Xavier School, a place that many have called home for the longest time, has always been seen as unique and different amongst other schools, especially other Jesuit ones, in and around the country. The school offers so much to its community, especially to its students—from learning with laptops and iPads, to a world-class football field for forming future champions. Often times, the Xavier community takes pride in the new and innovative opportunities made available to it. However, the things we do not share with other schools also set us apart. With this year’s decision to assign class patrons to each class in the Middle and High School communities, exciting change may not be so far behind.
What sparked my interest was why they suddenly implemented this change. It did not seem to be an urgent matter or first in the list of priorities of the school authorities. I knew it was also a mystery to most of the Xavier community, especially to my fellow students. After talking to a very enthusiastic and warm Fr. Xavier Olin, SJ in his office at the Campus Ministry and Service Office (CMSO), everything seemed to make sense.
According to him, since the earliest years of the school’s history, each class from Grades 1 to 7 had class saints, while the High School never had any. Recently, with the establishment of the Middle School, class saints were only assigned until Grade 6, which later on did not become the case as well.
Reminiscing to the time before its implementation, he could recall three reasons why class saints for the high school has now come into existence. First, he mentioned that last year, his former office was in the second floor of the High School building, where the High 1 classes were located, and these freshmen were coming from the grade school. Often times, he would receive notes, surprisingly from the students themselves, asking why there were no patron saints. Then he mentioned that almost all his life, he has been involved with the Jesuits, from studying in Ateneo de Naga, to teaching in Xavier University Cagayan, and coordinating and working with other schools like the Ateneo de Manila University and our very own Xavier School. He mentioned that all these Jesuit schools across the country, except Xavier, had patron saints from the early grades to the high school. Lastly, he mentioned that formation has always been prioritized by the school. He believed that by proposing patron saints, whom he considered as heroes and role models, everyone, especially the students, would see these people as sources of inspiration. These people are considered as exemplars of the profile that the school wants its students to not only learn, but embrace and embody, for they concretely showed the 6 C’s in their lives.
So what made these new patrons different from the other class saints? Were not the class saints in the younger grade levels not role models or inspirational figures as well? From Grade 5 to High 4, these are Jesuit patrons, unlike in the lower grades where they had, for example, all Apostles, all youthful saints, or all Asian missionaries. These Jesuit patrons were divided further into different themes per year level that are in line with the focus of that year level’s Christian Life Education (CLE) curriculum.
For example, the CLE curriculum for High 1 focuses on the Scriptures and Church History. Some wrote catechisms, and all were known for their work on Scripture. For High 2 it is Christology, so these were people who wrote or showed a deep love for Christ. One of them is Blessed Miguel Pro, who was a priest in Mexico and died in 1927. He was known to be a very funny and theatrical man. Since, during this time, priests were being arrested and persecuted, he had to think of creative and innovative ways to continue his work as a servant of God, and he did so with the help of many disguises and characters. Sometimes he would be a mailman while baptizing babies in the process, or as a street sweeper while hearing confessions from the people. Before he was shot to death, his last words were “Viva Cristo Rey!” or “Long Live Christ The King!” For High 3 it is about morality, so these people stood-up for the truth, like Richie Fernando. For High 4 it is social commitment and justice. These patrons — saints, blessed, or not yet canonized — were known for their work for social justice, even to the point where some died fighting for it.
As for the Grade 8, with their Xavier China Experience to Guangzhou, have Asian Jesuit missionaries, most of whom were sent to China. He also mentioned that more modern people were selected to be patrons so that the students could better relate to their stories and see them as role models of men for others.
Each class is assigned a class patron, and each would have a class feast for the feast day of their respective patrons. If ever the date falls during the summer vacation, the CMSO assigns another date for the class feast. According to Fr. Olin, there are three expectations from the class when it comes to their patrons. First, which he emphasized, the class must know about their patron, which is emphasized by the class advisers and integrated by the CLE teachers into their lessons. The class is encouraged to invoke their patrons in their prayers, during the litanies. Lastly, the class is highly encouraged to sponsor mass during their feast day, and during the day, or on another day, the class will have a simple salu-salo or get-together. It may be a lunch or merienda, and it does not have to be grand, just the class sitting-down and doing an activity together.
So far, the initiative has received positive reception from the faculty, especially the class advisers. He mentioned that he has been exchanging emails with High 2 class advisers, informing him that their classes are creating personalized litanies, instead of the usual format of saying the patron’s name and the class responding “Pray for us.” One example he mentioned was where the prayer leader would say, “Blessed Peter Faber, model of teaching and lover of the poor…” Some classes would also place a quote from their patron on their bulletin boards. For example, Fr. Federico Faura, a Grade 8 class patron, was the Jesuit scientist who founded the oldest observatory in the Far East, Manila Observatory. The class could not find a quote from him, so they decided to make their own slogan, something related to his work on the stars and space. That led them to having “Reach for your stars,” now posted on their bulletin board.
In the future, he hopes that the students will be take more pride in their class patrons. One of the ideas of CMSO was for each class to have a banner that represents their class and their class patron. One representative from each class would carry this banner during the Mass processions. He also considered the idea of having a parade or shirt design competition, where the patrons play a big role, during a week-long intramural, which other Jesuit schools around the world have been doing. He also has these simpler ideas, like providing each class with a picture of their patron by the start of next school year. His hope is that this initiative will grow and improve as it gets more institutionalized during the following years, and looking at the reception it has received this year, it seems to be a very achievable reality.