700+ students and faculty of St. Rita High School filed into the chapel Wednesday morning for their monthly all-school mass. While each mass celebrates their patronage to St. Rita and St. Augustine, each mass also ends with celebrating the students. Principal Brendan Conroy announces the latest scholarship recipients, gives athletic updates, and awards four students as “Mustangs of the Month.” This tradition continued Wednesday, but much more was added to the agenda. First, the Jasica award winners were announced. The Joseph J. Jasica, Jr. Award is an art scholarship named after the late Joseph J. Jasica, Jr. a 1953 graduate of St. Rita High School. This award is open to all students who then present their piece of artwork to the committee to be voted upon. The art can involve watercolors, oils, acrylics, mixed media (colored pencil + watercolor, pastels and pencils), pencil, or photography. The winners of this years’ contest were Nicolas Henrichs, Lorenzo Henrichs, and Brendan Jenkins. Nicholas and Lorenzo both received a $500 scholarship while Brendan received a $200 scholarship.
It has been over two months since St. Rita High School and the city of Chicago lost one of its finest, Chicago Fire Department Captain Herbie Johnson ’76. Captain Johnson left an indelible mark on everyone he came in contact with and because of that, one student at St. Rita did his part to give back to the Johnson family.
Chris Wanat, a junior football player, heard about the passing of Captain Johnson at their home football game and immediately thought of the family he left behind. Chris’ mother works at RN Sports and Chris came up with the idea to create t-shirts in honor of Captain Johnson to be sold with the proceeds going directly to the family.
The efforts of Wanat were astounding and at the end of the mass, with great honor he handed a check to Herbie Johnson’s wife, Sue, for $4,500. While Chris knows the money won’t change any lives, he hopes the Johnson family gets a minute of sanctity knowing, the entire community rallied behind the effort.
At the conclusion of mass, all the members of the student body plus the faculty and staff went back to the classroom to watch a very special video. It was a video of St. Rita English teacher, Tim Baffoe, reading a letter he wrote to the Beverly Review about the passing of Herbie Johnson. This was just one more way the St. Rita community honored a true hero and a true Ritaman. You can view the video below.