Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Celebrate and Remember: The Life of Steve Phelps.

A new year, a new semester. I came to class eager to see my students rested and yet reluctant to start again. Updates and (better) expectations, reminders and recommendations, our first day together in 2018, started with a prayer for someone they never knew—but whose legacy still looms large. The beat of his heart—and its complications that led his death—can still be heard and felt throughout the communities he served. Steve Phelps was a husband, father, brother, friend, educator and the President of Bishop O'Dowd High School (since 2004). He died on December 26, the Feast of his patron, St. Stephen. 
There are many graces to the profession of teaching and one of those is to teach young people about extraordinary people. Steve left SI long before any of my students arrived and yet he left an indelible mark—one that has a greater impact on their lives than they might ever know. His obituary states,
From 1972 -2004 Steve was a teacher, coach, and director of professional development at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco. He labored to improve the diversity of the school by creating programs that attracted students from every area of the city and the surrounding areas. Everything Dr.Phelps approached was aimed at building excellence in school programs, staff, and students. He was the recipient of numerous awards, both local and national for excellence and innovation in Catholic education and for service to youth.
Truly he is a life worth celebrating and remembering

With those two words in mind—celebrating and remembering—I realized how I ought to be teaching my students to pray. 
  • What are we celebrating today? Bring those events to God.
  • Wh0 do we want to remember in prayer today? What do we want to remember? Offer their names to the Lord. Give thanks to God for those events.
I shared with these kids the video created for his induction into the CYO Hall of Fame. Always an educator, Steve sought to leave the audience with truths he had discovered through athletic ministry. Amused by his nickname, "the White Shadow" I invited my classes to listen to his message and respond. 

He believed: 
  1. When we give freely of ourselves to other people we gain more than we give. 
  2. I think one of the biggest problems today, is a lack of physical fitness—and I see that, refereeing.
  3. Learning how to coach and relate to students takes time and experience in a way that is positive, doesn't belittle them, and doesn't involve negative interactions.
Steve had a great mind and a great heart—both are evident in this tribute. I'm confident that anyone who knew Steve as a coach or referee would not be surprised that he said, "to honor me is really honoring all the students, the boys, and girls who played CYO."

I'm so grateful Catholic Charities—CYO has made this video available. Those who knew Steve have been given a visual testimony that he is a man to remember and celebrate. And, for my students who never met him, they can now pray in this special way for him and for those grieving this loss.

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