Preston Kendall on thanking, praising and being grateful and graceful

Nov 29, 2022 | President’s Pen


Last Monday, twenty-two CRSM students gave up their evening to be here at school calling nearly 400 donors simply to say, “Thank you.” They reached more than ninety in-person.  What a treat to hear them talking to benefactors on the other end of the line, expressing gratitude while answering questions about their studies, hopes for college, and dreams for the future.


Another evening, some of our staff and students gathered after school (as they do every week), to get on a bus and go over to the local PADS shelter where they make beds for the homeless and then prepare a meal and eat it with them.  CRSM does not require community service hours.  Instead, students are invited to freely give their time and talents without expectation of reward or credit.  Service is done gratis or it is not truly service.


I visited Arrupe College at Loyola University Chicago earlier this month and was greeted in the lobby by a large poster of a CRSM alumna now studying there.  She had just been awarded a 2022 President’s Medallion from LUC.  Here is what the Dean of the college said about her:

“[She] embodies what we hope for all our students at Arrupe College; she understands the value of hard work and demonstrates that value on a daily basis.  In addition, [she] exhibits authentic qualities: she is person-centered, compassionate in her dealings with others, and is committed to excellence, especially when it comes to her personal growth.

For her part, she says that her teachers at CRSM and Arrupe, “have taught me to be selfless, to be motivated, and to be brave and caring.” Congratulations to a remarkable young person who is and will be making a difference in our world!

Recognizing that soccer is king in Waukegan and that most of our students yearned to watch Mexico play in the World Cup, we agreed to alter the school schedule so that the lunch hour coincided with the weekday matches.  The first game was televised in our cafeteria on the large monitors we use for weekly assembly.  Imagine the entire school community – faculty, staff, and students (except for the students working that day) – all crammed into one space cheering and sharing the moment.  So much fun!


Educators do not often realize the full impact they have on the lives of their students.  Often, students don’t fully appreciate teachers until they have the perspective that only time and life experience can give.  “Thank you’s” aren’t always practical to make when you are years and often miles apart.  Once in a great while, a “thank you” does make it back and it is truly a grace to get one.  Our Principal received this unsolicited email from a CRSM graduate who saw a license plate with the word “grit” on it:

“Grit is something you told us about possibly every chance you got and while sometimes it was repetitive, it really stuck. Back in the day, I didn’t realize how important Grit would be in my life, but believe me, college made sure that I knew I needed it in order to succeed. I will never forget when I tried to convince you to give us a snow day because of how cold it was going to be and you instead, showed me a picture of how cold it was going to be in Russia and told me that if the Russian kids go to school in negative degree whether then we can too, because we have grit. Believe it or not, I think about this conversation from time to time, especially when it’s freezing outside, but also when I feel like giving up on something because no matter what, life keeps moving and we have to learn to keep moving with it.  

Anyway, I’d like to say thank you for making sure we knew about grit because it truly has helped me in college with my classes, [and now with my] work opportunities…” 

Grateful, gratis, congratulate, agree, grace…

These words all share the common Proto-Indo-European linguistic root of “gwere” meaning “to favor, to thank, to praise.”  Not coincidentally, they also each require a level of selflessness to enact.  We cannot be grateful without acknowledging that someone has given us something;  something cannot be offered gratis without first giving up any conditions placed on the receiver – there can be no quid pro quo; we cannot truly congratulate someone if we think only of ourselves; we can only agree on something if we acknowledge the other side; and we cannot receive grace without first recognizing our own vulnerability. Somehow, we cannot be truly thankful without looking beyond personal interests and we cannot find grace without thinking about the needs of others.

During the Eucharist (which, by the way, means “Thanksgiving” in Greek), there is a point in the mass when the priest says, “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give You thanks, Lord…”

Community is a prerequisite to giving thanks.  We are called to be persons for others because it is the only way we can recognize God’s grace already at work within us.  Recognizing that we belong to one another and have a responsibility for one another is what saves us.  Giving thanks is both our duty and salvation.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy Advent!  And thank you for supporting CRSM!