Opening Assembly Sets Context for Great New Year

Fr. Burshek at a podium speaking to students in the gym.
Debbie Higgins

Students, faculty, and staff gathered August 20 in the gym for a special assembly designed to set the context for a meaningful new school year. 

Featured speakers and their topics included:

Fr. Jim Burshek, S.J. (What makes a Jesuit school Jesuit?)

Justin Reynolds ’19 (Senior Service Projects: T.A.S.K.)

Alex Bentele ’20 (Spain Trip: Origins of Jesuits and the De Smet Jesuit Story)

Josh Abel ’19 (Student Engagement – Encouragement and Opportunities to Get Involved)

Kevin Poelker ’98, principal (Essential Questions)

Fr. Burshek began by reviewing core Jesuit values and how our school’s mission reflects those values. “The center of a Jesuit school must be Jesus Christ,” he said. “That is the WHY of the Society of Jesus and that is the WHY of our identity as a De Smet Jesuit.” He reminded students they can help one another see the gifts of God in their lives through acts of service. 

“We are a company, a band of brothers, a community with the cross at our center, striving to make ourselves and our world more just, more loving, more faithful and more united. We start here, today – we reach out beyond here the rest of our lives,” he concluded.

Senior Justin Reynolds focused his remarks on the impact his service experiences have had on his life, admitting that when he finally went outside his comfort zone for his junior project to work with special needs kids, he experienced tremendous personal growth. His positive experience as a junior inspired him to complete his senior service hours this summer at TASK (Team Activities for Special Kids). He described the “little moments of joy” he experienced in his work that were “supremely rewarding.” He advised students to challenge themselves when seeking opportunities to serve in the community and within the halls of De Smet, noting that acts of service include joining someone sitting alone at lunch, or helping someone with a math problem. “My experience has taught me that the most rewarding experiences and the most growth occur when you totally give yourself up to something and go into it with open arms. . . By serving others, you will find that you ultimately serve yourself.” 

De Smet Jesuit’s summer trip to Spain and France gave junior Alex Bentele and his classmates the incredible opportunity to travel in the footsteps of St. Ignatius as they visited historical sites key to founding of the Society of Jesus. Among the sites visited were Montemarte in Paris, where Ignatius and his friends decided to journey to Rome and present themselves to the pope, and Manresa, the cave in Spain where Ignatius spent a year in solitude writing the Spiritual Exercises.  The experience made Alex realize just how similar he and his peers are to the first Jesuits, who struggled to find their way, not completely sure of their future. “We don’t have everything figured out but together as students, teachers, counselors, principals, we’re going to get to where we’re supposed to be going,” he said.

Senior Josh Abel concluded the student remarks by encouraging students to find ways to get involved in the De Smet community through clubs and athletics. He shared that because he only knew one other student when he arrived as a freshman, he heeded the advice he received to join a few clubs and attend events. “I truly do think that the more you get involved and the more you do here, the more you’ll enjoy your time. I know it sounds cliché, but the phrase, ‘You get out of it what you put into it’ is truer than you think when it comes to high school,” he said.

Principal Kevin Poelker closed the assembly by sharing essential questions which will guide our school’s work this year. He challenged students, faculty, and staff to consider, “How can we be more engaged?” and “How can we be more present?”

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