Living our Catholic Faith in the time of COVID

At Saint John Vianney, we strive to educate the whole student – academically, socially, physically, and spiritually, but it is our Catholic identity that sets us apart from other high schools. Faith is woven into the fabric of school life. Mass is celebrated in the chapel at least once a week, if not more, and campus-wide Masses continue despite the challenges presented by the global pandemic. In early November, Father Garry came to campus to celebrate the traditional All Souls Day Mass. Seniors gathered in the gymnasium, while underclassmen participated through live-stream in their classrooms. Eucharistic Ministers then distributed communion to students throughout the building. 

SJV Campus Minister Patrick Smith says it takes a lot of creativity and hard work to keep our Catholic identity strong during COVID, but adds, we are thriving!

“SJV is demonstrating to other schools throughout the Diocese and across the country that it can be done.”

Student retreats are also continuing. At the Junior class retreat in October, students had the opportunity to hear from former New York Giants' Chaplain, Gian Paul Gonzalez. A motivational speaker, Mr. Gonzalez talked passionately about his work with the Giants football team and his “All In” philosophy that preceded the team’s 2012 Super Bowl win. Gonzalez urged students to use the same philosophy to be "All In" for God in everything they do. 

Mr. Smith, who also serves as Coordinator of Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC), says one of the most visible and tangible ways SJV promotes its Catholic identity is through the CAC program. CAC athletes celebrate Team Mass together before games and pray openly, often with their opponents on the field, or on the court. At the recent NJSIAA State Volleyball Tournament, SJV’s varsity girls’ volleyball team joined in prayer with players from Notre Dame High School. Likewise, our varsity girls’ soccer team prayed publicly with opposing players from Union Catholic before the start of the state playoff game. 

“For our student athletes, competing and living their faith is intertwined,” Smith explains. “Putting God Above the Game is becoming part of the SJV tradition.”

CAC athletes are required to live their faith on and off the field. Our varsity boys’ soccer team recently arranged a very successful clothing, linen, and accessory collection for Circle of Hope to support the fight against ALS. The team was inspired by one of their teammates who has a family member with ALS. Mr. Smith says CAC athletes used to to travel off-campus to perform service, logging as many as 1,000 hours of service annually at the NJ Veterans Home, but COVID changed all that. While he’s anxious for the pandemic’s restrictions to be lifted he adds, “We will come out of this stronger than when we went into it. I can’t wait.”