The following letter from Christian Talbot '93, Interim President of Regis High School, was shared via email with the Regis community on Wednesday, May 5.Dear Regis High School Community,
It feels the same.
Three weeks ago, I walked through the 84th Street doors as a Regis staff member for the first time in nine years. After an extended absence from a place I studied and worked for years, I expected to notice primarily the changes at Regis. But these first few weeks I have been struck most by the familiarity of it all.
Our eager and kind students remind me of the hundreds of Regians I taught not to mention my Regis classmates. Our faculty — some who taught me, some with whom I taught, some whom I taught, and some who are new to me — possess the same devotion to forming our young men that has made this school exceptional for more than a century. And our staff, amidst a pandemic, impress me daily with their passion for our Jesuit mission and for our exceptional learning community.
Of course, many things have changed, from the obvious (eg, the masks we wear, students entering through the 85th Street doors rather than The Tunnel, etc.) to the subtle. These differences represent the natural evolution of an institution, but they haven’t altered Regis’ core.
Case in point: St. John Francis Regis Day. Alumni of a certain vintage will remember it as a non-instructional day in the spring during which the school explored a social justice topic. In the last several years, this single day has evolved into a robust program: faculty and students meet monthly to examine one moral issue throughout the academic year. St. John Francis Regis Day in May is now a capstone experience of conversation, reflection, and prayer.
This year’s theme is “Race: School, Country, Church.” Our students and faculty have participated in open, honest discussions alongside priests and professors from schools like Georgetown, Fordham, and Stanford. Such conversations feed into our broader Race at Regis initiative. As we prepare for next week’s St. John Francis Regis Day, I want us to recall why we initiated Race at Regis and to explain how we have approached it.
Last summer, many alumni and current students shared with the school experiences of racism within our walls. These stories broke my heart, and I’m sure they were even more painful for our alumni and students to revisit. Our Mission Statement calls for our exceptional students to study and grow “in a caring community.” And our Catholic mission calls on us to oppose racism in every form it takes. To live up to those calls, we knew we had an obligation to provide a better experience for current and future Regians.
Our Catholic mission and values have defined our work for 107 years. As a Jesuit school, we approach racism and other pressing moral issues through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching and Ignatian spirituality. Regis does not, in this case or others, promote ideologies. We are not a “Democrat school,” a “Republican school,” a “Critical Race Theory school,” a “Common Humanity School.” We are a Jesuit school. That fact calls on us to create the conditions for students to engage with many points of view through intellectually rigorous, morally informed civil discourse (emphasis on civil). We don’t tell Regians what to think; we train them how to think and how to discern with an informed conscience.
This is profoundly personal for me. I am an Ignatian educator molded by nearly three decades as a Regis student, teacher, and trustee. The values, ethos, and faith formation of this place have indelibly shaped me. That’s why the only labels I place on Regis’ educational philosophy are these: Catholic and Jesuit. And the Regis Board of Trustees endorses the same perspective.
Pope Francis has called on Catholics to cultivate a “culture of encounter” as we engage with the moral challenges of our time. “It is important to be ready for encounter,” the Holy Father said in a Pentecost address in his first year as Pope. “For me this word is very important. Encounter with others. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others.”
While Regis may feel the same to me in some important ways, the experiences of some of our alumni and students of color are also a call to growth. In that sense, Race at Regis marks the beginning of our efforts to improve the Regis experience for our students and alumni of color. To contribute to that effort, I invite you to join us in seeking “encounter” with one another in good faith. I also invite you to pray for the faculty and students as we gather next week for St. John Francis Regis Day to continue this fruitful dialogue. With your help, we will strengthen Regis’ core competence: “transforming Catholic young men through an academically exceptional Jesuit education in a caring community which inspires leadership, generosity, and a lifelong passion for service as Men for Others.”
Thank you for your ongoing support of this life-changing institution. I hope that you and your families are healthy and well, and I look forward to seeing many of you soon when the public health situation makes in-person gatherings at Regis possible once again.
Christian Talbot '93 Interim President