Handcrafted signs bearing messages such as, “Please Save Boston College Campus School” and “We work best when we work together, hand in hand, Campus School and Boston College” adorned the altar of St. Ignatius Church Thursday night at the prayer service organized by Campus School parents. Several hundred parents, siblings, volunteers, faculty members, and other supporters came in from the single-digit temperatures outside to fill over half of the 950-person capacity nave. Every attendee was given an electronic candle to hold as the service began with an introduction from co-chairwomen of the Parent Advisory Committee Kristen Morin and Laura Yorke.
“The mission of tonight is not about what could happen, it’s about what we have and what we want to continue to have, and to pray for the progress that we’re making,” Morin began. “We hope you all leave here knowing how much you’re loved, how much our school is loved, and how much it needs to stay here at BC and nowhere else.”
They then introduced Rev. Ronald K. Tacelli, S.J., to deliver the opening remarks. Tacelli, who is the relative of a Campus School student, has been a vocal opponent to the school’s potential relocation to the Kennedy Day School. He began his remarks by calling all to remember why they were there-not to criticize other facilities that serve those with special needs, but to pray that the Campus School remain at BC. He asked God to “open the minds and hearts” of those who will ultimately decide if the Campus School is to stay in Campion Hall, and he stressed the “unique good” that the Campus School does for all those involved with it.
“Lord, your presence in and through these beautiful children has already blessed BC and blessed its life for many, many years,” he said. “We pray tonight that your presence in this campus and in the Campus School and in these children may continue for many, many years to come.”
Following these remarks, an organist from the local church of one of the families played “On Eagle’s Wings” before co-presidents of the Campus School Volunteers of BC Chris Marino, A&S ’14, and Chelsea Beyrand, LSOE ’14, approached the podium to speak about their experiences with the Campus School.
Marino spoke of his first exposure to the Campus School as a senior at St. Sebastian’s High School in Needham, Mass. He became involved with the Campus School almost immediately after arriving at BC as a freshman, and he referred to his Campus School buddy as his closest friend at BC. He closed by calling the Campus School the epitome of the Jesuit motto “men and women for others,” and by expressing his hope that future BC students will have the chance to find a second family in the Campus School and be transformed by it.
Beyrand began by quoting the hit song “Just the Way You Are,” and then admitting that though it was out of character for her to seek inspiration in Bruno Mars, she felt the song’s chorus perfectly described the Campus School, a place where labels are cast aside and pure, agapic love is everywhere. She, like Marino and a sign perched on the altar, invoked the Jesuit motto of “men and women for others,” claiming that the Campus School taught her its true meaning. She, too, spoke of the family she has found at the Campus School and of the importance of that family not only to her, but to all of BC, also.
John McDargh of the theology department then took the podium and related a story about one of the first classes he taught at BC in order to illustrate how he believes the Campus School’s presence impacts life at BC for all, not just for those who volunteer there.
He was teaching in 10 Campion, a classroom that, 35 years ago, looked out directly at the driveway connecting Roberts Center to where the vans dropped off Campus School students each morning. One day, he noticed a student looking out the window for the majority of the class. As he was leaving at the end of the hour, McDargh asked the student what he had been looking at that was more interesting than his lecture. The student replied, “Oh, Professor, I heard everything you said. You were talking about William James. And James’ idea was that to be a human being once was to live a strenuous life, a life to pass them beyond the stars, a challenging life, and well, Professor, you were saying it, but I was seeing it.” McDargh asked him what he meant and he replied, “The entire 30 minutes I watched one of the students of the Campus School walk the length of the classroom. It took him 30 minutes to walk about 30 feet. That’s the strenuous life.” This experience, McDargh said, opened his eyes to the power of the Campus School’s presence.
Next, three Campus School faculty members spoke to the crowd. The first, Kara Moyer, a classroom teacher, elaborated on how being a part of the BC campus makes the Campus School special. She spoke about how going to the Plex and the Chocolate Bar, and climbing the Million Dollar Stairs are activities that unite the BC student with the Campus School student. She also stressed the importance of the volunteers’ presence.
“Not enough can be said about the number of volunteers that enrich the lives of the students on a daily basis,” she said. “The volunteers provide an integral level of enthusiasm and support for the entire program. Our program is enhanced through their daily interaction, events, and fundraisers. The commitment of these undergraduate volunteers is truly instrumental to the success and culture of our program.”
Next, a teacher’s assistant, Megan Hennessey, BC ’12, spoke of her experience as an undergraduate at BC. Her discovery of the Campus School in October of her freshman year kept her from sending out a transfer application to Penn State University, as her involvement there enabled her to feel truly at home at BC. As a student-athlete, she said, she had extremely limited free time, and she loved that the Campus School’s proximity enabled her to get involved despite her hectic schedule. She added that it was the Campus School that inspired her to run the Boston Marathon last year, and the Campus School that helped her heal after she witnessed the bombs explode just as she crossed the finish line.
The final faculty member to speak, physical therapist Carol Dove, began on a lighter note:
“I have a long commute, and I share a very small office with four or five other people at any given time,” she said. “I’ve been without a raise or updated equipment, and I’ve even laid on the bathroom floors to take on and off the toilet supports. But I love my job, and every student that passes through. None of us have a glamorous job, but we all have the prefect job.”
Dove said that it is not the facilities that make a place great, and that the spirit of the Campus School and the good that it does is present all of the time in the lives of those who encounter it.
As the prayer service neared its end, the 11-year-old brother of a Campus School student played a piece on the piano, followed by special intentions offered by Kelly Sutton, a Campus School parent. The intentions included Campus School students past and present, parents, siblings, teachers, and caregivers of special needs children, all special needs children everywhere, and the BC administrators as they deliberate over the Campus School’s future.
A prayer for hope by alumna Beth Brady and a closing prayer by Rev. Don Weiss, the father of a Campus School student, brought the evening to a close.
Morin considered the event a great success, especially considering the night’s cold temperatures. Several families had stayed in the Chestnut Hill area after the school day ended in order to make it to the 6:30 p.m. start time, she said. She also expressed gratitude to the large number of volunteers and family members of students that helped organize the event. “It took a village,” she said.