SBP Winter 2021 magazine Final 1_29


The Gray Bees Enter the Matrix

And Other Stories



Winter 2020-21


Cover Art by Grant Parker

Vol. 3 Issue 1

Benedict News Editorial Board Fall 2020



Reuben Kadushin Sam Pineda

News Editor

Isabel Garcia

Online Editor

Geovanni Lopez

Op-ed Editor

Yohangil Nolasco

Features Editor

Ethan Brady

Design Editors

Israel Small Anthony Mosquera

Photo Editor

Krithik Rajasegar

Cartoon Editor

Grant Parker

Social Media Editor

Davion Cottrell-Miller

Staff Writers: Diego Scarpone,

Aaron Clark, Jibril Shumante-Edwards,

Walter Pierce, Charly Rocano,

Sovereign Brown, Alex Michel,

Mike Cungachi, Julian Sierra,

Edgar Granda, Leandro Cordoba,

Troi Slade, Terrence Allavo, Emilio Calle,

Kiana Perez, Luis Suriel, Anthony Granger II,

Mekhi Vargas, Sandeep Singh,

Ian McGaw, David Decker, Jose Alcantara,

Joseph Jumbo, Liam Giuffrida,

Kevin Ortega, Steven Palacios,

Rafael Oliveira, Alex Benanti,

Wisnor Abbott, Simeon Brown,

Pedro Cena, Francisco Correia,

Emanuel Locke, and Akhir Crenshaw.


Davion Cottrell-Miller, Shelley Torres

Designers: Gary Hunter, Luis Suriel

Artists: Jahell Paul

Arts Editor

Daniel Bendezu

Sports Editor

Adrian Vasquez

Managing Editor

Ryciere Scott

St. Benedict’s Preparatory School

520 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

Newark, N.J. 07102

Follow us on IG: @graybeepublications

Faculty Adviser

Ms. Kitta MacPherson, MFA

Assistant Faculty Adviser

Br. Bruno Mello, n-O.S.B

Assistant Faculty Adviser

Ms. Elizabeth Lodato, MFA

The Benedict News Magazine is published during the academic year by the

students of St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, N.J. Our mission is to

provide a voice for the students and provide news of concern to them in a balanced

and fair manner. The Benedict News Magazine and

abide by the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. The editorials

reflect the views and opinions of the The Benedict News Editorial Board only.

The Benedict News Magazine and belong to the

Columbia Scholastic Press Association, Quill and Scroll, the Garden State

Scholastic Press Association, and the Journalism Education Association.

We thank our patrons for their support, including: Joseph Bakes;

Carol Ann Campbell; Noreen Connolly; Robert DiQuallo; Jorge Estrella; Jill D. Hall;

Adrian Kachmar; Thomas J. Kilkenny; the Lucas Family; Olaniyi Q. Solebo;

and Diane Curcio Walsh.

If you would like to be a patron of The Benedict News, please contact Editors-in-Chief

Reuben Kadushin and Sam Pineda at Thank you to the

entire SBP community for your support.


Keeping in mind the values of integrity, brotherhood, and community stressed at

St. Benedict’s, the mission of The Benedict News is to represent, in truth, context,

and fairness, the news which it covers. It also aims to give students a chance to

have a voice not only within their community but also in the world beyond.

Follow us on Instagram! @graybeepublications

Gray Bees Enter the Matrix

Gray Bees in the

By Isabel Garcia


Survey Story

Grant Parker

A survey assessing the impact of remote

I wouldn't mind going back to school because it

learning on St. Benedict’s students, conducted

has been months,” another said.

by The Benedict News, shows a divide between

those who greatly miss the reality of learning

On the other hand, some students are finding a

on the property and those who prefer the

silver lining in the present situation.“I enjoy it

comforts of home.

since I am able to learn at Benedict's online and

then switch over to my NJIT online class with a

In a sequence of questions covering everything

few clicks on my computer,” said one.

from remote learning’s impact on grades and

“Teachers are actually teaching everyday unlike

attention span to the adequacy of students’

other schools, (where) many didn't even see

home environments for educational purposes,

their teacher once schools closed down,” said

students outlined advantages and

another. “So my experience at Benedicts with

disadvantages for virtual instruction, vented

virtual school is a 10/10!”

about the loss of connection with friends and

teachers, and reflected on how this would help

While missing Benedict’s, some students said

them in the future. Of the 51 students who

they appreciated the effort teachers and

responded, 41.2% reported their grades were

administrators were making in recreating a

lower as a result of the present digital learning

virtual Benedict’s environment. “I love how

environment. Only a slightly smaller

Benedict's cares about our safety,” said one. “As

percentage -- 39.2% -- said their grades had

much as I would love to go back to school, the

remained the same, leaving the smallest

circumstances we are under will make it

percentage -- 19.6% saying their grades had

impossible for 700+ students to be on the


property without following guidelines. I

appreciate teachers understanding the situation,

Furthermore, the students’ feelings toward the

but still not allowing students to fail. Same

present situation of virtual learning

rules like uniforms, for example, but just from

corresponded with the statistics. Some students


were very eager to return to the academic home

of St. Benedict’s, despite the pandemic. “I wish

Some students noted that they preferred the

I could be in a physical classroom,” said one. “I

Summer Phase schedule of three virtual class

enjoyed it at first, but now I only don’t mind it.

days a week with asynchronous learning in-

3 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

between. “I feel as if Benedict’s is overworking

students with the 5 day school weeks,” said one,

continuing, “This is because the 5-day school

weeks are too much for most students. I would

prefer 3-day weeks or 4-day weeks because it

allows for rest days to make up for the amount

of work being asked of us.”

Alongside the scattered feelings toward the

present situation, the advantages and

disadvantages of online learning were also

recognized by students. “You can be at the

comfort of your own home, rather than having

to make the trip to school and remain there for

hours,” said one. Whereas for other students, their home environment does not provide an atmo-

sphere conducive to learning. “I honestly believe that virtual learning has hurt more than helped

me,” said one. “School normally is my getaway from the problems of my household but now I am

stuck in them.”

Despite the mixed feelings toward this new form of education, one thing is certain. A total of

88.2% of students surveyed reported that the online virtual learning experience could help them in

the future, whether it be in their future studies or the workplace. “You get to be your own boss and

decide when to do work, although this could also be viewed as a bad thing due to

procrastination,” said one.

In these challenging times, one student’s perspective covered all the bases. “I believe there are

no advantages to learning at home compared to learning at school because if you are a dedicated

student it does not matter whether you are at home or school, because you will always find a way

to do your best academically.”

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Interviews by Sovereign Brown

and David Decker

“As a student it’s a lot harder to push myself and

keep myself accountable to stay on top of my work

because you're just on your own. It has definitely

affected my performance in a negative way. I'm

tending harder to do things that were a lot easier

before. It’s harder to motivate myself to work hard.

One thing I have taken from online learning is

that I can do it and I know that I am capable of

getting things that need to be done, done. The

big difference is that I have no routine like I did

in physical school but in online class you can do

your homework whenever you want because you

don’t have any after school activities keeping you

busy from doing your homework.”

-- White Section Leader Raphael Jaquez SY

“The number one challenge is getting the students

engaged and keeping them paying attention

because you never know when a student will be on

a personal device or texting with someone else.”

“I miss being in person and the group feeling and

online it feels like one on one work and having to

call in people with unmuting and muting overall

just (makes me) miss the in person dynamic.”

“(Teaching remotely) Forced me to get creative

especially with making sure students have read

and understand the material and to come up with

different ways to make sure everyone is on the

same page. I have also learned that we can do it

whether it be for any reason that we can all still be

together in some sort of way.”

-- English Teacher Mr. Brian Delaney ‘02

“I miss being in class and having a schedule and

having a set routine and being able to go to

practice and seeing my friends. This has impacted

my performance negatively. I feel like I am just

writing stuff and not learning anything. I'm just

submitting work. I have had to pay attention a lot

more and participate a lot more and write down

more notes. I’m not just writing down key points.

If I don’t write down key details I won’t be able to

remember anything.”

-- Jose Robles, UDII

“There are practices that I have been able to

transfer, such as having students use a dry erase

board for French class for do-nows /quick

understanding checks. I have slowed down

tremendously to allow for all the technical issues

and make sure every student is somewhat on the

same page and on the right track. I’ve adapted my

curricula and removed some of the content,

trying to focus on what is essential and what I’d

like everyone to walk away with at the end of the

term. Everything takes much longer to be done;

waiting for students to log on also takes time and

can result in having to repeat instructions, etc.

when students show up quite late. I feel that the

technology is also making students more selfconscious

about their participation, which is a

huge problem, especially in a world language


“Although I am very happy with the way things

are going in FR1, I would rather be teaching in

person. For me, teaching requires a certain level of

in person interaction. Working in groups virtually

is NOT the same as working in groups in a

classroom setting. I feel like students also have

more difficulties creating bonds with their classmates

while learning virtually. I also use a lot of

gestures/miming for French, which is difficult to

do online.”

“I’m not too technologically challenged so that

part hasn’t phased me too much but the constant

connection problems do wear on me, mostly

because it is completely out of my control. The

most frustrating part is to wait for students to

unmute/unfreeze/type in the chat because their

microphones do not work…In a classroom, none

of that would be an issue! Creating a safe space/

environment is also more difficult online because

everyone is on camera at all times; you cannot

take a student aside and ask how they are doing/

address their behavior sometimes.

-- English and French Teacher

Mrs. Benedicte Thieberger-Kittinger

5 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

“You have to keep an eye out on everybody, because you know you can’t reach everybody”

-- Algebra Teacher Kenya Moncur ’15

“I honestly would prefer in person. I want to see everybody and talk to people in person. I’m tired of seeing

the same rooms, the same routine every day.”

“Going to school online is definitely harder. I feel like I’m not as motivated as I was actually in school.”

“It’s harder to adjust because it’s difficult to meet new people online. In person, at least we can see them and

talk to them, but online

it’s just like you have to

get their number, email

them, like it’s just hard.

I can talk to a few of the

girls but I wouldn’t say

that, unfortunately, even

though we have that

‘community,’ it’s still

kind of awkward and


-- Jewels Pena,


“It’s harder going to

school online because I

feel that the connection

we’re supposed to have

to the material isn’t as

strong. Sometimes, I

find myself zoning out

and having to catch up

on whatever we were


“We’re all separated,

so it’s hard to have the

same bonds we would

have in person.”

-- Johana Herrera,


Finding a Balance in Virtual Fencing

By Jose Alcantara

As I log on to our first fencing practice Zoom

meeting of the season, everything already feels

off. We’re in the middle of the COVID-19

pandemic and, for safety reasons, we are not

permitted to practice in our new fencing center

in person. We’ve decided to resort to virtual


with the team, I feel more connected with the


Once I’ve engaged with the team, it’s time to

exercise. I ask all the guys to stretch before

diving in to any strenuous workout. We move

into push ups, sit ups, planks, and squats.

Finding a Balance in Virtual Fencing

By Jose Alcantara

I was named the Captain early this fall. I want

to keep the team together during a pandemic

that is keeping us apart. Virtual fencing

practice, as wacky as it sounds, might be one

way to maintain our spirits, if not our muscles.

I begin to start up practice with some banter

with my close teammates. “Yooo how’s

everyone been? It’s been a minute,” I say.

I’m hit with a dozen turned off cameras and

muted mics. I can already tell, this will not be as

engaging as it would be in person.

After a few minutes of urging, guys switch on

their cameras. Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone.

Epeeist David Decker unmutes his mic and his

voice emits from my phone as I’m setting it

down in my backyard. He hits me with a classic

Decker line: “Can we get this over quick? I got

FIFA (his video game) to get to.”

I’m outside in my yard. Though it’s cloudy and

windy, I really don’t notice, I’m so caught up

in scanning the faces on my phone. One kid is

in his driveway. Most, stuck in their bedrooms,

have had to push back furniture to participate.

“How’s your guys’ grades?” I ask, trying to

maintain the patter. “Have you been keeping up

or is it hard to focus?”

Luke Amoakoh responds. “Yeah, I really hate

this online stuff,” he says. “I don’t understand

what’s going on half the time, it’s annoying.”

Everyone agrees: Online learning has been a

struggle, to say the least. After some catching up

We elevate matters. In our footwork session, we

make sure to keep our en garde form in check.

From the few guys who left their mics on by

accident while we engaged in working out, I

can hear heavy huffing and puffing. It’s as if

we’ve just run a marathon. In reality, we've only

done the equivalent of 20 push-ups.

I then ask everyone to stand up and take a

30-second rest.

“Next up, we’ll be doing 100 squats, split up

into 2 sets of 50. 3...2...1,” I say, adding, “Down!”

As guys begin to fall behind and not keep up,

I begin to slow my pace, doing my squats a bit

more slowly. I try to keep in mind that most of

the guys have not been doing any form of

exercise for the most of the quarantine period. I

decide I am going a bit too hard on the guys and

slow down the pace of things.

“Are we done yet?” gasps Joseph Jumbo as we

are finishing up our last squats. Fellow Captain

Ryan Teran shouts: “Nah let’s do some more!”

Alex Cruz, also a fellow captain, agrees

adamantly as he encourages everyone to stand


It feels nice to be able to keep the guys

relatively in shape again and to get into the

habit of working out like we used to.

As the fencing season is right around the

corner, we are still unsure whether we will be

having a season to compete in this year.

Regardless, plans have been set in motion by

coaches and staff to set up practice days on the

property so the team can finally practice in

7 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

person, safely and socially distanced. However, even this seems questionable since numbers in

positive COVID cases have begun to surge.

Despite the drastic change of going from practicing in person to practicing over Zoom, the

Captains and I are doing everything we possibly can to make the team as a whole feel like the

connected family we have always been.

Conversio: A Cafeteria School Day

By Rafael Oliveira

Pre-Post Convo

I walked into the cafe and it seemed more bare

than yesterday. There were about 10 compared

to the 20-plus students I usually see. Even so, I

liked being here. At home, all the days felt the

same -- sluggish, uninteresting. I struggled to

pay attention. But here, it felt pretty close to

the natural thing. I might argue it’s better. I can

interact, socialize with other people (under the

safety guidelines). Convo experienced this way

and even pre-Convo beforehand felt very

welcoming and even homelike.

Block 1

This block was my former free block but now

it’s one of the best parts of my day. My

Religion 2 teacher, Mr. Stephen Esteves, always

somehow holds the class’ interest. Instead of

being cliche and pulling straight from the book,

Mr. Esteves challenges us by applying real life

situations to the Bible. He talks about the

Apocalypse today and I think about zombies.

To be honest, I don’t like zombies. I like this

teacher’s more modern approach to teaching.

Block 2

Most students stay in the cafe’s main dining

room under the COVID-19 safety protocol.

However, I have Chorus class and, unless they

want to hear something that sounds like the

voice of Fergie at the 2018 NBA All Star game,

I need to go and practice. A few of us leave the

cafe and attend Chorus in the Shanley Gym.

Today we were working on the songs for the

Christmas Concert such as “King of Kings,”

“The Spirit is-a-movin” and songs from the past

concerts. From Mr. Joshua Mauldin's wittiness

and the fact that it’s pretty fun to sing, time

moves quickly and it’s fun.


This was an intermission.... I rate it a 10/10

Block 3

I had a midterm for Mr. Jon Marlow today and

nothing much else. Mr. Marlow teaches science.

Even though our class is virtual, Mr. Marlow

tries to make his experiments, examples, or just

class in general hands-on. He even set up a solar

system in the class with a sun, planet and moon

for the Earth’s orbit.

Block 4

I have English Teacher Ms. Hannah Stafford as

my fourth block; she's the successor to the late

Mr. William Petrick, who was the Shifu to

Master Oogway. (This is a Kung Fu Panda

reference. Please see movie. Or Wiki.). I have

another quiz of course, easy ace hopefully. Ms.

Stafford also helps at the Rowing team with

Coach Mr. Craig White. After the 4th block the

students move on to lunch, with a study hall



Experiencing the COVID pandemic has been

part of one of the weird years on record that has

included quiet and heartbreak. For me,

returning physically to the school is a very

effective ice pack against the wound of 2020. I

would recommend that students take advantage

of this. It’s easier to pay attention and find

consistency in all this randomness. So stay

strong, drink your milk and have a good night. 8

Making Music Together,

But Alone

Written by Dr. Jeremy Fletcher’s Jazz Band

Unable to ask students to play together for

safety reasons, and deterred by syncing problems

on Zoom/Google Meet, Music Teacher Dr. Jeremy

Fletcher instead assigned each of his Jazz Band

students to video record his work at home and

collaborate virtually to assemble it into a joint

recording. Then he asked them to reflect on this

unique musical experience. What was most

challenging about the process? When working

alone, which was more difficult to master - the

music or the technology? How does performing

alone and without an audience compare with

live band performances?And, in a post-pandemic

world, how will each one’s performance-in-

isolation shape their appreciation of live

performances? Here are excerpts from those


My confidence in my music has grown. This

is because I feel that, when the Jazz Band is

together in person, I need to be on par with

the other students there. Whenever a part I

couldn’t play correctly came up I felt

embarrassed to practice it because I kept

screwing up, so I would just play parts I

knew how to play and skip the ones I didn’t

know. At home, however, it is just me and

when the challenging parts come I practice

until I get the hang of it and eventually I get

it right. I realized that I am playing complex

and beautiful parts that the previous me

wouldn’t even try.

-- Alex Benanti

Playing in a band is more desirable for me

because the guys I play with have been

some of my closest friends since freshman

year and some prior. We have been playing

so long together that we just vibe so well

together, without being able to play with

them, our music is nice and clean but it

doesn’t have that same feel of camaraderie

and brotherhood. Thus, in a post pandemic

world I think that I would cherish the

moments that I have with my friends in

person and not take the little moments we

all share together for granted.

-- Wisnor Abbott

It has really helped me focus a lot better

compared to being in person. There were

still some challenges that I was struggling

with. Recording a video of m playing a

certain portion of a song was the easy part.

Adjusting things around my room and

positioning myself in where I can see

myself at a good angle has been a big

challenge. Another challenge was finding

someone to record the video for me.

Eventually I had to end up recording it

myself since nobody in my household was

available to record the video for me. I found

out that while recording myself I can listen

to the recording and point out any errors

that were made so that when I spot the

mistake I can go back and fix it.

-- Simeon Brown

Constantly being on camera changed my

view of social media by a longshot. Over

quarantine, social media has become

everyone’s major source of life whether it

was for work, school, or entertainment.

Social media has become really annoying

with all those people causing problems.

Being on camera all the time isn’t much of a

problem for me but it doesn’t feel the same

way as it would be in person since I can’t be

with those who I care about. I feel like

playing live in a group is better because I

can see the people enjoying the

performance in person instead of just seeing

9 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

their comments on youtube live streams. In

the post-pandemic future, I would view live

performances more seriously because I get

to live the moments that I had not been able

to be a part of for a long time.

-- Pedro Cena

of playing our parts and submitting them on

camera. It gives me that actual jazzy feeling

and it’s more fun than staying home behind

a screen.

-- Emanuel Locke

Recording videos and just being in this

virtual band has been challenging because

it doesn’t really feel like a band at all. All

we do is submit our parts and then listen

to the parts of others. When we were in the

band room I always loved the atmosphere of

listening to the band work and us playing

together. Being able to hear how loud or soft

I should be playing. I could know if I was

on beat and if I was playing the right notes.

I took for granted how good it actually feels

to hear music live and to actually feel how

everything works together. It really is a

work of art, seeing all the instruments blend

together to make one amazing sound and

how it all works and sticks together. And

when it’s live it’s even better because it just

feels so much more real. This time really

helped me realize this. I’ve been spending a

lot of time now just looking up my favorite

bands and just checking when their tour

schedules would come back up so I can

order tickets.

-- Francisco Correia

An aspect that I find easier virtually than

in-person is that I have the ability to move

at my own pace when learning a song and

I can continue to replay the video again if I

am struggling with one part instead of

waiting to ask for help or waiting till I get

home. Also, I can have the time to practice

on my own simply by muting my mic and

work on my part instead of in-person when

I can’t play at all because it would make

sound and disturb the other learners.

Still, I prefer playing with the group instead

The biggest challenge with doing virtual

band videos was mostly finding the time

where no one else was in my living room

making noise so I could do the video. I have

a very busy household, with my mom who

is a music teacher and is always doing her

work from home because of the COVID-19

Pandemic, and my brother who also does

everything from home as well. So finding a

time where people are in their rooms and

there is no one in the living room so that I

can record it is difficult. There were

definitely aspects that made virtual

recording a lot easier. As a drummer, it is

my responsibility to make sure that I carry

the tempo for the rest of the Band, so when

we are in person for Jazz Band I am

solely responsible for making sure everyone

matches how fast or slow I may set the

tempo. When I record with the play-along,

the tempo is automatically set so playing

along with something already with a set

tempo, rather than just having to make

sure I have the tempo stuck in my head and

memorize, makes it a lot easier for me to

stay on beat. Mastering the music is

definitely more of a challenge than the

technology when it comes to recording. It

is very easy to set up and make a recording,

but actually holding myself accountable for

playing everything right can be a lot more of

a challenge.

-- Akhir Crenshaw 10

Gray Bees Enter the Matrix

Survey Story 3

Voices from the Hive 5

Virtual Fencing 7

A Day in Conversio 8

Music Lessons 9

Table of Contents 11


Climate Clock 12

My Fear of Knowing 13

Our Nameless Chasm: Making Sense of America’s Senseless Growing Pains 14

Where Are You Really From? 19

A Quest for Who I Want to Be 21

Election Night 23

Trail Stories 25

Rowing With My Brothers 27

New Faces

Ms. Bimpé Fageyinbo 29

Mr. Akeem Miller 31

Mr. Jefferson Pereira 33

Mr. Stephen Esteves 34

(some sort of subtle divider here?)

Ms. Char-Lotte Searcy 36

Finding a Balance 37

Ms. Patricia Blevis 38

Ms. Ruth Rosa 39

Ms. Analisa Branco 41

Ms. Benedicte Thieberger-Kittinger 43

(some sort of subtle divider here?)

Mr. Alexander Modeas 45

Mr. Joshua Aune 47

Mr. Nick Swanson 48

From the Abbey

The Abbey Flourishes 49

Fr. Asiel Achieves Lifelong Dream 51

Becoming Fr. Asiel 53

Br. Robert Finds His Place in the World 56

Br. Bruno: At Home in the City 57

Br. Thomas: How to Do Lectio Divina 59

Br. Francis Professes Solemn Vows 61


Ms. Wye-Hunsinger: In the Midst of It All 63

The Kayrix: A Treasured Legacy Carries On 65


Soccer Season: Changing it up for Continued Success 67

Fencing Documentary Filming 69

Cross Country Season: Keep Running 70

CrossFit: A New Team Effort 71

Water Polo: Remaining Active, Despite Challenges 73


By Emilio Calle

A Clock ticks,

Will we

act in time?

By Emilio Calle

first number, in red, represents what artists

call the “deadline.” The second number,

in green, conveys the percentage of energy

available for use from renewable sources.

On the day of its unveiling, the clock

warned that humankind had 7 years, 101

days, 17 hours, 29 minutes and 22 seconds

left (to be exact), until Earth’s carbon budget

would be depleted, based on current

emission rates. This would result in

turmoil and suffering with more

flooding, more wildfires, worsening

famine and extensive human


IllustratIon by Jahell Paul

On Sept. 21, 2020, a 62-foot-wide, 15-digit

electronic timer was unveiled in

Manhattan’s Union Square by Gan Golan,

an American cartoonist, and Andrew Boyd,

an American author. According to the

Washington Post’s “How long until it’s too

late to save the Earth from climate disaster?”

by Jennifer Hassan, artists and scientists

created this clock, known as the Climate

Clock, in hopes that people will be able to

visualize the severity of the current climate


The timepiece displays two numbers. The

After reading the article, I felt this

intense rush of anger. I could only

think, with sadness, how the efforts of

others attempting to spread awareness

is so easily dismissed. It angered me at

first because it reminded me that

people continue to harm the

environment. However, after I reflected

on it further, I realized that the fact that

people can gaze on a symbol like this is

a positive thing. People will realize—at

least a little bit—that the earth is dying

and we need to do something about it.

We finally have some artists using art to

inspire people and raise awareness that

there is still time to save the world. It

wouldn’t be fair to future generations

to have to live in a world that is barely

habitable. The sad part about them living in

such a world would be what it says about us

and our present generation.

The Climate Clock tells us that we still have

time. It is our generation that needs to make

the difference. As Fr. Ed often says at Convo,

“Give up what you want for what we need.”

We have to set an example. Let’s be careful

about how we dispose of our waste. We

have to be the leaders to help stop climate

change. The change starts with you! Let’s

have blue skies again. 12











Written by troi Slade


When asked, “What career are you

interested in,” I answer with, “I would like

to become an astronautical engineer.” I’m

usually met with faces of interest, surprise,

and a hint of confusion. Though I may

never know, it might be because of the

complexity in the word “astronautical,” the

fact that I want to pursue a STEM career or

that I’m a Black woman pursuing a STEM

career. I feel empowered when I see these

faces but sometimes I worry. Do they see

something that I don't? Astronautical

engineering combines basic engineering

principles with aerodynamics, celestial

mechanics, propulsion, etc., to build rovers,

spaceships, and other outer planetary

technologies. A lot of big words for a big

job for a girl with big dreams.

I am aware that I may never have the

satisfaction of knowing what perplexes

people about my goal, but one thing I do

know is that the path that I am taking will

not be an easy one. Not as hard as a

Calculus II with a bad professor or a

thermodynamics class. Strenuous as in a

Black student, a Black girl, growing into

a woman, at a PWI, predominantly White


I tend to worry about my student life in

college even though I’m merely a junior in

high school. I fear the level of discomfort I

might experience. The stares, the comments,

the looking down on as though I’m the help.

You may ask how I know what “might”

happen. It's because I have experienced it

all before. The feeling of being a stranger in

your nation, something many know all too


These are all experiences that I constantly

think about. I view college as the buffer to a

lifetime of work and that work environment

is one to be wary of. As you may know,

STEM careers are not abundantly diverse

and it has taken many years of perseverance

from pioneers to get to the point that we are

13 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

at now. We, women and minorities, have a

lot of hardships to overcome, whether they

stem from racial insensitivity or gender


Organizations like Race to Action and The

National Society of Black Engineers aid in

combating that feeling of uncertainty in

one’s surroundings and one’s future. I know

this because I have gained greatly from the

support and insight provided by these

organizations and countless others. The

National Society of Black Engineers, also

known as NSBE, creates a web of

connections from the predominately white

tech and exploration companies, to the

Black and Brown high school and college

students, looking for a place in an industry

that was hesitant to accept the ones before

them. I joined Race to Action to finally have

a safe space where I can discuss racial and

social injustice and share my personal

experiences with others that look and think

like me. We consist of young leaders,

and wise advisers, waiting to take that leap

of action to a justful society. That action is

undefined, but I know my action will be

through STEM.

Maybe that’s what the faces conveyed, a

sense of knowing what lies ahead. They saw

the journey that I was taking, the action

components to a more diverse STEM

community. I want to be the pioneer for the

generations to come just like others were for

me. So when asked, “What career are you

interested in,” I’ll answer, “I would like

to become an astronautical engineer but I

also understand my duty to be a pioneer for

other women and minorities in STEM and

on the stage of life, inspiring them to walk

their paths in pursuit of something great.”


Our Nameless Chasm:

By Reuben Kadushin

Making Sense of America’s

Senseless Growing Pains

Walking through crowds of masks hanging like armor over black faces -- under eyes

glossed with a frantic panic, anxiety, or rage -- the strings of my mask teasing my cheek

bones, and the sun feeling close enough to fall out of the Bed-Stuy sky, I took the subway

on a July afternoon to a dentist’s office in Manhattan that had been open for a month after

its “pandemic closing”: A deserved break for somebody’s slaving employees wasted by

nightmares of job insecurity, a hungry fridge, and, possibly, the existential questions that

are usually raised when the number “100,000” is juxtaposed with the word “death” on the

television. 14

According to everybody else (which, when

we talk about race, is all who really matters,

in the way one can be Nigerian or Jamaican

or Brazilian, but just as black as the

heritage-less descendants of American

slaves, and in the same way those same

descendants aren’t able, at least with sanity,

to just call themselves Americans --

meaning one is, really, to a profound

extent, black insofar as it affects how they

can be treated by everybody else), I don’t

look related to my father. He’s been told

he’s white. And, similarly, I’ve been told

I’m black. My father picks me up from

a practice, or a class -- or somewhere my

friends dragged me into the deep puzzles of

New York -- and, at our joining debut, I wait

for a stranger's eyes to puff in surprise. Or

brows to jump in amusement. Or, if they are

feeling bold, shout, “Yo that’s your Dad?”

as if they’re trying to put together some bad,

racial joke, and we -- my father and I -- will

separate, stop our act of familiarity, break

into laughter, confetti and balloons flying

from the ceiling -- and will respond: “Ha,

we got you good, didn’t we!”

With the same skin as the men the world

has just watched murder black men with the

impunity adjoined by a police badge -- on

their phone’s screens; with the same skin

of the men the world watched for hundreds

of years, indifferently, employ rape, misery,

secularism, poverty, whips, bombs, slavery

(the skin of men who employed a relentless,

catastrophic suffocation of the dignity of

every man, woman, and child on the brown

corners of the world) and made all of those

words and images synonymous with

democracy, capitalism, “westernism” and

Christianity in their schools, and is

continuing to do so, every second -- my

father met me at the dentist’s office in a

suit. A white man in a suit: My father was

dressed up like power. And I’ve hated to

walk with him when he’s in a suit, in every

place that we’ve lived, because when people

who believe they are powerless think they

see power, they have to suppress feelings of

wanting to either kiss it, take it, kill

themselves, or humiliate it: I’ve yet to find

words to describe the boiling I’ve seen

behind some people’s eyes at the sight of

my father’s post-work nonchalance.

While the Black and Hispanic security

guard’s eyes laughed at the mismatched

father and son -- who seemed to step in

complete ignorance of the absurd, historical

satire the two, adjacent, represented -- the

walls’ hues of blue colored our step from

the hot street into the air-conditioned

building. We walked up the stairs of the

lobby, mumbling about my potential

colleges, and -- as he likes to phrase -- “all

this shit going on,” and trailed to the

orthodontist’s office. And as we made that

hard right, and I still felt their eyes on my

father’s and my backs, they unknowingly

bleeding so much of that too familiar angst

onto my neck, I knew that they understood,

regardless of if they were at the top or the

bottom of the building, in their black and

white suits, which, because of our nation’s

history, contrasted with their cinnamon and

ash skin -- mimicking exactly what they

were gawking at -- they were telling their

own version of the joke my father and I


I was saying something, and I stopped

talking because my father started running

into the room we were walking towards. A

sitting crowd of masked, black faces --

anything but six feet apart -- looked up,

initially wearing a militant though fearful

confusion, to my father screaming: “You



HOW IT WAS BEFORE!” at the older, black

woman at the desk.

15 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Photos by Bermix Studio and Fineas Anton, respectively, from Unsplash

Whatever was in the air transmuted to a

silent laughter -- the crowd looking into

itself. My father kept yelling at the

woman, who was -- despite what the crowd

assumed -- responsible, his tie sailing as his

hands pointed to the densely packed brown

faces, his face red like he was choking on

everybody staring at him, saying: you're

literally killing these people by permitting

this; this is one of the only offices that takes

Medicaid. She responded, first quietly, but

then raising her hostility to the level of

my father’s, that she only worked here, he

was yelling at the wrong person, she was a

working woman, life is stressful, my father

had the option to leave. With the safety and

wretchedness only a mob can provide and

facilitate, a young man peeled his mask off

to say: “I’m fine.” Like dominoes falling,

another man, his Yankee hat tilted into

nearfall: “Aye man, I’m fine; I don’t need

no social distancing.” I think everybody

clapped; if they didn’t, they did it without

their hands. When another man lifted his

phone to record my father screaming at the

woman, I saw the man’s logic coalesce

under the mirth behind his mask: “A white

person screaming at a black woman dressed

as a nurse. If I record this grotesque,

symbolic interaction, maybe I can go viral.”

A woman sitting in the front row went to

console my father through his uncalled-for

frustration, telling him something. He

responded, electrically, this is not fair;

they’re killing people. She, like everybody

else, didn’t give a damn about what was

coming out of my father’s mouth. The crowd

saw: she -- black, soft, wise, hardworking

with her own nurse suit -- met my father

-- entitled, ignorant, privileged, effeminate,

powerful, wrong, money, evil, white -- with

a cool voice, saying something. Like the

crowd, if she said his concerns were “not

worth the yells,” or “leave her alone,” she

was identifying with the woman at the desk

-- like everybody else -- and dancing around

the words: “Sir: we don’t care if we die; the

disease isn’t real because you are the one

advocating for us; you wouldn’t understand

this, but we’re used to crumbs; and I can’t

trust you because you look like the

landlord, the police, the president, the

governor, the Senate, the men on the dollar

bill, everything that doesn’t care whether we

live or die, everything that’s tried to kill us,

and our parents, and their parents;

everyone that owns everything we don’t, a

body of history and literature we can’t claim

because its lessons and philosophies have

been shown they are only utilized as

weapons against us -- and consolation for

you -- and, so, I can’t trust you. Because of

what you and your suit represent, no matter

what you say, I can’t trust you. Disappear.

Social distance ya ass out of this room, how

about that?”

Hell didn’t freeze when a crowd of African

Americans protested someone advocating in

their best interests, because of some

visceral, inarticulate, justified distrust of

who was talking. It wasn’t until later, upon

reflection, that I sided with my father over

the crowd. And after unpacking the layers

of that moment, the crowd -- its

infatuation with its own ferocity, power,

illogic, its voice -- I thought of Trump’s

followers irrationally supporting their

country’s, and their own, demise. I thought

of us, , and, consequently, whether that word

might mean anything.

It must be said: The divide we are

witnessing in our country has nothing to do

with policy. As one side recites with

pamphlets of evidence written in the blood

of our lost that reek of the gunpowder,

hemp, and tears that were forced under their

skins -- and that man, on the other side of

the table, in that very same house, with the

very same mother and father, watches that

party scream, cry, flail, and plead with the 16

indifferent, deaf smile of guilt wrapped

around his white face, the forces in his heart

driving him to watch his own family (who

is suffering in such a familiar way!) grieve

and, then, politicize and dehistoricize

murder have nothing to do with unions, or

contracts, or the environment, or socialism,

or healthcare, or police, or democracy, or

violence, or capital, or guns, or rights, or

education, or freedom; those forces only

have to do with the fact that he is fighting

for his life.

I know this because life is the only thing

one would, knowingly, blind oneself to


The men and women in the crowd of the

rally -- armed -- don't care what comes out of

his mouth, as long as they believe the man

on the podium sees them, because,

otherwise, they can’t live. And the men and

women exploiting most of the world for its

blood and resources, and employing their

rights to do so, know that if they let go of

their arbitrary greed, they, too, will cease to


To live? Fighting for life? You may ask

whether I'm even talking about anything, or

just making a literary romance of politics.

When I say that people are fighting to live,

I say that men have sat in corporate offices

and, weighing the entire existence of the

human race with their profits, ordered

someone to create propaganda campaigns

enforcing that climate change was a hoax;

when I say that people are fighting to to live,

I say that men have raised arms against their

own country for the right to own other

people; when I say people are fighting to

live, I say that women, with children of their

own, have ordered the lynchings of their

lovers -- knowing them to be their

neighbor’s sons; when I say that people are

fighting to live, I say that men have watched

and ordered the lynchings of their own

mulatto children; when I say people are

fighting to live, I say that there were men

and women, consciously, redlining

members of their own states and boroughs

into immutable poverty; when I say people

are fighting to live, I say that a man once

ordered to put 99 bullets into a man who

was fighting to provide the children of

America’s ghettos with lives that weren’t

riddled with turmoil; when I say people are

fighting to live, I say that these actions, and

all that they represent, were for what? The

economy? For socialism? For capitalism? For

the president? For a policy? For something

as vague as power? For something as

imaginary as one’s race? For, maybe, peace?

No. When I say people are fighting to live,

I’m saying that there is something almost

unnamable, visceral, irrational, but

necessary, and, therefore, very human

driving us to turn blind eyes on not just the

grievances of our neighbors, but those of

ourselves. And, consequently, when all of

this is at rest -- because it will be eventually

-- we, as a country, must be ready for some

equally human solution to what Trump (to

put a face to the force) has gifted us with

unearthing from underneath ourselves

-- where everybody lives -- to a surface --

where all the world can see. And that solu-

tion is understanding our humanity: that

we, as an irrational people, are not bound to

the systems that we create, and, therefore,

are at distance to everything we know about

life, but death, love, suffering, and failure.

Whether the orange man wins or loses, for

his presence in the conversation is

telling enough, like a child at the precipice

of adulthood -- when one understands one

is responsible for one's own life --

America is experiencing a coming of age: A

crossroads. As disparity and distrust peak

amongst her people, we are witnessing the

currents of our systems crash under their

17 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

own volume: hubris. As they age, she is seeing that her mother, capitalism, and her

father, imperialism, are -- under all their romantic vibrance and dignity -- as fragile as she

is, and, too, human. No longer can they protect her from the world they tried, as hard as

they failed, to shelter her from. And, as anyone watching their parents age and ready to rot,

part of her is in a childlike denial, and part of her knows too well what she must do. But

that denial is rooted in trauma; the symptoms of her growth. Despite what it seems,

however, the tracts of slavery, segregation, labor violence, colonialism, corporate

corruption, and tribalism are not where she bleeds; those will be the necessary phases of

her growth -- those moments are the calcium in the bones of her shins and her hands, as

inseparable to her character as the genomes in her cells: Her awesome power she’ll use to

grow and guide. Where the wounds are, are in the parts of her in denial of her experiences,

who don’t want to learn the lessons of hardship. And the hard truth we have to understand

is that she will never overcome her contradictions. She will try, but because she is

composed of people, she, as an entity, is very human, and for humans, hurting and

living are anything but exclusive. As with her parents, imperfection is what she so

violently keeps from the world. But this is where we step -- when we accept our history

and the social forces that bend us, we see that we are no different from any other country.

We are susceptible to fascism, violence, ignorance -- as we are capable of equality,

nobility, and enlightenment. We can fall. But we can build. And, understanding this

duality, we can use these times of hurt, blood, noise, lies, and tears as time for reflection

-- instead of a time of denial, exhaustion, war. When a man can be shot seven times in

his back by a cop, and his brothers and sisters are devoid of surprise, and when a man

can murder two of his brothers who were protesting the injustice that crippled that same

victim, and be praised by the commander in chief -- we are doing anything but going

backwards. What is important now: To see what looks like collapse, failure, ignorance, as

evidence of our -- coming -- growth and inextricable humanity. And our despair, at least, is

proof that we are fighting for and against something very important -- to all of us.

Photo by Kirk Thornton from Unsplash 18

Where are you REALLY from?

- The Challenges of being Trilingual -

By Terrence Allavo

“Where are you really from?” is a question

I am commonly asked. Often, I use the land

of my forefathers (Benin, in West Africa) as

a form of identification. Though many may

not realize or accept this reality, accents are

a major part of our daily lives.

After spending two years in the U.S. as a

student at St. Benedict’s, I noticed that

everyone has an accent. As a Beninese,

traveling to the United States was an

eye-opening experience that taught me

many things such as the racial

differences within American societies,

racism as a whole, and the extent to which

people can go to express their hatred toward

another’s race and/or nationality.


However, what caught my attention the

most was not only the realization that I

had an accent, but also the accents of those

around me. Prior to living in the United

States, I was not regarded as a person who

had an accent. In fact, I was thought to be

quite an eloquent individual.

I speak French, English, and Fon, one of the

main native languages spoken in Benin

prior to European colonization. There are

accents in Benin apart from Fon and French.

The most common accents in Benin are

typically spoken by a small sector of the

population that is uneducated. What makes

their speech, at least by Beninese standards,

uniquely accented is the consistency of

slurring words together and occasionally

making up words unheard of.

Illustration by Grant Parker

Conversing with someone who has an

accent, whether it be in Benin or the U.S.,

usually causes laughter and in certain cases

confusion. However, I am here to present

a new perspective saying that accents are

nothing to be embarrassed about. They are

to be treasured.

People with accents, regardless of their

native tongue, for example, may discover

they have much in common. From my

experience, multilingual individuals are

able to relate to other communities because

of the similar experiences with either

acceptance or discrimination.

In America, people have multiple accents,

either acquired from the region where they

live or from their country of origin. For

example, New Yorkers have accents

different from those living in Alabama

or Texas. To further illustrate, those from

the South tend to replace the “s” with “z”,

therefore, instead of “greasy”, they say

“greazy.” In fact, accents can be quite

distinctive, that you can close your eyes,

listen to someone speak, and predict their

origins, even, possibly skin color. Many

people suffer slights because of those


On my first day of school at St. Benedict’s

after exchanging a single word, people

automatically knew I was African. All I said

was, “Hello, nice to meet you.” For a day,

I tried to code-switch, altering my manner

of speech to avoid that conversation, but I

grew tired of that. I felt as a stranger

within my own skin, I was not Terrence

Allavo anymore. Students, including those

with the same skin color as me, frequently

teased me for my accent. I felt isolated, with

few people I could relate to. Over time, my

detractors eventually relented because I did

not give them the satisfaction of looking

upset. I did give them “a look,” however.

Unfortunately, having an accent is not

always fun. How you come across to others

can determine how you are viewed, defined,

and treated within society.

The hard truth is that people with accents

are usually made fun of, ridiculed, and even

isolated. By isolated, I mean that people

usually avoid interactions with you if you

have an accent. It is even worse when you

are in a school environment because it is

just constant bullying. You get the feeling

that you are less than the rest, a black sheep

in the bunch.

After experiencing all this, I still have come

to the conclusion that having an accent is

not a bad thing. It is just one thing that

makes you different from other people,

especially if English is not your first

language. Everybody should be able to

embrace their accents. They are part of who

we are. Similar to our skin colors, accents

should not handicap you but instead,

empower you to embrace what makes you

you. I propose that we own what we have

and see it as an advantage to the rest instead

of a burden. 20










illustration by Grant ParKer

As children, we were asked by our

teachers, family members, and friends

what we aspire to be when we grow up.

The answers came easily to us back then:

an astronaut, a doctor, a police officer,

a lawyer, a carpenter, or even a painter.

Our answers were simple and straight to

the point. We didn’t know about

different levels of those careers. We just

wanted to be like the ones that we saw

on TV, in movies, in books, or on school

Career Days where we learned about

doctors who could cure any patient and

lawyers who could win the most

challenging cases. When we said

“doctor,” we didn’t know the lifechanging

choices pediatricians or

neurologists face each day, or that

Written by Kiana Perez

lawyers don’t only work with criminals.

It’s not until we enter our first years of

high school that we truly realize that the

beginning of the path toward whatever

career goal we have set for ourselves is

imminent. We must start — very soon —

to make serious choices about our


For someone who is undecided on his or

her future, this realization can be

intimidating. As a UDII and someone

who is not set on what she intends to

study in two years, I can safely say that

the thought of it can be worrisome at

times. I’m anxious that if I don’t make a

good enough decision, I’ll spend my life

21 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

regretting the choices I have made.

The Huffington Post article, “A Reality For Roughly 30 Percent Of Workers,

Depressing Survey Finds,” states that of 8,000 surveyed American workers,

fewer than 30% actually get their dream job. I fear that I too may succumb

to settling. The cost of classes, tuition, and college overall add pressure to

make a choice I won’t regret; there is no room for a do-over. Typically in our

society, those with college degrees are looked upon as educated, but those

who are not truly happy with their degree are considered to have “wasted

their money.”

Conversations with friends about the future make me feel as if I’m not

doing enough. Most of my friends know what they want to be, or at least

what field they want to pursue. They have an idea of the directions their

lives are going to take. As my friends explain why they want to dedicate

themselves to those specific fields, I find myself not saying anything. In

those moments, I feel insecure in my own skin and wait for the

conversation to be over.

It is not until I reflect on the conversation later that I start thinking about

my future again. Am I into science or math? Not really. Medicine? Nope.

How about history? Not that either. Well, what am I into? I like writing. I

like movies. I like listening to criminal cases and unsolved mysteries. I can

be an investigative journalist, maybe, or even a screenwriter for a crime

show. After my reflection, I realize that, actually, I am full of ideas.

It comes to me that I am spending too much time comparing myself to those

around me instead of appreciating the fact that I am preventing myself from

settling on a throwaway choice. There’s nothing wrong with me. I am not

lost; I am finding myself. I am figuring out what I am genuinely interested

in. Even if my answer doesn’t come to me in bright, bolded text, I will

understand who I truly want to be. The time will come. All I need to do is

be patient and wait. 22

Our Future, Our Choice:

Election Night Thoughts

By Geovanni Lopez

Some call it the most important election in

modern American history.

And, happening as it has

during a year like 2020, it sure has been one

hell of a ride. As someone

who has just turned 17,

I cannot vote.


The voters’ high expectations were

reasonable, considering the professionalism

the job of President of the United States

calls for. However, the only thing on

exhibition that night of Sept. 29 was a

childish display of interruptions, false

statements, dodging of questions --

unfortunately, from both parties. This

resulted in the loss of the American people’s

time, with no apparent winner.

In the debate’s aftermath, many petitioned

for new regulations mandating that mics be

cut off in order to assure candidates a chance

to speak in the restricted time given. A

negative backlash swamped both candidates

and the moderator, Chris Wallace.

But I found

myself very

invested in the

progression of the

events leading up to the

November 2020 Presidential election.

The first Presidential debate between

Republican President Donald Trump and

Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe

Biden was a disaster, to say the least. What

should have been a civil showcase of what

each candidate had to offer as our potential

future leader turned out to be a true waste

of time for the millions of American people

who tuned in.

Courtesy of Unsplash

To make matters worse, shortly after the

debate President Donald Trump

was confirmed to have contracted

COVID-19 as well as First Lady

Melania Trump and the

President’s immediate team. If

someone were to have

concocted a movie plot like

this, I would have derided

it as a cliche, so obvious

and lacking originality in

thought. But it was all too


The health of the President was of concern

to all. And his illness jeopardized his own

campaign as well as the possibility of a

second debate.

A week later, the Vice Presidential debate

took place between Democratic Vice

Presidential candidate Kamala Harris and

Republican Vice President Mike Pence. This

time I was pleased to see a much more

productive showing of what their respective

Administrations would have to offer.

Glass barriers separated Harris and Pence.

They also were 12 feet apart, a distance six

feet wider than the first debate, a

strange-looking but necessary safeguard

developed in response to President Trump’s

23 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Coronavirus infection.

Questions remained unanswered by the

end of the debate, including the candidates’

stances on fracking, health care, and the

make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court. With

the question of another debate ever being

held between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden due

to differences over safety precautions, many

Americans feared that they would not

receive concrete answers before Election


Since President Trump recovered from his

bout with COVID-19 in a matter of days, his

campaign immediately picked up where it

left off. Instead of a one-on-one debate, each

candidate staged his own Town Hall

presentation on national TV networks.

In my opinion, this outcome was pretty

frustrating, especially from the perspective

of an undecided voter. Both Town Halls

aired at the same exact time. Even though

I attempted to watch both by flipping back

and forth, it was impossible to fully absorb

the nuances of each candidate’s thoughts.

Most viewers probably just watched one.

Some, like me, may have chosen one for

viewing that night and the other on a

subsequent day.

When it was announced that the last

Presidential debate would be held as a

traditional face-to-face one, it was very

exciting news for me and I’m sure many

other Americans as well.

This time around it was for sure an

improvement on the last. President Trump

and Mr. Biden seemed to have focused on

being more efficient with their words and

more respectful to the moderator as well as

each other. Each spoke without much


At this point, so close to Election Day, the

debate was the last chance for them to

convince the American people why they

were the best person for the Office. Their

narratives continued with a few questions

still left unanswered. Voters, armed with

more information this time, were left to

make a decision.

That brings us to today, Election Day.

Although many have already voted early by

mail, the in-person voting still does hold

great value. There may be little time before

we find out who will be in the Oval Office

for the next four years. Or it may take longer

as it is likely that one of the candidates will

raise issues about the legitimacy of the


President Trump, who has on the campaign

trail regularly questioned the integrity of

mailed-in ballots, may call for a recount or

a re-examination of certain electoral district

voting patterns. This could lead to a delay

in the announcement of the winner of the

2020 election.

City leaders in Washington, D.C., Los

Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York City

have braced for impact. Retail stores have

been boarded up in an attempt to protect

against potential civil unrest.

The country stands divided as ever,

anxiously awaiting the news as to who will

be the next President. Everyone is waiting

for a glimpse of what our future as a country

could look like.

This has been an historic election, with the

great volume of mail-in ballots and voting

enthusiasm being as high as it has been. As

someone who cannot vote, it is a great relief

to see that so many fellow Americans have

opted to have a say in who will be in charge

for the next four years.

And, honestly, I trust that we as a country

will make the right decision. 24

By Davion Cottrell-Miller

MISSING THE TRAIL: Student Survey Response

Due to safety precautions over COVID-19, the Class of ‘23 was not able to hike the Appalachian

Trail, the end to a more than two decade streak. Recently, The Benedict News conducted

a survey asking members of the Class of ‘23 questions about the effects of not yet hiking The

Trail and their thought processes regarding missing a central St. Benedict’s Prep experience.

One of the questions was if they still planned to complete the Trail, if required, to which 70%

of the 51 respondents responded positively. Respondents gave varied reasons for still wanting

to go. Some students just want to get the Trail over with. Others said they wished to feel a part

of the school more, while others said they wanted to hike it for the experience.

One concern voiced by the student respondents was that the whole prospect of taking the

students on the Trail in the future might be too complex to pull off. That is, planning the event

wouldn’t be complicated by the Class of ‘23 but circumstances may not allow for adults and

students leaders to plan and organize it. With the number of COVID-19 cases spiking in New

Jersey, there is also a fear that the Class of ‘24 could also be prevented from doing the Trail in

the spring.

“It will be difficult because we’ll at least have two classes doing the Trail at the same time,”

said John Mollozzi SY, “so they might have to double the number of companies we need to

have, and we’re already kind of short-handed in terms of faculty for the Trail.”

In response to the query, “Do you think you'll take the Trail?” some 33% of respondents said

they didn’t believe that they would be able to. Those who said they would not want to go gave

reasons like fear of catching COVID-19, and not needing to go through the challenges since

they already earned their black hood.

Some wondered which class would be the priority once faculty and students are able to re-institute

the Trail -- would it be the Class of 2023 or the Class of 2024?

Most acknowledged the centrality of the Trail in relation to Benedict’s culture. To the question,

“Do you think you need to do the Trail to understand and be a part of the culture here at

Benedict’s?” 60% of respondents answered affirmatively.

“Traditions are very fragile and you have to be very careful making sure they stay intact,” said

Associate Headmaster for Leadership and Community Development Dr. Glenn Cassidy, '90.

Dr. Cassidy emphasized the rough year the Class of 2023 had already faced. “This year's class

had a lot of turnover,” Dr. Cassidy said. “They lost two amazing teachers this year. So it’s extremely

discouraging that the class of ‘23 couldn’t do the Trail.”

Plans for making up the Trail somehow are still unknown. However, knowing how Benedict’s

works, the world could fall under Armageddon, war, famine, or even another plague -- but no

class in history ever got away with skipping the Trail.

25 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Lessons on The Trail

By Davion Cottrell-Miller

The sounds of rustling and snaps haunt your ears as you walk through the woods,

twisting your ankle on a rock.

Your legs weaken as the sun intensifies.

You want to quit, you want a break, you want to go back home.

You take in your surroundings and observe that all your group members are just as tired as you are.

Then you realize you aren’t alone. You were never alone.

You persevere through the days, though you’re struggling.

Somehow, you reach the end.

Traditions at Benedict’s are more than just the culture of the past. Our traditions are

the underlying foundation that holds our community together. None may be more

central than The Trail and the Overnight.

Bonds among Benedict students are so strong because we can relate to each other.

“Just from the experiences I had with the Trail, I bonded with a lot of my classmates,”

said Jose Alcantara SY. “So anytime I walk into a class nowadays, I don’t

feel like a stranger to anybody. I feel like I can reach out to anybody, no matter

what. And I think that was built from the Trail itself.”

The Trail is special because of how unique it is: no technology, just nature and men.

Nowadays our lives revolve around technology, with so many distractions holding

us back from self-reflecting and remembering what is important to us.

The Trail forces students to work together through rain, cold, and heat.

And, significantly, it makes you endure learning to share a tent with three other people.

We all remember cooks messing up the food.

Navigators making a wrong turn.

Or, just when it seems the group is hopelessly incompatible, Dr. Cassidy’s head will

shine at that 55th mile, and you’ll remember how a Benedict’s man overcomes every

and all obstacles.

Because five days in the woods is only one of life’s many 55-mile hikes.

Photo by John Verrone from Unsplash 26


Rowing with my Brothers

Before entering St. Benedict’s as a freshman in fall 2020,

Steven Palacios attended San Miguel Academy, a Catholic

middle school in Newburgh, N.Y., near where he lives. During

the pandemic, Steven returned home to Newburgh and is back

at San Miguel where he attends SBP via computers and trains

with other rowers in a socially distanced manner. He wrote

this reflection on what the rowing program developed at

San Miguel means to him.

By Steven Palacios

People that mean the most to me and that

bring me comfort are friends.

There are certain friends that I created a

strong bond with over the pandemic. These

certain friends would always put a smile on

my face. We would be in the same pain

together, eating the same food together, and

getting stronger every day together.

These weren’t just my friends, these were

my brothers who I could truly trust and care

about. We have our differences but that won’t

affect our bond. We come to San Miguel at the

same time so we can get stronger every day

and get to see each other, which is better than

just sitting and talking in front of a screen.

I'm safe when I'm near my brothers. I'm

happy when I'm near my brothers. We can

share our pain and find ways to agree after


These are the brothers who buy breakfast

when we are going to our practice. They give

me rides when I need one to get to school or

go to New Jersey. We hang out and laugh

together. They do a lot for me and this

happened because of a sport called rowing.

27 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Story Package:


Rowing made me create friendships and

responsibilities with the brothers I have now.

Without them, I don’t know what would

have happened. In the pandemic, some of my

brothers could no longer come to rowing or

practice because of COVID-19. What started

with 10 rowers for 2 weeks ended up

dwindling down to 5 of us.

Our coach runs the middle school I

attended before entering St. Benedict’s Prep.

Our coach's name is Fr. Mark Connell. He is

Roman Catholic and lives in Newburgh, New

York. Father Mark is a busy man who sits in

his office and works. He motivates himself

with equality for those who do not have the

privilege of being born into a family with

economic strength with high education. The

challenge of doing his work is to

raise money to

fulfill it. He

depends on good and

generous people who believe in

equality and equity.

Rowing is so important to him because he

says “rowing transforms the entire person,

physically, emotionally, spiritually.” Earlier

this year, he made us train for two months

before entering us in a competition between

our middle school and a local public high

school. The competition was called “the

ergathon” because we were using a rowing

machine called an “erg” to compete on. We

competed in terms of speed and how hard you

pull on the handles that simulate the weight

of oars in the water. It was scary for all of us

because we were going against older students.

We were nervous but Fr. Connell said, “Don’t

worry. I saw all of your times. You guys are


The night before the competition, my

brothers were all scared and nervous. We were

texting about the ergathon until about 2 a.m.

Finally, we slept, but we slept badly. Tired

and grumpy. We arrived and we got our new

uniforms from the school so we could

represent our school and show how strong we

were. We stretched so we wouldn't get pain

like a cramp or pull a hamstring.

We got on the machines and we started. Once

we finished, we all dropped on the floor

because of how exhausted we were. We

technically beat them and we got to eat egg

sandwiches and bread sticks prepared by

Fr. Mark. When we finished eating, we went

home and started texting the other guys how

hard the competition was. That day was a

hard day, but I know harder stuff is coming

my way. The ergathon is just a glimpse of

pain in the future and I'm going to be ready

for it.

FMC: What motivates me to do my work is

equality for those who do not have the

privilege of being born into a family with the

economic strength to access higher


SP: What are the challenges of doing your


FMC: The challenge of doing the work is

raising the money to fulfill the mission. We

depend on good people, generous people who

share our vision of equality and equity.

SP: Why do you think rowing is so


FMC: Why is rowing so important? Rowing

is important because it transforms the entire

person -- physically, spiritually, emotionally.

It’s one of those unique sports that requires

skill sets that translate to just about every part

of life for those who are seeking success.

Like seeking

excellence if you are looking for

success in life, rowing is a good skill to have

because it builds upon good quality.

Story Package:


Interview by Steven Palacios of Fr. Mark Connell,

executive director of San Miguel Academy of Newburgh, N.Y.,

Oct. 23, 2020

Steven Palacios: How long have you been at

San Miguel?

FMC: I have been associated with the school

for better than 16 years.

SP: What motivates you to do your work?

SP: Do you have any plans for the school in the


FMC: Yes, we have many plans in the works.

One is to increase the place of rowing in the

school. What I mean by that is we are

intending on building the resources and

equipment to support the rowing program.

We so believe that rowing is transformational

that the organization is willing to put the

resources behind it to build the rowing

program so that every boy and every girl has

exactly what he or she needs if they want to

be rowers.

Photo By Matteo Vistocco from Upslash 28

New Faces

A Poet Joins



By Walter


Ms. Bimpé Fageyinbo, a

new English teacher at St.

Benedict’s Prep, is in love with


A published poet and

photojournalist, Ms.

Fageyinbo is excited

about conveying that

passion for beauty

and commentary

in her new classes,

“Black Literature

and The Essay” and

“Creative Writing

and Media.”

Ms. Fageyinbo is

the author of two

books of poetry:

“so maybe that’s

the bee’s weakness”

(2010) and “what

was me” (2017). She

has also contributed

to “A Womb of Violet:

An Anthology” (2019),

archived in collections at

the Schomburg Center for

Research in Black Culture,

the Library of Congress,

The Beinecke Rare Book &

Manuscript Library at Yale

University, and The Free

Black Woman’s Library.

“Much of the work that I do as a poet and

photojournalist I

incorporate into what I

teach,” Ms.

Fageyinbo said. “I

am able to share

my books and


work with

students and

walk them

through how it is

produced, which

is helping me to

find synergy

between my

work in and

outside of


Photo courtesy of Ms. Fageyinbo

Ms. Bimpé Fageyinbo

29 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

She is an active member of

A Womb of Violet, a

Newark-based Black

women’s artist

collective, and is

currently working

on her third book

of poetry. She

also is

completing a


about mobility in


Ms. Fageyinbo

grew up in

Morris Plains.

Both her

parents were

born and raised in

Nigeria and she said

she was brought up with

their values of revering education and hard

work and maintaining close family ties.

After earning her undergraduate degree in

journalism and her master’s degree in

Public Administration from Rutgers

University in Newark, she started teaching

writing and multimedia courses at Rutgers’

Journalism Program.

When a colleague at Rutgers, Ms. Kitta

MacPherson, who teaches journalism and

writing at SBP, told her about the school, she

applied for a position. Now, several months

in, she is taking great delight in working

with Benedict’s students, both in her classes

and in her new faculty adviser role for the

school literary magazine, The Kayrix.

“I really enjoy teaching the classes,” Ms.

Fageyinbo said. “The intellectualism

coming out of the boys is what I look

forward to most. I've been able to maintain

my teaching style, which has made the

transition between Rutgers and

Benedict's reassuring.”

She is also excited to serve as the

faculty moderator to The Kayrix,

where she is working with its

editors on new designs and


Arriving at SBP in the

thick of the COVID-19

pandemic without ever

having been here when

the school was in full

operation has presented

its challenges, she said,

mainly because she enjoys

connecting with students so

much. “My experience at St.

Benedict's thus far has been a bit

of an adjustment for me, and perhaps

my students as well,” she said of the virtual


However, she added, the strength of the

ideas she discusses with students goes a long

way in helping spur discussion. “The

concepts we explore through our course

literature gives me the opportunity to speak

about the world and answer questions from a

practitioner perspective,” she said.

She looks forward to experiencing Benedict’s

“unique philosophy” of empowering

students in person when the students

eventually return to the building.

"Presence has its own necessary purpose,”

she said. “We do the best we can virtually,

but presence is experience, and that's when

we are really learning. So in its absence I'm

still grateful that the course asks students to

get to know themselves, and watching them

through this process in such a short time has

been so meaningful, that I look forward to it

in person." 30

1/7/2021 Mr. Miller(1).JPG

Mr. Miller ‘12:

A Senior Group Leader

Returns to Teach

By Alex Michel

Photos by Krithik Rajasegar

For Mr. Akeem Miller ‘12, who teaches English in the Middle Division, his return to

St. Benedict’s represents an opportunity to spend time with “once in a lifetime” people.

Mr. Miller, a former Senior Group Leader, joined the faculty of Benedict’s during

Summer Phase.

In returning, he said he has enjoyed once again spending so much time with the SBP community.

“The people from Benedict’s are probably people you’ll only see once in a lifetime,” he

said. He regards some here as “the most charismatic people that will change your life.”

As a student, Mr. Miller greatly enjoyed the experience on the Appalachian Trail, despite

many challenges. During that five-day, 55-mile hike, most of his members were injured and

most of them became discouraged. But Mr. Miller said he told himself that this experience

was “not about me,” an idea that spurred him to help his trail mates. He said this is the experience

of The Trail and he loved it. Mr. Miller would go on to become a Company Commander,

an experience that would allow him to expand his abilities to help others grow.

Becoming Senior Group Leader brought many more challenges, he said. He worked hard at

becoming someone the students could respect and trust to lead them. As he saw it, the main

task of being the Senior Group Leader was setting a strong foundation and showing how

things should be run. He learned how to lead and he also came to understand he should not

31 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

back down from any challenges that came his way.

Mr. Miller was born in Georgetown, Guyana, on South America’s North Atlantic coast. He

remembers it as a peaceful,

safe place to grow up in. He

remembers playing with his

dog and climbing trees for

fun. Mr. Miller was inspired

to teach English because he

spent two years in China

teaching English. But, with

the outbreak of the Coronavirus,

he returned to the States.

and took a job at Benedict’s.

His daily responsibilities go

as follows: attending Convocation

with the community,

serving as group moderator

for Fr. Nicolas, and fulfilling

his teaching responsibilities. Mr. Akeem Miller

On top of that, he has to devise lesson plans and grade mountains of papers. So you can say

his schedule is always hectic.

In addition to his school responsibilities, Mr. Miller runs a small moving company called

Roadrunner. He enjoys it and it keeps him in shape. Mr. Miller’s hobbies consist of golf, basketball,

and running his business because he enjoys it so much. As for golf, he tried it as a faculty

member and discovered he enjoyed it. He said when he played golf he felt pretty good at

it and continued to do it.

Being back at Benedict’s has allowed him to reflect on its meaning to him and others. “St.

Benedict’s is one of those places you could consider to be a second home,” he said. “The legacy

St. Benedict’s instills in you -- the feeling of being a part of it.” 32

Courtesy of

Mr. Pereira

Mr. Pereira:

Enjoying a Gap Year

at Benedict’s

By Liam Giuffrida

You may see him wandering around

in St. Benedict’s hallways with Maya,

a 5-month-old Border Collie.

Jefferson Pereira ‘17 has returned to

Benedict’s as Ms. Michelle Tuorto’s

H’16 new administrative assistant.

Mr. Pereira is now in a gap year from

Harvard University, where he studies

math and psychology. He decided to

catch the opportunity that Associate

Headmaster for Student Life Dr. Ivan

Lamourt laid out to him: to come as

Associate Headmaster for Academics,

Michelle Tuorto’s assistant at SBP.

“Having Benedict’s as a place to work

seemed like the right choice,” Mr.

Pereira said, smiling.

Mr. Pereira was born and grew up in

the Newark area. His parents are

from Brazil and since he was a child

he was always focused on his studies.

In his Benedict’s years, he was part of NHS as the Service Vice President, he collaborated

in The Benedict News, and he participated in rowing and CrossFit. He was an academically

focused student with good grades who really liked math classes, like Algebra 2, which was

his favorite class.

In the beginning, coming to Benedict’s for him, as he says, “was a lot to take in.” He was

challenged to participate in activities and community service and this was new for him.

But it was also where he started to help Ms. Tuorto in his free time. Both of them created a

strong scholastic bond that would eventually unite them again three years later. In fact, at

the question, “Do you consider Ms. Tuorto your mentor?, he answered: “Yes, in fact, I

started her office crew when she moved into her new office.”

This is not the first time he has worked at SBP since he graduated. In winter 2019 he helped

SBP’s former math teacher, Ms. Stephanie Kranz, to teach calculus. In this experience, he

left a good impression on some of the students, who reported to Ms. Kranz that he was a

nice and intelligent person. His new role now is to help the assistant headmaster and he

said he enjoys this job.

33 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

In his future, Mr. Perreira would like to major in math and get a master’s degree and

maybe earn a doctoral degree in data science. He enjoys teaching and a future as a

Benedict’s math faculty member would be a good fit for him, but he said, “I want to

explore what else is out there for me, but I will like to teach math here if life takes me


St. Benedict’s Photo

Mr. Esteves: New at Benedict’s,

Finding Ways to Connect

By Charly Rocano

Not long ago, Mr. Stephen Esteves was happily working as a kindergarten teacher in St.

Genevieve School in Elizabeth, N.J. The school was having a hard time due to enrollment

and finances, complicated by the COVID-19 outbreak and, in May, Mr. Esteves learned he

would be furloughed. Reaching out to friends who had graduated from St. Benedict’s, he

learned there was an opening for a Religion teacher.

Today, Mr. Esteves is happily teaching Religion II for UD1s. His class covers the New

Testament, including the Gospels and the Book of Revelation.

He is thrilled to be at Benedict’s. “The community is very welcoming,” Mr. Esteves said.

“(I) Love the place.”

While he enjoys the support of the administration and other faculty, he said he is given the

freedom to think through his subject and his approach to it. 34

“It feels very comfortable,” he said. “This

is the best opportunity to know how to

improve and perfect my role as a teacher.”

Mr. Esteves was raised in Elizabeth. For

high school, he attended the Academy for

Information Technology, one of the five

schools on Union County’s Vocational-

Technical school campus. Upon

graduating high school, he attended

Montclair State University and graduated

in 2015. He then worked briefly for

Scholastic Publishing and served in

California as an AmeriCorps volunteer. In

his time at St. Genevieve, Mr. Esteves felt

strongly that he was a part of the

community and discovered he really

enjoyed teaching and working in a school


Courtesy of

Mr. Esteves

Mr. Stephen


Mr. Esteves is continuing to enjoy teaching here but looks forward to the day when,

post-pandemic, he will be able to teach in person again. At present, with classes being

virtual due to the pandemic, he is working to encourage class discussion despite the

barriers of students feeling isolated in their homes.

At times, “no one wants to discuss anything,” he said. “It feels like I’m lecturing rather

than teaching.”

The present situation of remote teaching also requires teachers to work harder to get to

know their students, Mr. Esteves said.

However, the challenges are not insurmountable and following the best scientific advice at

present is prudent.

“I look forward to meeting everybody one day,” Mr. Esteves said. “I look forward to

being part of a community in one big room.”

Some time ago, someone prophesied Ms. Char-Lotte Searcy’s future. And, it has come to

pass, just as she was told.

The prediction came one Sunday afternoon when Ms. Searcy was discussing a Bible

passage after church with family members. As she recalled it, Ms. Searcy and her family

were engaged in a deep discussion and Ms. Searcy was arguing her point with great


Suddenly, Ms. Searcy’s mother spoke. ”You’re either going to be a preacher or a teacher!”

Ms. Searcy’s mother proclaimed.

As Ms. Searcy noted, her mother’s words proved prophetic.

35 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Girls Division

Ms. Char-Lotte searCy: Part of the PLan

Written By Mike Cungachi

Photo by Krithik Rajasegar

Ms. Char-Lotte Searcy

The former Benedictine Academy English

teacher can now be found in St. Benedict’s

Girls Division. She joined the SBP faculty

earlier this year, transitioning from B.A. in

Elizabeth after it closed. She encouraged the

girls to pursue a Benedictine education and

find a new home.

She is greatly enjoying being at Benedict’s.

“I like when they break you down and then

build you up again,” she said.

She believes that the school has a unique

culture. “I like how Fr. Ed will come up to

you and knock the chip off your shoulder

and say ‘pick it up and hand it to me.’” That

gesture, she said, helps to “humble ourselves

with grace and allows us to walk in


Born and raised in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica,

where she described herself as an “active

child,” she attended school in the States

and worked several teaching jobs before

coming to New Jersey in 2005.

After graduating from Central State

University, a public, historically black landgrant

university in Wilberforce, Ohio, she

was recruited to teach kindergartners at the

Tokyo International School. From there, she

went on to teach at many different schools

over the past few years.

She enjoys running and playing volleyball.

When she is less active, she likes to read,

watch movies, and shop for antiques.

She enjoys teaching so much, she never

regards any aspect of it as being hard. And

she believes there isn’t any school where

she doesn’t fit in.

Asked her goal for the year, she said simply:

“To deliver the best possible education to

my students!” 36

Girls Division

In Virtual Religion Class,

Males, Females Find a Balance

By Sam Pineda

Three young women in the Girls Prep

Division at St. Benedict’s Prep share a religion

class -- virtually -- with a class of young men

every Thursday at 1 p.m. This class is known as

the Advanced Track Religion 4 class, taught by

Mr. Stephen Adubato. This is also the only Prep

Division class that hosts both girls and boys

together at St. Benedict’s.

When news of the creation of a Girls Prep

Division broke at St. Benedict’s Prep, there was

some debate over its place at a traditionally

boys-only school, even though the intent was to

introduce a co-institutional model, not a

co-educational one.

Now, with many months past, female students

participate regularly in the culture of

Benedict’s. Female student leaders regularly

run Convo. And girls participate with boys,

also presently virtually, in two long standing

activities at SBP -- the Graybee Ministry and

The Benedict News, occupying, in some cases,

senior positions.

But the only class where boys and girls are

learning simultaneously is Mr. Adubato’s

alternative track religion class. Mr. Adubato

runs it seminar-style, encouraging all students

to contribute to the discussion.

Mr. Adubato initially wondered whether his

teaching style might be applicable to girls, since

he evolved it over time to an audience of male

students. “After starting to teach boys, I always

told myself that God spared me from having to

work with girls,” said Mr. Adubato. “I thought

that they would be too difficult to teach.”

Mr. Adubato went on to jokingly comment that

he might be starting to prefer the classes where

he teaches girls. His female students, he said,

show no hesitation in participating in class

discussions or asking insightful questions.

Further, they do their homework on time and

show excitement and enthusiasm in class.

His fears were rendered unreal, but his teaching

style and mindset did have to change. “I also

have to be conscious of my perspective and also

my privilege as a male,” he said. “The girls have

opened up about certain struggles that the boys

don’t have to go through, and sometimes I need

to just close my mouth and listen. I want the

girls to know that as a male I am here to listen

to them and try to understand their experiences,

and that if they ever feel that I’m dismissive or

belittling their experience, that they hold me


In this way Mr. Adubato has been more aware

of his teaching methods.

Mr. Adubato has not been the only one affected

by this change. His male students, he noted,

have also had to work at being more respectful

and aware of talking over their classmates as

they shared classes with girls. The boys have

become accustomed to sharing a class with their

counterparts, he said. So much so that

discussions have been held by the two groups

away from school time about material learned

in class.

The addition of a Girls Prep Division to St.

Benedict’s had been a controversial topic. The

school year has started and everything seems to

be falling into place, Mr. Adubato said.

“These girls are driven, compassionate, strong,

and caring,” Mr. Adubato said. “It’s a gift to

have been asked to teach them.”

37 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Girls Division

Ms. Patricia Blevis: From Lab to Classroom

By Edgar Granda

Through college, Ms. Patricia Blevis believed she was going to be a scientist when she

graduated. But upon graduation she took a teaching job and discovered that this was the

career for her. “I am passionate about teaching,” said Ms. Blevis, who currently teaches

science in the Girls Division at SBP.

When Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth closed earlier this year, and Ms. Blevis was

called upon to teach at St. Benedict’s, she jumped at the chance. “I love the girls and I love

the community,” she said. While the prospect of joining the faculty of an all-boys school

seemed overwhelming at first, she said she has come to deeply appreciate the school’s

culture. “I love the leadership and brotherhood that is taught here,” she said.

These twin ideals, she said, are taken seriously at St. Benedict’s, where, as she sees it, the

goal is to take young men and women and turn them into great leaders and to teach

teenagers to care for one another. Also easing the transition, she said, has been the

members of the SBP faculty and administration, who have been very welcoming and


Ms. Blevis grew up in nearby Lyndhurst and earned a degree in chemistry from Montclair

State University. She remains passionate about the pursuit of knowledge. She is currently

pursuing two Master’s degrees — in Education and Supervision Administration. Beyond

work and study, she relaxes by going out in nature, and exploring new places. “One of my

favorite hobbies is going hiking,” she said.

Teaching the concepts of science remotely during the pandemic has its challenges, Blevis

noted. Not all students have reliable internet connections, she said, making routine class

discussions more difficult. The virtual classroom also reminds her of the distance between

her and her students. She misses teaching in person. On the other hand, she remarked,

computers have opened a whole world of possibilities. “Now that everything is digital,”

she said, “anything can happen from the tips of your fingers.”

Ms. Patricia Blevis

Photo by

Shelley Torres

Ms. Ruth Rosa

Girls Division

Ms. Ruth Rosa: Heeding the Call

39 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

By Isabel Garcia

Prior to coming to St. Benedict’s, Ms. Ruth

Rosa spent two years in the Carribean islands

of Turks and Caicos as a missionary teacher.

“I was invited to go out into the streets

without anything (e.g. no money, extra

clothes, toothbrush) to announce the love of

Christ to those in need,” Ms. Rosa said,

explaining the call her church put to her

during the summer of 2017. “At the end of this

week-long experience, I, with more than 50

young women, stood up wanting to

evangelize and teach in the Turks and Caicos


It was there that she first discovered her

passion for education and felt the call to help

others, as she taught students Public

Speaking, World History, and English at

Holy Family Academy. “During my first week

of teaching, I instantly fell in love with the

students and all I was doing,” Ms. Rosa said.

“I knew from there on I wanted to teach and

thanks to that one event of being sent on a

mission, I am able to be here today.”

There was one particular event, Ms. Rosa

recounts, that led to the discovery of her

vocation to teach.“My vocation to teach came

to me in the middle of the school year,” she

said. “After the New Year, the principal had

asked me to teach World History for the 9th

grade.” “When I started, I began to notice

several students struggling on the subject,”

Ms. Rosa said. “One girl in particular, who

couldn't speak English, had asked me to tutor


“With my broken up Spanish and love for

history, I helped her!” Ms. Rosa said. “After

taking one of my History tests, she received a

grade of 68 and was ecstatic! I, of course,

wanted her to achieve a better grade, but her

homeroom teacher informed me that this was

the first best grade she has ever recieved in

this history class!” Her success with this one

student inspired Ms. Rosa to teach. “The

experience made me elated and want to

continue to make a difference in a child's

education,” Ms. Rosa said.

Ms. Ruth Rosa is a World history, US

History II and Human Geography teacher

who has become one of the newest members

of the teaching staff of the Girls Division at

Saint Benedict’s Prep. Ms. Rosa resides in

Jersey City Heights and living only minutes

from New York has allowed Ms. Rosa to

study Instructional Technologies at Touro

College Graduate School of Technology this

year and explore New York City’s rich

historical environment.

All throughout her life, Ms. Rosa has taken

interest in volleyball, softball, photography,

visiting museums, and, of course, history.

After high school, she attended Montclair

State University where she obtained a

Bachelor's degree in History. She later went

on to teach Social Studies at both St.

Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic School in

Brooklyn, New York, and St. Joseph School in

Bogota, N.J.

Ms. Rosa believes there is a distinction

between teaching at a Catholic school in

Turks and Caicos versus teaching at

Benedict’s, despite both schools belonging to

the Archdioceses of Newark. The most

visible difference, she said, is that St.

Benedict’s places great emphasis on expecting

students to take initiative and, essentially,

run the school. She pointed in particular to

SBP’s student leadership team. This focus

onleadership, she added, greatly encourages

and prepares students for life outside of high

school by giving them the assistance, support,

and opportunities for success.

Ms. Rosa has started a virtual photography

club and is hoping she will be able to run

meetings in person, if permitted, despite

the current state of affairs regarding the

COVID-19 pandemic. In the meanwhile, she

has many hopes and aspirations for her

students. “I want each of my students to

believe in herself because each is capable of

succeeding,” Ms. Rosa said. “That is what I

really want all my students to be able to see

in their lives.” 40

Girls Division


Ms. Analisa Branco’s Life

By Sovereign Brown

Her students'

successes are her

very own successes.

One of Ms.

Analisa Branco’s

former students has

shared with her,

she said, that due

to how tough Ms.

Branco was on her,

she would not be the

leader that she is

today. The student

recalled how Ms.

Branco would call

her and her

classmates out on

their excuses because

“I knew that they

could do better,

because they were

just settling. And

women don’t settle,”

Ms. Branco said.

Photo By Shelley Torres

Ms. Analisa Branco

Ms. Branco, who is

proud of all her

students, said she

has learned much

from them.

Oftentimes, many

years later, she said,

her students become

aware of their

lessons learned from


Born and raised in the Ironbound section of Newark, Ms. Branco attended Catholic schools

for 13 years. From kindergarten all the way to 8th grade she attended St. Lucy Filippini

in Newark (it has since closed). Afterwards, Ms. Branco attended the Catholic girls high

school, Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth. She then went to Rutgers University in Newark,

majoring in business.

Upon graduation, Ms. Branco took a position as the admissions director at BA. She worked

there for the next 15 years, rising to become dean. In addition to her career work, she has

steadily volunteered at her church, Our Lady of Fatima in Newark. “My mom was the

director of religious education there so I worked in catechesis classes,” Ms. Branco said.

41 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

After her mother’s passing in 2014, Ms.

Branco assumed the role of director of

religious education and assisted

alongside her pastor, until she had her

first child.

Growing up, Ms. Branco and her brother,

David Branco ’05, would be reminded

by their mother that she was not able

to receive a private education. So, when

she became a mother, she told them, she

made sure both her children had a foundation

in their faith, as well as education.

“My Mom would say that her bank

account might not have been big enough,

but she wanted to provide what she

could and she wanted the best for her

kids,” said Ms. Branco. “So I always

think of that as I envision my life, and

I give blessings to my children all the


Throughout her career, Ms. Branco has

committed not to let any negativity affect

her as a person and in the workplace. “As

much as the world today is full of

negativity, I think that you need to have

a positive look on life instead of running

into things'' Ms. Branco said.

When Ms. Branco was pregnant with

her son, Nicholas, she experienced times

where she didn’t want to get out of bed,

but even though her mom at the time

was suffering from cancer, she had to

keep going and press her way through.

“Whenever I feel like I’m going down

that path I always think I’ve been in the

worst situations and I need to get myself

out of it,” Ms. Branco said. “With

everything going on in the world today

like Covid-19, in reality, are we going to

live in fear for the rest of our lives or are

we going to have to have to move on and

do it conscientiously?”

In her free time, Ms. Branco enjoys

engaging in a wide variety of hobbies

and activities, which include baking,

crafting, karaoke and being with her

family. Ms. Branco hosts a baking club

alongside Madame Benedicte

Thierberger-Kittinger, who teaches

French in the Girls Division. Ms. Branco

also enjoys karaoke, and her favorite

music genre is country. In terms of

crafting, Ms. Branco is very creative,

hence why she has her own Cricut, a

cutting machine for crafting.

“I’m very crafty,” said Ms. Branco. “I

love decorating, especially for holidays.”

Alongside her personal goals and

achievements, Ms. Branco shared that

she has many goals as the Dean for the

Girls Division. “The goals that I have for

you girls is that you be stronger than you

were yesterday and aspire to be better

than anyone who has come before you,”

Ms. Branco said. “Make your mark on

this world.” 42

Girls Division

Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger:

Bringing Joie de Vivre

to Benedict’s

By Julian Sierra

Lyon, France’s capital of

gastronomy and chocolate

bouchons, a big city but still

walkable, with easy access to

theaters and top-rated

restaurants, was a place of much

joy to St. Benedict’s new French

teacher Benedicte Thieberger-

Kittinger, who grew up there.

Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger, who

is teaching in the Girls Division,

was raised by teachers. “My

parents both loved their jobs,”

Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger said.

“My siblings and I could see that

every day at the dinner table!”

Due to the fact that French was her first

language and that she enjoyed a natural

facility in other languages, Ms.

Thieberger-Kittinger decided to take the

“easy route” and become a teacher. “I

figured I would approach it the way my

parents did and it turned out they were

doing it right!” Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger


psychiatrist, saying “it is a little like

teaching you have to listen and talk

about things.”

She is enjoying teaching at

Benedict’s but is finding that

doing so during a pandemic

has its challenges. One of

them has been frequent room

changes for her. She was

moved from the library to the

conference room so the girls

in the Conversio program

could be in the library where

there would be room for them

to be socially distanced.

Teaching during the pandemic

also required at times that she,

like all SBP teachers, give

instruction remotely. That has also

presented some difficulties. “It’s

mostly dealing with Wifi issues on both

sides and that is a must when you are

learning something if you can’t hear or

repeat properly what you are learning,”

Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger said. “We

cannot repeat together which is a

luscious part of learning.” There have

been some challenging moments. “If

everyone unmutes at the same time, it is

chaos,” she said. “Those little things we

cannot do anything about.”

At one point, she considered studying

to be a surgeon, but she changed her

mind because of the years it would take

to achieve that profession. However, she

pointed out that she ended up spending

many years of study in pursuit of her

teaching degrees anyway. In some sense,

Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger said, she could

see herself being a surgeon or a

43 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger attended

college in her home country, studying

English and American literature at the

Université Lumière in Lyon, France. She

earned her master’s in French and

Francophone Literature at Ohio

University in Ohio and has an ABD (All

but dissertation) in French and

Francophone Literature from Rutgers

University in New Brunswick.

Before arriving at Benedict’s, Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger taught at several other schools.

She taught French Literature at Ohio University, French and Expository writing at

Rutgers, French at Madison High School (Madison, NJ), and French and English at

Benedictine Academy. Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger arrived at Benedict’s after the dean of

the girls' division, Ms. Analisa Branco, asked if she was interested in teaching at

Benedict’s after Benedictine Academy closed. They had worked together previously at


Now ensconced at Benedict’s, Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger enjoys Convocation and

appreciates how students are given significant leadership responsibility, something she

has never seen before.

“The emphasis on activities, I like that because we are trying to get them involved,” she

said. With Girls Division Dean Branco, she is leading a virtual baking club. She

appreciates the idea that, as a teacher, she could create her own elective offering. Club

members follow recipes in their own kitchen while viewing each other and chatting

online. So far, they have made many desserts including cupcakes, brownies, and cream

puffs. They meet on Fridays at 4:30 p.m. and go until they are done baking.

Going forward, she would like to see the school follow a universal calendar. She plans to

raise this issue soon. This would help eliminate duplicative emails. “The calendar would

be good, especially with the Girl’s Division,” Ms. Thieberger-Kittinger said. “ They are

new and they are trying to catch up and learn about everything being done. And

sometimes it feels like we have the ideas but we don’t quite know if it is being done.”

Photos by Krithik Rajasegar

Ms. Benedicte Thieberger-Kittinger 44

Mr. Modeas:

Teaching Students

‘The World is Theirs’

By Diego Scarpone

And then, there’s the incredible diversity of

the population in the New York metropoli-

tan area. “Newark is demographically more

diverse than Minneapolis,” he said. “In the

short amount of time I’ve been here, I feel

like I’ve met people from all around the


When he looks back at how he felt in

September, before he arrived at St.

Benedict’s Prep, Mr. Alexander Modeas

thinks of an eager kid from Minnesota,

fresh out of college, thrilled to be headed

for a place he’s never been.

“I was excited,” said Mr. Modeas,

describing his emotions as he boarded a

plane for Newark. He had heard so many

positive things about the school and

community from classmates at St. John’s

University who were former Benedict’s

students. “It was always something I really

wanted to see in person and experience,” he


Today, as a Benedictine Volunteer at SBP,

he is busy teaching “Political Science:

Introduction Towards Peace” and

co-directing a new “Politics and

Leadership” club. While the country may

be polarized over political ideas, students

still need to be active and engaged. He

said,“This stuff is important.”

And all the good things he had heard about

the school from his friends have proven to

be true. He is so happy to be at Benedict’s.

First, there’s the weather advantage. “The

weather is different for sure,” he said. “Even

though it gets cold in Newark, many of my

friends in Minnesota are jealous of me that

I escaped early snowfall and wind chills.”

45 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

He enjoys weekly trips to the local grocery

store with the two other Benedictine

Volunteers, which gives them a taste of the

city. Due to safety precautions during the

pandemic, his explorations have been

limited. He has, however, enjoyed

watching the school’s championship soccer

team, where he cheered on the Gray Bees.

Mr. Modeas was born in Minneapolis and

raised in nearby Eden Prairie. He attended

local public schools. It was there he found

his love for politics, specifically from a high

school civics teacher who would go on to

become a prominent state legislator.

At St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota, he

continued to pursue his interest in politics,

majoring in political science. While

participating in a teaching abroad program

in South Africa, he learned that he loved

teaching. The experience also opened his

mind to the importance of travel.

“I learned alot about people, places, and the

world,” he said. “It was an awesome

experience putting myself in places where I

can meet new people and learn new things.”

He knew he wanted to pursue more

teaching experiences. College friends who

happened to be Benedict’s graduates

provided the necessary link for the

Volunteer opportunity.

“They kept telling me about Benedict’s,” he

said. “Once I learned more about the

Volunteer program and the opportunity

to go, I definitely wanted to

pursue it.”

Teaching remotely during the pandemic,

Mr. Modeas said, has its challenges. But he

sees himself as having an advantage

because he studied remotely as a college

student during the final months of his

senior year.

“Having that experience as a student for a

little bit helped me understand how I want

to go about teaching my class.” Mr. Modeas

is looking forward to incorporating politics

into his presentations and expects to have

an exciting year. What does he most want

students to remember?

“I want the students to understand that the

world is theirs and opportunities are

everywhere,” he said. “And a school like

Benedict’s, that prides itself on so many

amazing values and beliefs, I think that you

are all able to be amazing changemakers in

the world.”

Photo courtesy of Mr. Modeas

Mr. Alexander Modeas 46

Mr. Aune:


the Plan

By Aaron Clark

Mr. Joshua Aune has a set plan for his life. This year, serving

as a Benedictine Volunteer is part of it. Mr. Aune has dreams

of going into the medical field, so teaching about science is a

key aspect of the path he has chosen for himself. Presently,

he is teaching Microbiology at SBP. After his year here as a

volunteer is finished, he plans to return to his hometown and

find a position in the health field. “I very much enjoy

teaching,” Mr. Aune said. “There’s something new every day.

But teaching here this one year gives me the opportunity to go

back to North Dakota and enter the medical field.

Originally from North Dakota, Mr. Aune spent a large part of his youth playing ice hockey

and working toward his dream of becoming a professional player. While that dream

did not pan out for Mr. Aune, that did not stop him from continuing to play in college. He

attended college at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, where he earned a degree

in integrated health science and played both hockey and lacrosse. “I played lacrosse in

college, but hockey is where my heart was at,” he said. He is also an avid skier, hiker, and

fly fisherman.

He has always looked forward to Christmas, his favorite holiday, for many reasons but

especially for its place on the calendar in one of the coldest months of the year. He relishes

the holiday spirit and likes exchanging gifts. He expects to enjoy spending it in New Jersey,

as well.

When Mr. Aune first started teaching

at St. Benedict’s, he didn’t know what

to expect and felt unsure of himself.

Now, with time, he is enjoying the

exchange with students. “Coming to

New Jersey was a big change for me

and I wasn’t too sure of it at first,” Mr.

Aune said. “But now it’s like I’m back

at home.”

Photo by

Davion Cottrell-Miller

Mr. Joshua Aune

47 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Mr. Swanson:

Exploring Teaching and the World

Written By

Jibril Shumate-Edwards

While in college, Mr. Nick Leer

Swanson worked for various politicians

in the Democratic Party in Minnesota.

The experience gave him an inside look

at how politics works in the real world

and the sense that he might want to

someday pursue a career in politics.

Photo by Davion Cottrell-Miller

Mr. Nick Swanson

Now, as a Benedictine Volunteer at St.

Benedict’s Prep, Mr. Swanson is teaching

“Politics and Political Life.”

"I really wanted to do teaching because I

love watching and helping others grow,"

he said.

He has set high goals for his students. He

wants to see them do the best they can

and for students to emerge from his class

with more knowledge than they

arrived with. He assigns homework

every night, as well as non-fiction work.

This includes Bryan Stevenson’s book,

Just Mercy, which depicts the attorney’s

efforts to defend death row clients who

have been mistreated in the justice

system due to race.

Mr. Swanson was raised in Plymouth,

Minnesota. He said he loved the

environment there. It was very beautiful

with a lot of woods. Although Minnesota

is often a very cold place, he said he had

a very happy and warm childhood. He

attended public schools and then went

to St. John’s University in Collegeville,

Minnesota, where he graduated with a

degree in political science.

Coming out of college, he wanted to be

a teacher and teach others about politics.

He also contemplated the idea of

becoming a government official or a

politician. He decided to become a

Benedictine Volunteer at Benedict’s to

explore whether he wants to pursue a

career as a teacher. 48

Newark Abbey Flourishes

By Luis Suriel

It all started when Br. Thomas Aquinas

Hall, O.S.B. ‘06 joined Newark Abbey in

2013. By the time he made Solemn Vows

in 2017, he had been joined by two others,

Br. Simon Clayton, O.S.B. ‘08 and Fr. Asiel

Rodriguez, O.S.B. This was the beginning

of the current trend of younger men

beginning their monastic lives at Newark

Abbey. Nine new monks have joined the

monastery in the past five years alone.

The recent uptick in vocations is largely the

result of the work of Fr. Asiel, with the help

of Director of Formation Fr. Albert Holtz,

O.S.B. ‘60 and Vocations Director Br. Patrick

Winbush, O.S.B, to connect with men

interested in the monastic life through

social media and personal interaction. Early

in his time at Newark Abbey, Fr. Asiel

began growing the monastery’s presence on

social media and created an Instagram

account for the Abbey.

These forays into social media were

uncharted territory for the monks. In the

past, "people came into the monastery and

they would knock on our door and ask if

they can be monks,” Fr. Asiel said. “It was a

lot easier, but it doesn’t work that way

anymore and we had to confront it.”

The new online endeavor has already paid

dividends. Br. Robert of Molesme Islas,

O.S.B., who made his Simple Vows in

October 2020, first encountered the

monastery through its Facebook page and

one of the current novices, Br. Bruno Mello,

nO.S.B., first arrived at the Abbey through

the Benedictine Volunteer Program, which

he learned about from the Abbey website.

Social media isn’t the only recruitment tool

the monks use nowadays. Old fashioned per-

son-to-person interaction works just as well.

From the Abbey

Two of the younger monks living in the

monastery right now, Br. Mark M. Dilone,

O.S.B. and Br. Mariano Franco-Mendez,

O.S.B., met Fr. Asiel when he was on a trip

to Minnesota three years ago. Both were

members of different religious

communities, but were interested in the

monastic life and decided to come to

Newark in large part because of their

interactions with Fr. Asiel. Another Fr.

Asiel connection is the Abbey’s other

novice, Br. Rafael Gonzalez, nO.S.B., who

lived in Spain with Fr. Asiel when both

were Augustinian friars.

These newer monks are looking for a

monastic place where they can devote

themselves to prayer, work, and community.

This desire for a uniquely monastic way of

life can be seen in the names of the

youngest monks. When a man becomes a

novice (on his way to becoming a monk) he

is given a new name, usually in honor of a

saint. The three most recent names Abbot

Melvin Valvano, O.S.B. ‘56 has given to

new novices are Robert, Rafael, and Bruno.

All three are the names of saints who were

monks, showing these young men’s desire

to lead lives of silence, prayer, and


One can live a monastic life in many

different places, but a monastery in the

heart of a city is very unique. This unusual

arrangement is very appealing to the young

men joining Newark Abbey. These young

monks “not only want to grow spiritually

in the Lord, but they want to give witness to

the joy of the Gospel,” said Fr. Maximilian

Buonocore, O.S.B. H'15, “they have ample

opportunities for that both within the

cloister of Newark Abbey, at St. Benedict’s,

St. Mary’s Church, the Pierre Toussaint

Food Pantry, and the many other ministries

in the Archdiocese of Newark in which we


49 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Another important factor drawing men to

join Newark Abbey is the strong emphasis

on community. “Communal fellowship is so

vital to promoting and supporting

spiritual growth,”said Fr. Maximilian, “and

this is what they are seeking primarily.”

New monks find community in every

space of the Abbey grounds, from the

faculty and students of St. Benedict’s

Prep, to the parishioners of St.

Mary’s Church, and most

especially with their brother

monks within the monastery.

The new generation of monks is

bringing changes to the

monastery. There is an energy

and joy brought by youth that

has reinvigorated the monastic

Part of the adjustment to monastic life for

the new monks is taking on responsibilities

around the property. All the monks’

primary responsibility is to pray. In

addition to prayer, the new monks

have work assignments. Br. Rafael

and Br. Bruno coordinate Abbey

Publicity and run the Abbey’s

social media platforms. Br. Mark

teaches history and

religion at Benedict’s. Br.

Robert and Br. Mariano

will be taking classes at

Seton Hall University next


These various tasks and

responsibilities are all

part of the monastic life,

Photo courtesy of Newark Abbey

community of Newark Abbey. In addition

to these intangibles, new monks bring their

own skills and talents, such as writing icons

or playing the organ.

All of the activity around the monastery has

created a hopeful atmosphere. “I have been

here for about 51 years,” Fr. Albert said,

noting that seeing so many younger monks

join the monastery is “very uplifting.”

which balances prayer and work.

“Sometimes I’ll get all excited for a

beautiful liturgy with music and incense

and I’ll think, ‘Yes, this is what monastic life

is like! I want to go do something

monastic!’” said Br. Bruno, “and then I have

to go clean a bathroom. I have to remember

that cleaning bathrooms is just as monastic

as liturgy. Prayer and work - both are holy.” 50

Fr. Asiel Achieves Lifelong Dream

Written By Anthony Granger


Photo by Krithik Rajasegar

Born in Camagüey, Cuba, Fr. Asiel Maria

Rodriguez, O.S.B., has made long strides

to get to where he is now. He started off

as an innocent child in a Communist

community and on November 24, he was

ordained a priest in the Benedictine

Abbey of Newark’s St. Mary’s Church.

Growing up, everything was hard. Due

to political issues, Cubans suffered

severe economic problems during the

time Fr. Asiel was growing up in the

early 1990s. The Soviet Union dissolved

the same year Fr. Asiel was born, leaving

Cuba without the political or financial

support of its greatest ally. Ports shut

down, and the island suffered. There

were even problems in Fr. Asiel’s family,

such as a divorce, but he stuck through


Fr. Asiel matured at a very young age

and found comfort and inspiration in

the Catholic faith, despite being at times

unable to practice his religion publically.

When he finally left Cuba as a

teenager, he moved with his family to

Union City, New Jersey, in Hudson

County. He found a vibrant Cuban

community and a place where he could


It was in Union City that he first walked

into a church through the front doors. In

Cuba, he always had to go discreetly

through the backdoor or through the

basement. He was enthralled and ecstatic

with this newfound freedom.

“Back in Cuba, there were not many

priests,” he said. “I became a priest

because there were not many where I

was born.”

He wanted to be a priest as a child in

Cuba, but seeing the vibrant religious

community in the U.S. really sparked his


Eventually, Fr. Asiel found Newark

Abbey and St. Benedict’s Prep.

“I never knew there were monks in the

city,” he said. “Most monasteries in the

world are usually isolated in the

middle of nowhere. The uniqueness of

the school, the welcoming community, I

knew I would love it here!”

Anyone attending Benedict’s will sooner

or later come across Fr. Asiel in the

cafeteria or the hallways. He is one of the

faculty moderators for Fr. Thomas Long,

and teaches a multitude of subjects,

including New Testament, Spanish 1,

and English as a Second Language. As

the monastery’s Formation Socius, he

accompanies the novices in their

monastic formation. He is also the

Infirmarian, nursing anyone in the

monastery who is sick back to health.

Outside of school and the monastery he

is a relaxed man. He listens to many

different types of music, of which

classical is his favorite. He goes for

walks and runs or he may just write

poetry, essays, and non-fiction in his free

time. His favorite genre when it comes

to reading is comedy, and anything that

makes him laugh is a-okay with him.

He aspires to be an inspiration to all and

advises his students: “Live so you are

able to say that ‘You did this’ rather than

say ‘I wish I would have done this.’” 50 52

Becoming “Father Asiel”

Written By Ethan Brady Photo by Krithik Rajasegar

In a serene ceremony replete with sacred

traditions, some traceable to the Apostles,

Asiel Maria Rodriguez, O.S.B. was ordained

a Roman Catholic priest on Tuesday, Nov.

24, in the Benedictine Abbey of Newark’s

St. Mary’s Church, becoming “Father Asiel.”

With dozens in attendance, all socially

distanced and wearing masks due to

stringent pandemic-induced safety

precautions, the 29-year-old Benedictine

monk, wearing white and gold vestments,

was blessed and anointed, achieving his

life’s dream of joining the ranks of the

priesthood. The Rite of Ordination to the

Priesthood was performed by the

Most Reverend Manuel A. Cruz,

Auxiliary Bishop of the

Archdiocese of Newark.

Sacrament of Holy Orders, becoming a


The Ordination Mass began with a

procession that included Bishop Cruz, Fr.

Asiel, Abbot Melvin Valvano, O.S.B. ‘56

every monk of Newark Abbey, monks from

St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, and

Augustinian friars from St. Augustine

Parish in Union City, Fr. Asiel’s home


After some opening prayers, a number of

Bible passages were read aloud by both lay

people and monks. Each reading was

chosen specifically for the Rite of

Ordination and touched upon themes of

divine election and the importance carrying

on the work of Jesus within the Church.

Honoring Fr. Asiel’s Cuban heritage and his

family members present, the readings and

prayers of the Mass alternated between

English and Spanish.

“The priesthood is a gift,”

Bishop Cruz said, “it is not

for us receiving first but

rather in our serving first,

and then receiving much

more than ever dreamed

of. Therefore we are

constantly reminded

that everything we

have and we receive

is ultimately a gift.”

The Rite of

Ordination to the

Priesthood, which

always takes place

during the Holy

Sacrifice of the Mass,

is the ritual - full of

ancient prayers and

symbolism - by which a

man receives the

Fr. Asiel Rodriguez, O.S.B.

53 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

The Rite of Ordination itself began

after the Gospel reading with the

“Calling of the Candidate.” In this part of

the liturgy, Br. Asiel was called by name

to approach the bishop. Bishop Cruz

then inquired of Abbot Melvin whether

or not Br. Asiel had been found

worthy and competent to fulfill the

office ofpriest.

Upon the Abbot’s

positive response

and the Bishop’s

acceptance of Br. Asiel,

the assembly inside St. Mary’s

Church erupted in applause.

Bishop Cruz then offered a homily,

in both English and Spanish, to

both Br. Asiel and the assembled

throng. Bishop Cruz remarked

that both he and Br. Asiel are

refugees from Cuba who

restarted their lives in Union

City. He noted the similarities of their lives

and said, while it might be looked upon as

a coincidence, “when it comes to the Good

Lord, there are no coincidences.”

Following the homily, Bishop Cruz asked

Br. Asiel a series of questions, inquiring

into his willingness to take on the

responsibilities of a priest. Br. Asiel

conveyed his willingness, responding “I am

[willing]” to each inquiry.

Br. Asiel then knelt before Bishop Cruz and,

in an ancient symbol of submission, placed

his folded hands inside the folded hands of

Bishop Cruz while promising obedience to

the bishop, the bishop’s successors, and his

own monastic superiors.

As the moment of ordination drew near, Br.

Asiel prostrated himself on a carpet before

the altar. Science Department Chair

Dennis Lansang sang the “Litany of Saints,”

a prayer that invokes the mercy of God,

begs for the intercession of the saints, and

asks for particular blessings upon the man

to be ordained.

The gesture of prostration (lying facedown

on the ground) symbolizes the candidate’s

submission to the will of God. Beyond Dr.

Lansang’s singing, the church was hushed

during this powerful moment as Br. Asiel

handed over his life to God.

In the actual moments of ordination,

Bishop Cruz prayed silently while placing

his hands on Br. Asiel’s head. This

gesture, known as the “laying on of hands,”

is found in the Bible and has been used by

Christians as a sign of ordination since the

time of the Apostles. After the Bishop laid

his hands on Br. Asiel, all the priests

present took turns laying their hands on

him as well, showing that they, too, shared

the same gift of priesthood.

After all priests present had prayed silently

over Br. Asiel, Bishop Cruz extended his

arms and the other priests raised their hands

in blessing as the bishop prayed the Prayer

of Consecration, offering Br. Asiel’s life to

God and dedicating him as a Priest of Jesus

Christ forever. The assembly

responded “Amen” to the

bishop’s prayer, showing

their assent to the sacred


Now a priest, the newly

ordained Fr. Asiel removed

his deacon’s stole and,

with the assistance of Fr.

Philip Waters, O.S.B.

‘63, was vested with a

priest’s stole and a

chasuble, a vestment

worn for the

celebration of


Fr. Asiel

then again

knelt before


Cruz, who

anointed the

palms of his

hands with

chrism, a mixture

of oil and balsam,

preparing him to

quite literally be the

hands of Christ at work

in the world today. Fr. Asiel

was then presented a

paten and chalice, gold

vessels that are used

during Mass, as a sign

of his priestly privilege

and responsibility to

perform the

sacraments. 54

The Rite of Ordination concluded with the

Sign of Peace. Having been given the gifts

to exercise his new office, Fr. Asiel was

welcomed into the Order of Priest, first by

Bishop Cruz and then his brother priests.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist was then

celebrated by Bishop Cruz with the newly

ordained taking a prominent role in his first

celebration of the Eucharist as a priest.

The importance of being ordained in Fr.

Asiel’s life cannot be overstated. For the rest

of his existence, Fr. Asiel will be defined by

the great gift that God gave him on Tuesday


According to St. Benedict’s Prep Religion

Teacher Stephen Adubato, a priest has a

sacred mission and is called to be a man

who “carries out Jesus’ ministry on earth

in a concrete, tangible way. Through the

sacraments, the Eucharist, Confession, he is

literally doing what Jesus did while he was

on earth.”

While disappointed that events he had

dreamt of would not pan out the way he

had hoped, Fr. Asiel is a witness to the true

meaning of religious celebrations.

According to Br. Bruno Mello, nO.S.B., Fr.

Asiel has shown the entire community,

through his example, that his vocation to the

priesthood is “not about the way I imagined

it. It’s about what’s happening to me, the

work that God is going to do in me. God

does that [work], whether I have a huge

party after it or not, whether the church is

full or empty.”

Candace Bradsher, Annual Giving Officer at

St. Benedict’s Prep, found the service very

beautiful and moving. She has known Fr.

Asiel since he first joined the monastery. “I

am really excited about what God is going

to do in his life,” she said.

To continue Jesus Christ’s ministry on Earth

in such a unique way is a huge privilege for

Fr. Asiel. “I think this is why it is a reason

to celebrate,” Mr. Adubato said, “because

Fr. Asiel was chosen for this very particular,

very special gift. And he is very aware that

this gift is really for the sake of everyone.

This isn’t a celebration just for him. This is

him being called to offer something to the

whole community, the whole wide world.”

Three major religious events for Fr. Asiel --

his profession of solemn vows, his

ordination as a deacon, and Tuesday’s

priestly ordination -- have occurred during

intensive periods of the COVID-19

pandemic. This has led to cancellations

of celebrations in his honor for all three

events, the most recent occurring on the eve

of a citywide lockdown to curb the disease’s


55 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Photo courtesy of Mr. Scanlan

Benedictine monk Asiel Maria

Rodriguez is ordained a priest by the

most reverend Manuel Cruz, Auxillary

Bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark.

Br. Robert Finds His

Place in the World

By Mekhi Vargas

About three years ago, a young man named

Moises Islas living in California began following

the Facebook page of a Benedictine monastery

in Newark, N.J. He started corresponding

with the page’s monitor, a young monk named

Br. Asiel Rodriguez, O.S.B., who was posting

photos of everything from Mass at St. Mary’s

Church to flowers in the Abbey garden.

Eventually, Br. Asiel (who is now known as “Fr.

Asiel” after his recent ordination) invited this

young man from California to come to Newark

Abbey for a visit to see if he would want to be a


Moises was hesitant about coming at first.

Newark was far away from sunny California,

where he lived with his family. At the same

time, he was intrigued by Newark Abbey. He

liked the way the monastery was organized

and found it appealing that the monastery was

located in a city. It was the first time he realized

that monasteries could be based in cities and

operate schools and other community outreach


Not knowing that this would change his life, he

decided to come to Newark Abbey for a visit.

Once he came, he knew that Newark Abbey

was the right place for him. He

became a novice in October 2019,

changing his from Moises to Br.

Robert, after St. Robert of Molesme.

Courtesy of Mr. Scanlan

Br. Robert Islas, O.S.B.

Adjusting to life in the Abbey was a challenge,

as Br. Robert only spoke Spanish when he first

arrived at Newark Abbey. Through classes at

Rutgers-Newark and lots of practice with his

brothers in the monastery, he learned English in

a very short amount of time.

Recently, during a ceremony in which he took

his “Simple Vows,” and became Br. Robert

Islas, O.S.B., he spoke in clear, flawless English.

In this important milestone

in the monastic life,

Br. Robert vowed stability,

obedience, and conversion

to the monastic way of life

in the presence of Abbot

Melvin Valvano, O.S.B.

and the community of

Newark Abbey

Now, three years after

first contacting the monastery,

Br. Robert is living

a happy life at the Abbey.

He has many duties at

the monastery, including

maintaining its gardens, a

task he enjoys immensely.

He also finds enjoyment

in reading and playing the


He said he has found a

second home at Newark

Abbey and St. Benedict’s

Prep. However, he would

not be here if he hadn’t

had the courage to respond

“yes” to Fr. Asiel’s invitation.

After learning from

experience, Br. Robert

highly encourages everyone

to face their apprehensions

head on and try new


“Find the courage and

get past it,” he said. 56

Newark Abbey gained its newest member on October 16 when Br. Bruno Mello, nO.S.B.

was received into the novitiate. This new novice is no stranger to the Newark Abbey/

St. Benedict’s Prep community though. Before he was Br. Bruno, he was James Mello,

a Benedictine Volunteer who taught at Benedict’s during the 2019-2020 school year.

The aspiring monk has been interested in monasteries for years. As a college student at

Franciscan University of Steubenville, he read “The Rule of St. Benedict” for a class and

became fascinated by monastic life. Eager to learn more about Benedictines, while he was

still in college, he spent Summer Phase at Benedict’s, helping in Mr. Stephen Adubato’s

religion classes.

When he graduated from college, he had many options for work, including a job offer in

Alaska and a position lined up in Hong Kong. Despite the allure of faraway places, Br.

Bruno felt drawn to come back to Newark. He felt that life at the monastery was “an

environment that’s going to be better for me to grow into the kind of person that I wanted

to be,” Br. Bruno said.

He likes the fact that Newark Abbey is not remotely located like many other monasteries.

He thinks that it is very important to have monks living in the city so that other people

know that God is present there. “It’s not like monks bring God to the city,” Br. Bruno said,

“God is here [in the city], and the monks are a testament to that.”

Br. Bruno grew up in nearby Connecticut, about three hours from Newark. Despite

growing up in a peaceful New England setting, he feels at home in New Jersey and in

Newark specifically. He also loves the energy of living in the center of the city.

The new novice does think that adjusting to monastic life can be a little challenging, but in

due time he will overcome that, too. The monastic schedule is a big change from Br.

Bruno’s old schedule. After years of sleeping in late, now Br. Bruno says, “I have my alarm

set to 5:15, morning prayer at 6.”

Getting up early is a small price to pay for what Br. Bruno hopes to gain by becoming a

monk. He is optimistic about his future and hopes to continue to live, pray, and work in

Newark for many years to come.

57 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

At Home in the City

Br. Bruno:

By Ian McGaw

Photo by Davion Cottrell-Miller

Br. Bruno Mello, n-O.S.B. 58




Why is Lectio Divina , also known

as Benedictine prayer, important

for all of us, not just Benedictine

monks? For me, Lectio helps me

work on me every day in relation to living the

Gospel, as well as living as a Benedictine monk.

s Explaining what Lectio Divina is, as well as

what it can be for everyone, can answer this

question for you, like it has for me.

So what is Lectio Divina?

“[L]ectio divina, or sacred reading, [is a] dynamic

process [that] involves four elements

which weave together like a braided river to

connect us with God.” (Pickering, 2008, p. 28)

The first step of this process is Lectio, which is a

“[s]low reflective reading aloud of a few verses

of scripture or other spiritual literature.” (Pickering,

2008, p. 28)

The second step is meditatio, or meditation,

which is “[a] thoughtful consideration of how

these words relate to our current circumstances.”

(Pickering, 2008, p. 28)

In the the third step, we use the process of

oratio, or oration, meaning “[d]iscoveries, emotional

responses, movements of the heart and

will, questions or doubts are shared with God.”

(Pickering, 2008, p. 28)

For the last, all-important step, we employ contemplatio,

or contemplation, which is when “[t]

he person at prayer stills his or her activity and

‘contemplates.’ Th[e] use of the word ‘contemplation’

relates … to a state of resting in God,

all our striving set aside, allowing ourselves

to be open to meeting the One who created us

[and the wonder of this love].” (Pickering, 2008,

p. 28)

This is the process of Lectio I follow in the

morning before starting my day. Going through

Lectio at this time helps me get ready for whatever

happens each day.

Lectio is practiced differently in Group, where

the logistics and dynamics are different, due

to the fact that it occurs at a different time and

multiple individuals are involved. Most students

perform Lectio once a week on Mondays

in Group, which occurs midway through the

day. ( Lectio should serve as a time that allows

Group members to stop whatever else they are

doing and focus on what they are being. That is

what this prayer period should provide.

When we do Lectio in Group on Mondays, we

usually use the Gospel reading from the previous

day as the central point of discussion.

Personally, the reading that I use for Lectio

each day is the Gospel reading of the day, not

the Gospel reading of the previous day. To

strengthen your eventual discussion, it really

helps to think and talk about your current

circumstances before starting Lectio. This works

better than simply waiting til reaching the

second step of meditatio, or meditation. Doing

so ahead of time gives you more space to think

about your current circumstances.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of Lectio

in a Group is the third step of oratio, or oration.

This phase is obviously different in a group

setting since sharing is done with each other,

not just God. What’s the best approach for a

student? There are no right answers. Share what

you want and/or need to share without worrying

about what others will think. If you would

rather do this privately, then mention that to an


The last step, contemplatio or contem-

59 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

plation, may be easier to attain if a Group concludes

with a prayer. Contemplation may be

difficult if you quickly move out of Lectio and

are distracted by the noise of the everyday. By

ending Lectio in prayer, you naturally pave the

way for a state of contemplation. This is something

my Group does and a practice I follow

when I conduct Lectio on my own.

This process of Lectio is also useful in spiritual

direction. “[I]f [spiritual directors] want to help

people ‘listen to their lives’ [they] can encourage

them to apply the Lectio Divina model

prayerfully to the key moments of their daily

experience.” (Pickering, 2008, pp. 73-74) This

would start by using the key moments of your

daily experience as the “reading” for Lectio, followed

by meditating on what these experiences

mean. You would then talk to someone about it,

and later reflect on what both of you said.

As a monk who has recently learned

about spiritual direction, I would also say that

consciously marking each step of Lectio conveys

the deeper meaning of what Lectio is and how

Lectio can help you. Letting all of this happen,

with help from the Holy Spirit, is also important

in these processes. But you can only be

helped by Lectio if you do it. Allowing the process

to happen, without worrying about whether

you are giving “right” or “wrong” answers, is

important. Remember all of this whenever you

do Lectio.


Pickering, S. (2011). Spiritual direction: A practical

introduction. London, England:

Canterbury Press.

Photos Courtesy of Unsplash, Newark Abbey 60

Br. Francis Professes Solemn Vows

By Ms. Kitta MacPherson

Br. Francis Woodruff, O.S.B., professed his solemn vows as a Benedictine monk on Saturday, Nov.

14, committing himself to the Benedictine Abbey of Newark for the balance of his life.

In a sacred ceremony that goes back centuries, Br. Francis asked only for the mercy of God during

the Rite of Solemn Monastic Profession held in St. Mary’s Church, while a community of monks

and nuns looked on.

Describing Br. Francis as “a good man,” Abbot Melvin Valvano, O.S.B., who presided over the

service said, “He has, with his close relationship with Jesus and the Blessed Mother, for me

exemplified all his life and while he has lived in the monastery the core definition and reality for

all Christians: deep and complete faith in God who is the Loving Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

As monks of Newark Abbey sang hymns, Br. Francis chanted the traditional Benedictine prayer

for God to sustain him now and forever throughout his religious life. He was joined to the

community with applause, then he was given his new, formal, 73-pleated hood robe known as a


“(This) experience of Br. Francis’ solemn profession witnessed to the joy of religious life,” said Sr.

Ann Marie Gass, Dean of the Elementary Division at St. Benedict’s Prep, who was present. “No

matter the many twists and turns his life journey has taken, Br. Francis continues to place his

relationship with Jesus and the Blessed Mother at the center surrounded by the importance of


Those in attendance included all the members of the monastic community along with two

Benedictine Sisters, Sr. Lauren and Sr. Diane Marie, and two of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sr. Ann

and Sr. Maureen, and also Mr. Fernando, who is one of the cooks in the monastery.

Br. Francis’ profession is part of a continuing period of extraordinary activity for the monastery,

with two monks professing solemn vows in March 2020, another monk professing simple vows in

October 2020, and a number of novices joining for a trial period. The monastic community is at its

largest in many years.

61 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Courtesy of

Newark Abbey

A number of monks

and nuns from the

St. Benedict’s


attended Br. Francis




62 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021




the Midst

Ms Wye:


Illustrations Courtesy Of Ms. Wye

Written By Daniel Bendezu


During the 2017-2018 school year, the

annual Interdisciplinary Project celebrated

the 150th anniversary of St. Benedict's Prep

(1868-2018). Pamela Wye-Hunsinger,

faculty art teacher and chair of St. Benedict’s

fine arts department, had been thinking of

projects to assign to her classes. Because this

was a momentous occurrence, she decided

to partake in the Interdisciplinary Project

along with her students. Her interpretation

of the history of SBP would be told in a

comic language that allowed her to merge

her own artistic work with her everyday job

as a teacher. She called it a “Graphic


Mrs. Wye-Hunsinger immediately got to

work by sketching and outlining what she

would cover. She soon realized that

covering the entire 150-year-period would

be difficult so she touched on some high

points of SBP history.

As she noted, teacher efforts at St. Benedict’s

involve “always focusing on the students,”

she said. She knew she wanted to highlight

one period of time, as she put it, “the

traumatic 1972 closing and the astonishing

1973 reopening which ushered in that

wonderful innovation -- Spring Phase.”

She then sent her proposal to a couple of

independent comics publishers and got

immediate interest from two. They had

“never heard of SBP but they were very

enthusiastic about the story of this unique

school,” she said. She went with the online

magazine Spiral Bound on Medium because

it specializes in first person non-fiction

storytelling in comic style and requires the

artist-writer to have a first-hand relationship

with the content of the story, which she

believed she did.

The project took Ms. Wye two years,

spanning fall 2017 to 2019, with a deadline

of September 2019. Her favorite part of the

project came from this deadline. “Working

around the clock that final summer on

deadline, I was in a permanent zone of

creativity and labor,” Wye said. She was at

her happiest when she was not sure if the

project was going according to plan, but

kept trying to make it work. The part that

puzzled her was “structuring the story. It

was like making an intricate sculpture, a

brain teaser, where all kinds of different

pieces had to fit together to create a

surprising yet coherent whole.” Despite

this struggle, she persevered with help from

the monks, especially Fr. Augustine Curley,

O.S.B., who was always helping get things

like sets of old yearbooks, old brochures,


Mrs. Wye-Hunsinger’s piece has sparked

interest and praise among many; even those

who know nothing about St. Benedict’s. She

credits the form of publishing as a part of

the project’s success, but most importantly

cites the unique story of the school with

making the project so special. With the

success of this project under her belt, Mrs.

Wye-Hunsinger continues work on her

upcoming graphic novel/memoir entitled

“Water I’ve Loved,” which she notes is

“about all the bodies of water that I have

loved in my life.” 63

64 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

The Kayrix:

A Treasured Legacy

Carries On

By Joseph Jumbo

In January 2020, staff members of The

Kayrix suffered a devastating blow with

the passing of their faculty adviser,

English Teacher Mr. Bill Petrick. The

Kayrix, St. Benedict’s student literary

magazine, had traditionally displayed

mainly Freshman work, drawn from Mr.

Petrick’s classes. With that foundation

gone, a new approach was called for.

This year, The Kayrix will have a new

focus, and it is being forged by the new

English Teacher Ms. Bimpé Fageyinbo,

its new faculty moderator.

Ms. Fageyinbo is a writer, poet, and

photojournalist. She has worked on

other literary magazines before and will

contribute her knowledge and

perspective to The Kayrix.

“I would like to explore a more focused

version of the magazine, where the

content is driven from a generational

lens and is more focused on the present

and what is happening within the lives

of the people contributing to it,”

Fageyinbo said.

This year’s staff hopes to offer something

that employs a wider variety of art forms

to speak to the general community. Its

editorial staff and writers will do so with

writing forms such as photo essays,

standard essays, and poetry.

Along with the changes in focus, scope,

and style, The Kayrix is also looking to

change the magazine’s format. The

magazine has consisted primarily of text

and images. However, the staff will be

working to develop a new format that is

still not known.

John Mollozzi SY, this year’s

editor-in-chief, did not expect to be

given the position. He described himself

as a person who prefers to take mental

notes and who does not really socialize

much. “Now I have to be the front

runner,” Mollozzi said. “I’m not used to

this responsibility. I’m not good at

leading people.”

Mollozzi has been a part of the magazine

since his freshman year. Although he is

now the leader of the Kayrix, he did not

like to write much before.

“I used to despise writing,” he said.

“Petrick made me enjoy writing.”

Since it is Mollozzi’s last year at

Benedict’s, and his final year with the

Kayrix, he plans to make his final mark.

“I will ensure that The Kayrix continues

to run after I'm gone,” he said. “Also,

I'd want to make sure that The Kayrix

can integrate more work from the other

grade levels.”

In and out of the classroom, Mr. Petrick

inspired students to write, Mollozzi

noted. It was a passion of his that he

wanted to share with others. The Kayrix

staff regarded Mr. Petrick as more than a

teacher, or a faculty moderator. He was a

friend. “It hit us hard,” Mollozzi said of

his teacher’s death.

65 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

Grant Parker’s cover for the

Fall 2020 print issue (left).

The new Kayrix website with

the latest issue


Now, this year, The

Kayrix will continue

to grow, honoring the

memory and legacy of

Mr. Petrick.

Ms. Fageyinbo,

Mollozzi, and the

other members of The

Kayrix will be

working hard this

year to showcase

community talent

through writing. The

staff plans to start

with a digital

magazine release this

winter. 66


Soccer Season:

Changing it Up for Continued Success

By Adrian Vasquez

At the beginning of the Fall 2020 season,

members of the St. Benedict’s Prep soccer team

-- the reigning and 13-time national champions --

were uncertain about their season and how it was

going to play out due to COVID-19.

However, in the history of St. Benedict’s and St.

Benedict’s soccer, adversity is anything but new:

SBP students are taught that they never give up.

They adapt. And that’s what St. Benedict’s soccer


Playing at a high school level and maintaining

their rigorous, sometimes, out-of-state schedule

was a major challenge. So, St. Benedict’s soccer

made the switch to play at a club level instead.

Academy. Opposing teams also included

college teams with canceled seasons, such as

Rutgers-Newark and Kean University.

At first the team had to practice in a socially

distanced fashion, which is a hard thing to do --

especially in soccer. However, when September

came, these restrictions were eased up. Though

team members still had to wear masks before and

after practice, get their temperature checked, and

adhere to social distancing after practice,

practices were essentially back to normal -- and

so were the games. This is something the team

could have only dreamt of back in April, but now

there were no restrictions on the pitch.

“The games did not have any restrictions,” said

Assistant Soccer Coach, Sylvers Owusu. “Being

able to play normally and just play again was the

most exciting part. Every game was special.”

Instagram Photo

The team prepares for another season amidst the

challenges of the pandemic.

Instead of the typical Varsity, JV, and

Freshman teams, the team created several new

squads. The new Varsity Under-19 team

In previous years, St. Benedict’s soccer team had

competed in the Under-23 Club Division. The

games its members were able to look forward

Reserves/JV competed in the U-19 League. And

to with anticipation. This year, games were, by

Freshmen competed in U-16.

necessity, made up the same week. This made

training and practices even more challenging.

The reason it was decided that Varsity would

Other than that, matters moved along without

compete in U-23 was because the coaches knew

any complications and there weren’t any

how good Varsity was. They put those players in

significant challenges up to and including Game

U-23 to compete against elite and MLS academies


such as Baltimore Armour, Gottchee, and PDA

67 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

However, no one could ever quite lose awareness of COVID-19. “In the back of our minds, COVID

made things uneasy at times, due to all the uncertainty,” Mr. Owusu said. “The players were on edge

because everything would shut down if one player tested positive on the team.”

The season was originally intended to end by Thanksgiving or early December. However, due to a

series of unfortunate events such as opposing teams’ players testing positive, Newark Mayor Ras

Baraka’s decision to shut down all activities for two weeks, and a surge of COVID cases in the region,

the season ended early on Nov. 13.

Despite all the challenges, this season was still considered a success as the U-19/Varsity went unde-

feated, with a record of 6-0-1 (one tie).

“Overall the players enjoyed the games better than previous years because it was more challenging

and they played against high-level teams and players,” said Coach Owusu. The soccer team hopes to

be able to play during the spring or later if possible.

Alum Filming Documentary to

Tell SBP Fencing Story

By: Adrian Vasquez

The Gray Bee Basketball team has enjoyed

national exposure recently, due to a

documentary series released on Quibi. Now,

it may be the Gray Bee Fencing Team's turn,

with the creation of a new documentary by

SBP alumnus, Shorne Lawrence ‘90.

Shorne Lawrence ‘90 is directing a

documentary highlighting the rich history

of the St. Benedict’s fencing team. Mr.

Lawrence, who joined the fencing team

during his sophomore year in 1987, recalled

his time fencing at Benedict’s, saying “We

were like a machine and we were truly a

team. We worked and moved like a unit

because they bought into what Coach

(Derrick) Hoff was trying to get across:

‘Team first!’”

Lawrence viewed his time on the team as

extremely challenging but worthwhile. “It

was tough, it was hard, and the practices

were brutal,” he said. “There was a sort of

militarized way we went about practices and

meets, as well as how we fenced in


He praised Coach Hoff, describing him as

the one who taught Mr. Lawrence and his

teammates the art of fencing. Mr. Lawrence

said he and his teammates took Coach’s

Hoff’s message of unity and used it to excel.

After graduating from St. Benedict’s, Mr.

Lawrence earned a partial scholarship to

Rutgers University in New Brunswick,

where attended college. After graduating, he

returned to SBP to coach and teach for four

years. He then moved to Atlanta, where he

stayed for 13 years. In Atlanta, found his

interest in film, which propelled him to

move to Los Angeles, California. And in Los

Angeles he pursued his film career by

writing scripts and doing documentary

films. Finally, he got a film-related job offer

in New Jersey, which brought him to move

back home to New Jersey (pre-Covid).

Mr. Lawrence first got his inspiration to

do the fencing documentary in the mid 90s

when he was assisting Coach Hoff with 68

coaching the fencing team. Once, when they

were driving together, Mr. Lawrence had a

powerful thought: he turned to Coach Hoff

and said, “This would make a great movie.”

Coach Hoff responded immediately,

“Maybe you would be the one to film it.”

Those words stuck with Mr. Lawrence. The

story the documentary is based on has been

in the back of his mind ever since. While at

a recent event in LA, he phoned Coach Hoff,

and received his blessing to bring the story

to life and film.

The idea behind the story, he believes, is

to continue the legacy and show the public

how productive Hoff’s coaching was. As Mr.

Lawrence put it, this was not only his story

but one that belongs to everyone who has

attended or is presently at St. Benedict's. He

is making the film now because he wants to

tell an accurate inside account of the fencing


While the documentary is focused

specifically on the fencing team at St.

Benedict's, the larger theme is the idea of

respect. By this, Mr. Lawrence means the

respect players feel for Coach Hoff’s career,

the respect the school holds for the fencing

team, the respect team members feel for

each other, and the respect graduates feel

for St. Benedict's as

a whole. When Mr.

Lawrence was a

student, he believed

the fencing team

never received the

full respect it

deserved. He wants

this documentary to

bring a greater level

of recognition to its


property -- mainly at the Cetrulo Family

Fencing Center.

Mr. Lawrence plans to have this

documentary completed by early January.

He hopes to show it both at film festivals

and at Benedict’s.

It would be wonderful if the film gains

attention at a film festival and becomes

popular, he said. But it’s more important to

him that the public learn about St.

Benedict’s and its programs and how

positively they affect students. The goal is

for the film to be viewed at a leading film

festival, so that word gets out about the

success of the fencing program and St.


Mr. Lawrence wants this story to be seen by

anyone who grew up in Newark and went to

St. Benedict’s. He wants students to

understand their potential impact and

power. He wants students to know their

history so it can propel them forward. “I’m

very excited for you all to see this film!” he


Photo by Mr. Molina

The fencing team is kicking into gear for a new year

of opportunity.

Shooting for the

documentary is

underway: Mr.

Lawrence and his

crew have conducted

about 40 Zoom

interviews, and

filming has also been

conducted on the

Cross Country Season: Keep Running

By Kevin Ortega

Despite coronavirus ruining past seasons, the Cross Country season was still able to go on

for Fall 2020.

“In cross country season it’s easy to stay socially distanced because of the nature of the

sport,” Coach Kevin Cox said.

So, the show went on. The Gray Bees started Cross Country Season at the Bergen County

Invitational on Oct. 3. Here, the freshmen won their division, with Jorwally Santana FY

taking home a gold, Gabriel Nyenator FY taking home silver, Joshua Johnson FY placing

fourth and De’vaughn Owusu-Korangteng FY placing fifth.

The cross county team’s JV squad went on to run at Brett Taylor Invitational at Garrett

Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park, where they placed first in the competition. Leading

the team were Jonai Eastmond, who came in 2nd place, Sayveon Blake who came in

3rd, and Aasad Thomas who came in 4th. In the freshman race, Jorwally Santana placed

first and Gabriel Nyenator finished third.

The St. Benedict’s Cross Country team kept up with its admirable technique throughout

the fall season, with the JV winning its division of the Garrett Mountain Invitational on

Oct. 24. The top five runners for the Gray Bees were UDII Nate Smith, UDII Aasad Thomas,

UDII Jonai Eastmond and FY Jorwally Santana and FY Gabriel Nyenator. The Gray

Bees impressively had seven runners in the top 10 in the competition.

Coach Cox noted the team ran well and members have won all of the invitationals in the

division they entered as a team this year. Even though Cross Country season has come to

an end, anyone who wishes to participate can join the Track team by emailing Coach Cox.

A spirit of optimism prevails.

“The guys are running well and we have won all of the invitationals in the division we

have entered as a team this year,” Coach Cox said. “This is a young Cross Country team but

they are hungry for success. COVID hasn’t been a major problem as it only limited some

very skilled runners from competing due to safety concerns. We are hoping for an end to

this, too, so the whole family can be in the fight representing SBP against whoever wants

to take up our challenge.”

Photo from @sbpxctrack Instagram 70

Water Polo Team Remains Active,

Despite Challenges By Sovereign Brown

On August 18 at 8:30 a.m, St. Benedict’s

Prep’s Water Polo team athletes were

arriving via Springfield Avenue at the

Crossfit Box gate for a 9 a.m - 10:30 a.m


As soon as team members arrived at the

pool area, they maintained social distance

and chatted among themselves. Some of

the new girls that came started introducing

themselves to one another. It was about 8:45-

8:50 a.m, and the whole team started getting

ready to get in the water. A sense of

excitement and nervousness filled the pool

area, as little talks seemed to get a bit

louder. “Let’s get ready to hop in,” said

head water Polo Coach Jose Cruz ’97.

This season saw new team members arrive

determined and ready to work hard. By

the end of the season, the same guys and

girls that did not know how to play water

polo, or even swim, had made significant

improvements. This season was unique

because, for the first time, girls who had an

interest in swimming and playing water

polo were able to be on the team.

Once school started again, practices were

Monday through Friday from 3:30 p.m. to

5:30 p.m. However, due to Coronavirus this

season, no games could be scheduled.

Instead, Coach Cruz and Coach Kenya

Moncur ’15 arranged scrimmages between

the JV and Varsity to see how the team

Photo By Eugene Lim from Unsplash

71 The Benedict News Vol. 3 Issue 1 Winter 2020-2021

looked like and how they played.

In total, there were three scrimmages. “I

loved the fact that everyone was passing

the ball and there was communication,”

said KyRon Parker SY. At one point with

scrimmages kids seemed to be getting mad

at themselves for not performing at their

best. “Those who were down on themselves

could’ve had a better competitive spirit,”

Parker said.

At the end of the practices and scrimmages,

coaches advised team members during team

huddles. Then it was the players’ job to

apply it to themselves to become better. As

Jose Cruz would say, “Don’t be bitter, get


It was many players' first time playing

water polo and Coach Cruz wanted to give

his players the experience of playing despite

there being no games.

Many reported the season as being a good

learning experience. “Since this was my first

time doing something related to aquatics,

I think this season went pretty well,” said

Nathalia Chimbay UDII. “Being that we had

scrimmages against each other we learned

from them and got better.”

During the season, the team had its highs

with the scrimmages. Occasionally, when

team members weren’t listening or

focusing, Coach Moncur was pressed to

repeat his instructions.

“He wanted us to do what he said to do so

that we could do better,” Chimbay added.

“It was very helpful when Coach Kenya

advised us to better ourselves.”

Even though the team didn’t have games

this season, Coach Cruz wanted the team to

come in and learn how to play and

understand the fundamentals of water polo.

He also wanted the players to come in and

play with an open mind. Coach Cruz had

previously coached water polo between 2000

and 2002, more recently filling in the

position vacated by the death of History

Teacher and legendary water polo player

and coach Mr. Spencer Vespole.

Coach Cruz viewed the season as a learning

experience for everyone. “I had to see what

they knew and also what they couldn’t do

and address it at practice,” he said. “For the

most part, we got better each time. That’s all

you can ask for. I think also that we looked

better in practice after those scrimmages.”

Despite the lack of games and the stress of

living in a pandemic, the players did well,

according to Coach Moncur. “Diamonds

are made under intense pressure,” Coach

Moncur said. “The team has been through a

lot this season. If we come out next season

undefeated, do not be surprised.”

The coaches and team members are now

looking forward to the spring season

where they are hoping to play against other

schools, including old rivals. 72

Absence of Our Own After Hours

We may see less of our own in the Hive we call home...

Photos by Krithik Rajasegar

in the Lobby

or Cawley

or the Lower Court

& Field

We may see less of our own

in the Hive we call home

in the lobby

or Cawley

on the Lower Court & Field

or in the cafe where we’d eat our meals

We may miss our friends

But the Gray Bees will be back in full force again

or in the cafe where

we’d eat our meals

We may miss our friends

But the Gray Bees will be

back in full force again

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