by Emily Fanslau '13
When I first came to Gross as a freshman, I didn’t know all that much about the place. Sure, I knew the colors were orange and blue, the mascot was a Cougar, chewing gum was allowed, and there was some really difficult class called APUSH, whatever that meant. But I barely knew anything about the Marianist background of Gross. Marianist? What was a Marianist anyway? It didn’t take long for us to be told about Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, Mother Adele, and Marie Therese, along with the story of the founding of the Marianists. But more important than the history, it didn’t take long to see that being a part of a Marianist school sets us apart.
The first characteristic of a Marianist education, Educate For Formation in Faith, is central to Gross’s foundation. When I was choosing a high school, besides the fact that a big public school seemed scary, I didn’t want my faith education to end with 8th grade. I wanted to go somewhere that helped develop what I had learned from my family and grade school. I wanted to be with other teenagers who cared about their faith.
The next Marianist characteristic, Educate in Family Spirit, is a big one here at Gross. We saw it today at Mass when we held hands during the Our Father. We see it during Homecoming week as we gather for the week’s activities. And we witnessed a huge display of family spirit this past November as students, teachers, and alumni cheered as our football team took State. I feel that at Gross, we take this Family Spirit characteristic to heart. As a school, we are unique in the way students from all different grades are friends, giving us a greater sense of community.
The next characteristic, Provide For an Integral Quality Education, is obviously very central here at Gross. Over my four years of high school, I have seen this characteristic lived out through the teachers and students. I have always felt that I am able to get the help I need for my classes. Whether I was asking Mrs. Hughes math question after math question, or going to a review during lunch for Mr. Ilcisin’s history class, I am grateful for teachers at Gross who take the extra time to help their students succeed. As I’m sure all of you can attest, we are really pushed academically at Gross. The privilege of receiving an integral quality education often comes with more studying and getting less sleep than I’d like. However, I know the academic standards that the Marianists put in place are teaching me responsibility and balance, preparing me for life after high school.
Educate for Service, Justice, and Peace is the next Marianist characteristic. Here at Gross I have become involved in groups that incorporate this idea of service, such as the LIFE community and Pastoral Council. This week is a great example of the service this school inspires, as we raised money for the kids at Our Lady of Nazareth School. I remember sitting in Father Steve’s theology class as a freshman, when a student came in with one of the donation jars for Our Lady of Nazareth, asking if any of us had money to donate. I remember Father Steve reaching into his pocket, saying that he didn’t know what he had in his pocket, but he would give whatever was in it. He pulled out a twenty and dropped it in the jar. For us poor freshmen, twenty dollars seemed like a lot to just drop into the jar. That was like 26 Poptarts! That act of generosity left an impression on me, and I think it is that spirit of giving, whether of our money or time, that embodies this Marianist characteristic.
The last characteristic is Educate for Adaptation and Change. Over the past four years, my role has changed within the school. Adapting to new roles and the changes that come with becoming an upperclassman has been really hard at times, but I’m grateful that I have always been given the right amount of strength at the right moment. We all face changes each year as we adjust to being a grade older, with fewer people ahead of us to guide the way. Education doesn’t always come only from teachers though; sometimes it comes from our peers. I’ve always been grateful for older students who helped me adjust to the challenges each year brought. The Marianists’ hope was that their schools would provide students the skills necessary to deal with change, not just in high school but in their future life.
I believe these five Marianist characteristics that have surrounded me for the past four years will give me a solid foundation in faith, academics, and a willingness to serve others. As I prepare to go on to life after high school, I want to remember what I have been taught here. Not just how to use the Unit Circle or which 17th century poet wrote which poem, but what I have learned from the people here and the Marianist tradition.
Every year the Gross Catholic community celebrates "Founder's Week." The four days of activities help remind us of our roots in the tradition of the Marianists. Senior Emily Fanslau shared her Founder's Week Reflection at an All School Mass.