On Thursday, May 13, the Regis community gathered to participate in the annual St. John Francis Regis (JFR) Day. Formerly a single day for examining a social justice topic, JFR Day has developed into a more holistic program, calling for students, faculty, and staff to study and discuss a single issue of moral significance throughout the academic year and consider the roles they play in creating a more just world through conversation, reflection, and prayer.
The theme of this year’s JFR Day was “Race: School, Country, Church.” Throughout the year, the entire Regis community has engaged in a critical examination of the moral and social issue of racism in our world, which has helped to shape the school’s broader Race at Regis initiative to cultivate an environment of compassion and understanding for people of all backgrounds both at Regis and beyond. (For more information on Race at Regis, please read this May 5 letter to the Regis community from Interim President Christian Talbot '93.)
The day’s events began with a keynote address from Hari Kondabolu, a stand-up comedian and former immigrant rights organizer who uses humor as a vehicle to provide social commentary on issues of race in America. Kondabolu, who has performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live" and has released a critically acclaimed documentary entitled “The Problem with Apu,” spoke about what it meant to grow up in Queens, NY, one of the most diverse places in the country, and see little to no South Asian representation in popular culture that didn’t engage in harmful and outdated stereotyping. Kondabolu reflected on his comedic journey, expressing the importance of using whatever platform you have to advance important conversations, uplift marginalized communities, and create a society where everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
After Kondabolu answered questions posed by Regians, students were invited to convene with their advisement groups to debrief the morning’s discussion and begin a dialogue on broader topics of race at Regis and beyond. Additional presentations followed over the course of the day, including an update on Race at Regis from Interim President Christian Talbot ’93, Assistant Principal for Student Life Christian Mariano ’99, and REACH Director of Recruiting and Admissions Alan Garcia ’08. Mariano and Garcia shared with students three key priorities for the school's staff Diversity Committee moving forward: creating a system and process for faculty recruitment that increases diversity of the faculty and creating a program that ensures their sense of belonging and retention, incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion work/content into the existing professional development program for faculty and staff, and integrating elements of diversity, equity, and inclusion training into our existing student formation program.
“We’re at the beginning of this conversation, this is not the end. I know JFR Day is an appropriate culmination to a year long conversation, but that conversation is really just starting,” Talbot told the student body. “As a Jesuit school and as a Catholic school, we will continue to explore this question of Race at Regis both intellectually and spiritually.”
Following the update, Garcia hosted a panel on the importance of acting as an ally with REACH Dean of English Language Arts and Regis English teacher Shannon Dey, REACH Program co-founder Clyde Cole ’87, REACH teacher Dave Robles, and REACH and Regis graduate Brian Reyes ’17. The group shared personal experiences navigating issues of race within themselves and with friends, family, and their communities, sharing with students actionable steps they can take to ensure a community where all feel welcomed and supported.
“When you reach out to your black and brown brothers and sisters in any space, the challenge is to see them, to hear them, to value those folks who are otherwise unseen, unheard, and undervalued, and also use the power that you have, the platform that you’ve been given, and the position that you’re in to continue to amply their needs” Robles said. “It’s possible to be a man for others without ‘otherizing’ the other. There has to be a way to open the door not just to your classroom, but open the door to your heart and connect with those of us who have different stories, who come from a different social location, knowing that that makes us stronger in the end.”
The day concluded with a school-wide Mass live streamed from the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, where freshmen and juniors celebrated in-person at a safe distance. Regis Principal Fr. Anthony D. Andreassi, CO, served as the primary celebrant, and was joined on the altar by Fr. Arthur C. Bender, SJ, ’67. Michael Scalzo ’24, Luke Jovanovich ’22, and Nick Facchini ’24 served as readers, and Sebastian Cardena ’22 offered petitions.
“This call to spread the kingdom calls us not only to act rightly and justly in how you and I live our lives every day, but it also calls us, just as importantly, to work to end systems that have historically marginalized other people,” said Fr. Andreassi during his homily. “Let me be very clear. We must do this work not because of our adherence to an outside ideology or belief system. No, we must do this work because of our baptism, because of our identity as Christians and as members of a school rooted in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the mission and the history of the Society of Jesus.”
A selection of photos from JFR Day are included below: