A Jew, a Muslim, and Four Priests

Guest Post by Jeff Thielman, President of Cristo Rey Boston High School

A Catholic high school in the center-city is counter-cultural by its very nature.  Yet even in an era when religion remains one of the Big 3 taboo subjects, young people and adults at Cristo Rey Boston High School freely explore their own faith, the faith of others, and even the absence of any faith in their personal lives.

Every student takes classes where they learn about the Old and New Testament, religions of the world, and ethics.  All students take part in at least one retreat a year, community-wide Masses are celebrated about once a month, and every day two Masses are offered by one of the four Roman Catholic priests who work at our school.

You heard correctly. Four priests from the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo work as teachers and administrators at our small school of 348 students.   The students gravitate to them. At our fall Community Day, a day of reflection, activities, and a cookout, our Campus Minister, Fr. Franco Soma, fscb, gave a beautiful talk to the students about gratitude. He spoke about how lucky he is to work at Cristo Rey Boston High School. One of my advisees, a junior named Chris Young, told me that it was the best speech he ever heard.

It is uplifting to walk through our hallways and see four priests and their lay colleagues of Catholic, Jewish and Protestant faiths joking, smiling, and encouraging our students.

The other day I was chatting with Nada Shaaban, one of our sophomores. She’s a Muslim who lives with her Mom and two siblings in Jamaica Plain.  I asked her why she decided to attend a Catholic school. “I came for a visit, and it just felt like the school for me,” she said.  “I like the attention we get from teachers. They are always encouraging me, they’re always very positive. And, I like learning about different religions.”

Shortly before my brief conversation with Nada, I gave a tour to a Jewish woman who is fascinated by our mission.  I took her to see a number of classes, including a class that was discussing Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist.  She loved the discussion and waved me off on two occasions when I moved towards the door to escort her to another class.

In a world where faith can be exploited for political and personal gain and where schools do everything in their power to avoid any mention of the word God, Cristo Rey Boston High School is a place where a Jew can be fascinated by a class on Jesus, a Muslim student finds a home, and four young priests provide a rich presence to students and staff.  Despite our differences, we come together at Cristo Rey – a place where we boldly celebrate the reign of Christ the King.


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