We know Pope John Paul II as a saint; as a leader; as a great man whose kindness — especially to children — was legendary.
But when our oldest daughter Maureen received his biography for her first Communion, she didn’t know he was once a young man named Karol Wojitlya. She didn’t know that he was once a third grader who loved school, his faith, and soccer, not unlike herself. He was a normal child who went on to achieve incredible things for others through his deep love for God.
His story of transformation inspired her to want to attend Pope John Paul II High School. But now, nearly a decade later, it’s also something we’ve seen fulfilled in the lives of all four of our children. This school — and the teachers, administrators, and coaches who run it — have fostered a depth of faith that has truly transformed our children, and brought out positive qualities in them I never thought possible.
For our son Matt, who’s currently a senior at PJP, that strength and transformation has taken the form of a maturity my husband and I never expected to see. Matt was always a faithful young man, and during his time in AOPS, he has taken on an incredible array of activities and responsibilities.
Matt told us he had an idea for a fundraising opportunity and wanted to sit down with the school’s President to plan it out. Within the week, he had made that meeting a reality.
For instance, the teachers and coaches at PJP have given him the opportunity to be involved in soccer, football, track, theater, and youth ministry… all at the same time. Each one of those is an incredible challenge by itself, but school leaders have always encouraged Matt to push himself, to do more. But they also supported him by pulling out all the stops, making it possible for him to fit everything in his schedule and reach his real potential.
Recently, Matt told us he had an idea for a fundraising opportunity and wanted to sit down with the school’s President, Jason Bozzone, to plan it out. Within the week, he had made that meeting a reality. The courage it took to do that is something I credit to the priests and teachers here. They have exemplified strength through faith and shown Matt what it means to move forward through uncertainty and trust in God’s guidance.
For our youngest daughter Audrey, who’s currently a sophomore, we’re already seeing a matured sense of self-confidence that has enabled her to take on sports, student council, and the Respect Life Club. Even more importantly, PJPII gave our youngest the confidence she needed to audition for two musicals—Pope John Paul II himself adored theater as much as he did athletics, and our theatre group Studio 38 is named after his experimental troupe.
Julia, who graduated in 2017, found a second home in Pope John Paul II. She was always analytical and wanted a school that would feel challenging, but PJP provided her with more than that, it gave her leadership skills. Julia was the Captain of the Soccer team and chosen to be a Kairos leader. At PJP, she learned how to push herself academically while also nurturing her faith. I know that today, going to a liberal arts college where she is around many students who might not have the same beliefs as her, she has the spiritual tools to keep her faith and handle any difficulties that may come her way.
As for Maureen, she transformed from a young girl who was petrified of public speaking to a leader in the Kairos faith program, and further into a woman who believes and knows that she has been strengthened through everything she has learned during her time at Pope John Paul II.
Today, when I ask Maureen about her worries or struggles, she tells me, “Mom, God’s going to get me through this.” That response in and of itself proves to me that this school, and this path, were always the right choice for our family.