It is necessary to realize we all need mercy, we all need justice, and perhaps we all need some measure of unmerited grace.
—Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy
Welcome to the 2017–18 school year at Loyola Academy!
As always, we greet the new school year with great anticipation for a return to both Loyola’s time-honored Jesuit, Catholic traditions and the steady drumbeat of innovation that together enable us to form women and men for meaningful lives of leadership and service in a uniquely LA way.
This year, our newest Ramblers participated in a completely reimagined two-day orientation and were introduced to a new organizational system. Our freshmen will be organized by “houses,” in which they will share community with a group of their peers for the next four years of their LA experience. Returning Ramblers will note several changes this year, including an updated curriculum, an entirely new menu and point-of-sale system in the cafeteria, a new LA Cafe in the Student Center (yes, we may now eat in the Student Center!) and an updated bell schedule, ending the school day at 2:48 p.m. rather than 3:00 p.m.
But perhaps the innovation I am most excited about this year is our first-ever, all-Rambler community read. For this, we have chosen the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
is Mr. Stevenson’s account of his own journey, first as an undergraduate student at Harvard University and then as a legal advocate for the marginalized and falsely convicted or unfairly sentenced. We read about his work with Mr. Walter McMillian, a black man wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to death in Alabama in the late 1980s. And, as we read, the author guides us on a path traversing pain, inequity, brokenness, empathy, forgiveness, advocacy—and love.
We see in this book how communities create and reinforce values (positive and negative), and how these values have a significant and lasting impact on all of us. With its themes of race, gender, mental health, law and the justice system, equality and education, Just Mercy is relevant for our entire Rambler community. It is a book about breaking down barriers of elitism and recognizing that we are all more alike than different, each fallen and each worthy of forgiveness.
As Mr. Stevenson recalls scripture from the Gospel of John—“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”—he suggests that each of us should instead become a stone catcher. “There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher,” he writes. “You’re not going to catch them all...But if you have the right relationship to it, it is less of a burden...than a blessing. It makes you feel stronger.” A Year-Long Initiative
At Loyola Academy, we have long had a commitment to being committed to justice as it is part of our Jesuit identity; but, in today’s world, this book feels particularly timely. With this in mind, the 2017–18 school year at Loyola Academy will be referred to as our Year of Just Mercy
. Our faculty and staff read Just Mercy over the summer and participated in facilitated discussion groups during Institute Days in August, analyzing the text and discussing its role in our 2017–18 curriculum. We’ll take a guided reading approach with this book in classes beginning this fall. Seniors will read the book in their English classes prior to November 30th, when Mr. Stevenson will visit our school
and speak to all Loyola Academy students during the day and participate as a featured speaker in our Courageous Conversations series that evening. Juniors will begin reading the book in their Theology, Ethics and CST classes, also before Mr. Stevenson’s visit in November, and will continue reading through January 2018. Sophomores will read Just Mercy during their second semester in English classes. Freshmen will be introduced to the book in Formation during second semester and the book’s themes will be incorporated into Freshman Gesu and readings in Theology and OSH classes. I invite all members of our community to share in the study of this book.
The Jesuit, Catholic tradition teaches us that faith, knowledge and the promotion of justice are intrinsically related, and we see this demonstrated in Just Mercy. I am hopeful that, as our Rambler community explores the complexities of mercy and justice this year, we will come to understand and care for those in society—and each other—more deeply. Mark Your Calendar!
Please refer to our school calendar
for news and information on upcoming fall events including the Arrupe signup, Freshman retreats, College Information Night, Spirit Dress-Down Days, LA football games, Late Start Days, Spirit Week, Homecoming (note families will also receive a mailing on this) and more.
For now, I share with you my wishes for a school year at Loyola Academy in which we grow together in faith, knowledge—and mercy. My prayer for us echoes Saint Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament:
O Lord, I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.
Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.
Help me, O Lord, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains.
Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.
Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the most difficult and toilsome tasks.
Help me, O Lord, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness.
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor.
May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me.
Kathryn M. Baal, PhD