, April 23. The first 750 Fans purchasing tickets through a special link provided by the White Sox were given free co-branded St. Rita/White Sox Hats. Also, a portion of the proceeds was donated by the White Sox to St. Rita.
Before the game, the St. Rita Jazz Band, under the direction of KC Perlberg played the National Anthem and our very own Chairman of the Board Ernie Mrozek ’71 threw out the first pitch. The Sox even played a St. Rita video on the scoreboard video screen for the entire crowd to see. Needless to say, the Sox did not disappoint the St. Rita faithful, securing a 10-4 victory with hot bats on a chilly night over the Mariners.