From the President: September 2017

September 1, 2017




Back in my teaching days, I loved teaching freshmen.  I loved watching them arrive at the end of the summer, full of trepidation.  I loved watching them grow accustomed to life at a Jesuit high school, and seeing that nervousness slowly fade away.  I loved watching them come to realize how talented they were and obliterate whatever narrow self-image they may have concocted about themselves before their arrival.  I enjoyed seeing them after Christmas break, flabbergasted that a young teen could grow so much over two weeks’ time.  I loved checking in with them after that first year, as well, and watching young people begin to make the transformation into adulthood.

On the first day of school, one of my favorite things to do between the time freshmen were funneling in to my classroom and before our first class together was underway, was to blast Earth, Wind, and Fire’s 1978 hit, “September.”  There were, of course, almost no freshmen who had ever heard that song—their own parents were probably not yet in high school when it was topping the charts.  (I wasn’t even alive myself.)  I don’t know why I started playing that song on the first day of classes, other than to lower their anxiety level, hopefully.  Since then, though, even when I returned to school as a student again, that song has made me think of the beginning of a new school year.

Last week, I found myself humming “September” in my office, as one load of kids after another made its way off different United flights (or the new Air New Niugini flights from the east), and lugged their possessions to school or to their sponsors’ houses.  It struck me that I knew very few lyrics to the song, so I looked them up.  I found the words to open the second verse apropos to annual repopulation of Mabuchi Hill:

“My thoughts are with you

Holding hands with your heart to see you.”

And then the opening of verse three:

“The bell was ringing

Our souls were singing.”

It was great to see so many smiling faces as students returned to see one another.  There is a great distance between these islands we call home.  This summer, some students went even farther away than the Rock Islands, Nan Madol, or Ebeye.  Senior Trey Techitong spent his summer at Stanford University in California completing the Junior Statesmen of America summer school program.  Juniors Rita Keller and Kedul Andreas braved the wilds of New Jersey, as they attended the same program at Princeton University.  When I asked Rita, who is from Pohnpei, what she thought of New York City during her trip there, she said, “Father, it was even better than the movies.” Not to be outdone, Karen Ehmes and Chloe Arnold spent their summer in the Artic as part of the Coral and Ice Exchange Program to see how global warming is affecting our beloved Pacific as well as the polar ice caps.  Even as we were seemingly all over the globe this summer, our thoughts were with one another.  It’s nice to witness the students holding hands and happy to see one another again.  “May it last,” I keep telling myself.

And now the school bell on the roof is ringing again—from the first bell in the morning until lights out at night.  The campus is filled with the familiar songs that anyone who has spent time here knows by heart.  Mr. Naoki Ochi, S.J., this year’s choir master, is trying to teach this generation of Xavierites some new tunes, and it was nice to hear some of them at the Mass of the Holy Spirit this last Wednesday.  Our souls are singing, indeed.  What a wonderful sound.

As you and/or your loved ones return to school this September, please know you are in our prayers.  Our thoughts are with you.  If we haven’t seen one another in a while, we’re looking forward to the next time.  As the school bells ring, please know that the souls of Xavier High School are singing loudly for you during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Thank you, as always, for your support for us.

For Xavier,



Fr. Dennis M. Baker, S.J.


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