John Guinan talks in glowing terms about the pastoral advising program at Xavier High School.
“It reminds me of how special a school I work at, a school willing to put its money where its mouth is when it says it cares for the whole person: mind, body and spirit,” Guinan, assistant campus ministry director and religion teacher, said.
He is also talking about the foundational values of the school.
“At the end of the day,” Guinan said, “a Catholic institution needs to be a place that not only cares for the intellectual formation of the students but cares for the development of their souls, and we believe that takes place best in the context of relationships … that students know they’re cared for in a relationship of trust, respect and love.”
Director of Campus Ministry and Faculty Formation Peter Lyons noted, “It is also one of the many ways in which we fulfill our mission of fostering the spiritual growth of the young men entrusted to our care.”
“The pastoral care of our students extends far beyond the boundaries of the Pastoral Advising Program. All of our teachers and staff members recognize that they have a role to play in helping our students to grow in virtue, take responsibility for their actions, and use their God-given gifts and talents in service to others. Specifically, Pastoral Advising allows us to get to know our students to help them navigate the challenging waters of their high school years in light of their relationship with God,” Lyons said.
In addition to his guidance counselor, each Xavier student has an assigned pastoral advisor. The pastoral advisor for freshmen, sophomores and juniors is their religion teacher. Seniors get to choose their pastoral advisor from among the religion teachers, administrators and a small pool of other teachers. The pastoral advisor meets at least once a year with the student.
“It is good to be able to talk with students to find out where they’re from, their background, their interests, their challenges, their expectations,” religion teacher and pastoral advisor Brother Philip Revell, C.F.X., said. “It is a chance to know them more on a personal level than just the day-to-day of the classroom. I always ask them about their religious practices, their faith formation, and encourage them to take advantage of everything the school has to offer.”
Has it ever been easy being a teenager? Every generation would recall challenges, some universal, some particular to the times. Guinan sees one particular to the times.
“Right now the greatest concern in our culture is loneliness, and I don’t think it’s new to the pandemic,” Guinan said. ”I think we’ve seen it over the years. Students need to be assured that they’re loved, and with the rise of social media it is contributing to a culture of isolation and loneliness that can only be rectified with true relationships.”
There is yet another subtlety to pastoral advising that is different from other interactions that are necessary in the development of a student.
“It is not meant to be an evaluation or an assessment . . . in the sense of checking up on the students in regards to academics or discipline,” Brother Philip said. “It is a chance for students to talk about how their lives are going and to bring up any concerns they might have.”
By Jeff Otterbein