Tag Archives: Clubs & Activities

A guide to MSJ’s Campus Ministry program

Spirituality has been a big part of the culture here at MSJ, but something that is very overlooked on campus is MSJ’s campus ministry. Outside of junior retreats, there is so much more that campus ministry has to offer.

Alex Kwas ’25 interviewed Mr. Stromberg, and Martin Edell ’25 interviewed Mr. Bonham.

Student involvement is crucial in any school-wide program, and Campus Ministry has a lot of good representation at the Mount. If you aren’t sure how to get involved or where to get started: don’t worry! We’ve all been there. That being said, it’s crucial to get started. As a student involved in Campus Ministry, I can confidently say that taking the next step in your faith journey while in high school is tremendously beneficial. ’24 JP Fisher says that “being involved with Campus Ministry has been a lot of fun and a very fulfilling way to grow closer to Jesus, but I think one of the strongest ways it has helped me through the Spiritual Direction Program.” The Spiritual Direction Program is a great way to meet individually with a priest or mentor and discuss your faith journey. Talk to your theology teacher for more details!

Students taking part in the liturgy in the Smith Center.

In addition to Campus Ministry, MSJ offers the Xaverian Brother Sponsored Schools (XBSS) program for Xaverian students worldwide to participate in various service and religious opportunities while promoting the Xaverian values of life that are practiced and taught here on campus. ’23 Braeden Smith explained in an interview what XBSS means to him as a student. He says, “Contrary to what many people think, it is different from campus ministry. MSJ’s chapter of XBSS is an organization that represents the school as a part of our 13-school network and leads the development of activities throughout the school that champion Xaverian values. This includes campus ministry, big brother program, Spiritual Guidance, Ryken Service Club, etc.” Braeden and many other students have been given a new perspective on their life as a student here at the Mount.

“As co-leader of the liturgy division of XBSS, I also am blessed to have the opportunity to organize specific liturgical events that occur in campus ministry, from everything like Chapel Friday Masses to our plans for an MSJ Mercy Night. Since freshman year, I have itched to be a part of campus ministry and now having the opportunity to lead and better the spiritual life of students and teachers on campus through liturgy is a dream come true. As a result of my experiences, I will definitely pursue liturgical involvement in my college communities and my church parish when I get older. “

Senior Braeden Smith

Campus Ministry offers excellent encounters and programs for students of all ages, regardless of background and religion. We want to settle the doubts of any student who is willing to join Campus Ministry. “The common misconception is that campus ministry events are only based on prayer. Many of our activities also include fellowship that focus on developing relationships between students. A perfect example is the bible study, called Rise Up on Thursdays. Before we get into the discussion, we have donuts and free time to talk with each other which is a great way to start the day…As well as helping to build relationships, campus ministry activities also provide opportunities to strengthen one’s faith, or if one is not religious, they can meditate, which I can tell from experience is much more beneficial than most people would think.”- Senior Braeden Smith

A group of MSJ and Good Counsel XBSS Students at the XBSS Retreat.
Braeden Smith ’23, Jack Moses ’23, Lathan Imwiko ’23, Christian Wright ’23, and Guy Yogo ’23.

XBSS has a great representation at the Mount, but compared to the athletics program or student council, it is being outweighed. “My advice to those who are hesitant is to not be! The people are very non-judgmental and ready to talk to your about your faith, they love fun, and they love the Lord and want to love you as brothers in Christ. It certainly cannot hurt you to get involved, and I firmly believe you would benefit from it and really bring something important to the organization.”- Junior JP Fisher.

Campus Ministry and XBSS are so unique, and I encourage you to reach out to one of the student members or staff and ask questions and fill out an application to join. You won’t regret it!

David Cohn is a Senior member of the Multimedia Journalism Class.

Thinking about options for next year already? Consider these electives

Although this brand new school year has just started, it’s never too early to consider what classes you want to fill up your schedule next year. Some classes stay the same, like Theology and Math classes, while other students might have opted into electives. One unique thing about Mount Saint Joe is that they offer different electives that you, as a student, have the choice to take. Many students like to learn new things, but they may not be familiar with what is available given their schedules. With this being said, students find themselves trying to decide what electives they feel are worth taking. I will talk about some electives and why you should take them.

Philosophy

One interesting elective choice is the Philosophy elective. One thing that makes this class unique is that it is taught by two teachers, Mr. Michael O’Donnell and Mr. Clay Bonham. The primary purpose of this class is for people who ask deep questions; they can maybe find an answer they are comfortable with. I got to interview Mr. Bonham, asking him some questions about the elective. When I asked Mr. Bonham why he teaches philosophy, he said, “I really liked the course in college, and I found myself asking the same questions that philosophy talks about.” Mr. Bonham also told me that Philosophy helps with different college career paths. “It can help you with different career paths, especially those concerned with morality and ethics.” If you ask these questions or maybe just want a deeper understanding of nature and life itself, this is the elective for you.

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Art Fundamentals

At MSJ, an art credit is required for all students to have to graduate. For people who play an instrument, this can help complete an art credit. Those who are talented in computer art can do digital art classes. But for those who might not be interested in a high-level art class or want to create art on paper, Art Fundamentals is the class to take. Art Fundamentals, taught by Mr. Bryan Bieniek, allows students to create artwork with flexible deadlines and in a relaxed environment. I got to ask Mr. Bieniek about the class, “This class helps you open up the creative part of your mind.” When I asked Mr. Bieniek about the impact an art class can have on potential college career paths, he told me, “it helps people with engineering and architecture majors because of the concept of creating new designs.” Art Fundamentals gives students in the class the ability to find ways to become more creative.

Mr. Bieniek’s classroom. On the tables are clay models made by students in the Art Fundamentals Class.

Other Electives to Consider

Coming from a student, I know from first-hand experience the benefits that these electives can have. Another elective that students might find interesting is the Business Law elective taught by Mr. Jerry Naylor. When interviewing my brother, John Avara ’19, and former student of Mr. Naylor’s Business Law class, he told me, “if you have aspirations to own your own business one day, this class is for you.” Another elective worth taking is the Multi-Media Journalism elective. Similar to Art Fundamentals, this class allows you to create what you want with flexible deadlines. The World Language department also offers a selection of Spanish, Italian, French, and Latin. While two language credits are required at MSJ, you are not limited to learning just one of these languages.

Students in the Multi-Media Journalism Class working on interview projects.

MSJ offers the opportunity of learning new topics that most schools don’t teach. While your traditionally required classes like Math, Theology, English, and Social Studies fill up most of your schedule, I suggest leaving open space for some of the electives I mentioned. These electives can expose you to interests you might not have thought you had.

Stephen Avara, Junior

Stephen Avara is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism Class.

“We’re working for everybody” – The thought process behind Spirit Week

Monday of Spirit Week was Jersey Day & Anything-But-A-Backpack Day

Saint Joe’s Spirit Week has always instilled a fiery pride and passion for the Gael way through many enjoyable events. These engaging, entertaining experiences bring hundreds of Mount brothers together and culminate with a high-energy Homecoming Saturday. Our Director of Student Life, Mr. Sam Bianco ’01, claimed that Spirit Week, “is one of the great traditions that we do here.” But what has made Spirit Week so great every year? What urges students to make an effort to participate in the numerous Spirit Week events every year?

To Saint Joe’s Student Council, student input and inclusivity are the answer. “It’s definitely on the forefront of every decision we make,” says Mr. Bianco. “We’re working for everybody. We’ve really got a diverse set of guys in there. They’re in all different types of classes and all the different clubs and athletics. Those guys have a really good beat on what types of students exist here.” For this year’s Spirit Week, the Student Council has worked to understand every individual Mount Man’s perspective and worked it into Spirit Week. “The whole week is a lot of effort,” continues Mr. Bianco, “believe it or not, we start talking about spirit week in June.”

A recent interview with student council representative Matthew Hockstra tells us that one of the main goals for the council this year is to make sure every student has fun and is included.

I was fortunate to speak with sophomore officer Collin Park about his perspective. He explained, “we propose ideas to Mr. Ader, Ms. Gallagher, and Mr. Bianco [the teachers who lead the student council], and they ask the administrators to see if it would go through. They give us a little path that we can follow, and that path leads to different outcomes.” Collin wanted us to understand that the students had a far greater say in the creation of Spirit Week than we might expect.

Collin further elaborated on the mechanics of the week’s development, sharing that multiple groups were formed to plan different aspects of the week. The idea is that dividing students among separate areas of the week allows every possible idea to shine. This year, Collin’s group worked on revamping the pep rally and competitions. The team worked vigorously to reimplement details enjoyed from previous years, like the inclusion of teachers in the dodgeball and arm wrestling competitions.

However, the competitive spirit is not the only thing refined this year. Mr. Bianco excitedly announced that the Student Council has a brand new decorations committee that’s “going to do some new stuff around campus this year.” In addition, the student tailgate has been excellently polished with a live DJ and brand-new party games. And you can’t forget Monday’s debut of “everything but a backpack day.” Despite all these additions and more, Mr. Bianco was most excited about the Homecoming dance.

“As long as the weather’s good, it’ll look beautiful out there,” he said in anticipation of the dance. “The facilities team is doing lights everywhere outside, We’ve got a DJ, and some great food, including Chick-Fil-A that’s all included in the ticket. And, we have a great giveaway we are very excited about.” When asked about the prize of the giveaway, Mr. Bianco refused to spoil it but said it was “something that students could definitely use.”

“Homecoming day is one of the best days of the year on campus. You could get here at 11 am, watch the soccer team take on their opponent, come over to the tailgate for free food and fun, go back to the football game and join the student section, and go home, shower, and come back for the dance.”

Mr. Sam Bianco ’01, Director of Student Life

For Mr. Bianco, and many other alumni, the thought of Spirit Week brings back many great memories. Mr. Bianco happily shared, “I remember all of those Spirit Weeks. I remember there being a lot of great energy on campus and out on the field. I went to all four of those homecoming games, and I remember all the student sections being huge and the games being exciting; I went to all four of those homecoming dances, and they were all great ones.” By allowing students to lead their own Spirit Week, the tradition has remained fresh for old and new students alike.

Jude Danner is a Sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

The Weightlifting Club is here to help you achieve your strength goals

What is weightlifting

At this point in our lives, many young men, like us, are striving to achieve their peak physical strength and appearance. While we know that we cannot achieve pure perfection, there is a club at MSJ that could help us reach these goals. The Weightlifting Club provides a way of exercising that helps build up physical and mental performance.

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Weight training is all about putting stress on the muscles to build strength, which can be beneficial in gaining muscle mass and reducing body fat. The Weightlifting Club provides that opportunity and encourages its members to go above and beyond to improve their physical form.

The Benefits of Weightlifting

Lifting weights provides many benefits, particularly to those who play sports. Mr. Matt Schmidt, the Weightlifting Club faculty advisor, points out, “The major adaptation that weightlifting provides is injury prevention.” Along with reducing the chances of injury, weightlifting can improve cardiovascular endurance, agility, and energy levels. So, the Weightlifting Club might interest you if you play sports like football, basketball, or hockey.

According to Mr. Schmidt, weightlifting provides several benefits besides improving muscular form and appearance. He describes how weightlifting supports various body systems, including the skeletal system, the immune system, the circulatory system, and the nervous system. Mr. Schmidt also describes how consistently working out and doing physical activities, like weightlifting, can help maintain your body throughout your life.

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While weightlifting helps your body physically, it can also help your body mentally. Studies show that weightlifting helps improve the mood of people suffering from depression and anxiety. In addition to helping with mental wellness, Mr. Schmidt claims that individuals who reach physical fitness milestones are often filled with a sense of accomplishment. Studies have concluded that weightlifting helps keep the mind mentally engaged and stimulated.

Why you should participate in the club

The Weightlifting Club at MSJ provides an experience you will not find by working out alone. The club offers weightlifting resources to students who either cannot afford it or find it too intimidating to participate in a social environment. But the most unique thing is the club provides a sense of community. While the community is described as loose, it is a community that encourages its members to go above and beyond and reach milestones they find intimidating in order to reach their full potential.

Aidan Bajadek is a Junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Mountain biking thrives during the pandemic

On any given Monday, you are likely to find 30 high schoolers in purple jerseys cranking their gears, trying their hardest to climb that final hill. During these confusing and unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of our activities were put on hold. Many sporting events had to be postponed or stopped altogether for safety reasons, such as high school football and soccer. However, there is one sport that has managed to survive through these uncertain times, and that is the sport of mountain biking.

While many of the other sports teams at Mount Saint Joseph High School had to, unfortunately, be paused, Mountain Biking was still given the grace to continue during the quarantine period. How did the riders continue their sport with these new complications, and how has COVID-19 caused a lasting impact on mountain biking? As a mountain bike team member myself, I reached out to riders and coaches to try and find the answers to these compelling questions.

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As mentioned before, mountain biking can be a naturally socially distant sport. On the team rides for MSJ, riders are spaced out in single file lines as they roll and cruise down the valleys and hills of Patapsco State Park. This naturally distant activity is what helped push the sport to continue to remain active as a sport at Mount Saint Joseph after the quarantine order was put into effect. Due to the appeal of an outside activity to many Americans, biking saw a massive increase of people wanting to participate from all across the nation. According to the NDP Group, April of 2020 was the first recorded month to have over 1 billion dollars in revenue generated from the biking business, compared to the average 500 million in previous years.

Mountain biking coach Mike Saverino, from the class of 1983, said this sudden increase was the result of people looking for new sports to try during the quarantine. “I believe the sudden increase had a few reasons.  All other sports were canceled, mountain biking is an outdoor, distanced, and safe sport.  It is also all-inclusive so siblings and families could all participate,” said Saverino.

Mike Saverino, Mount St. Joseph Class of 1983

Many MSJ students wanted to get outdoors to enjoy the fresh air of the woods, and they saw the mountain biking team as the perfect opportunity to be able to not only exercise but to be able to join a community of fellow bikers.

One aspect of the bike team that has culminated in the result of the pandemic was the community of riders on the team becoming closer than before. Communities of bikers could always be seen at special events such as the NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) races, trail building at Patapsco, and many other places. However, due to COVID-19 and its many restrictions, races and larger gatherings were not able to be held, but the riders still found a way to form their communities, by strengthening their relationship with members of their home team or other rider friends.

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At Mount Saint Joseph, the biking team is composed of a vast number of members from grades 9 to 12, and a variety of skill sets and abilities. As a team of fellow Mount brothers, the riders together form a community that is strengthened with every new ride. Junior team member Felix Smolen ‘22 said that people had a natural longing to want to spend time with friends, and this led to people forming friend communities on bike teams.

MSJ Mountain Biking member Felix Smolen

Felix Smolen ’22: “I think that ignoring demographics and politics, it’s giving people an opportunity on how they spend their time with people because at the end of the day, we have to stay inside and be with our family, and sometimes that drives people crazy, and I love my family but I also want to hang out with my friends. So we’ve had fewer opportunities to do that in the normal sense, going to the mall or watching movies, so we’ve had to get creative with it. It’s brought people together in different ways and hopefully, once all of this is over, it’s gonna strengthen people with different methods of bringing people together, and make whatever bond there is stronger.”

The future remains uncertain for the time being as to when restrictions will finally be lifted for things to “return to normal,” but the way we do things with other people in public will never truly return to normal. COVID-19 will always have an impact on the way we go about our daily lives and activities and has shown the world how we are to be considerate as to what are the activities that matter the most to us. The communities of mountain biking have grown stronger and closer together ever since the order to quarantine, and once the quarantine ban is lifted, those strong bonds will certainly continue to be felt for many more trail rides to come.

Jackson Reichardt is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

A behind-the-scenes look at the casting, producing of a Mount St. Joseph performance

Mr. Mike Hartsfield, MSJ’s drama director

Casting and directing a show here at Mount Saint Joe, especially in high school takes a lot of work from both the director, and the cast. I got the chance to interview the Mount’s drama director, Mr. Michael Hartsfield, as well as senior Brennan Hyde, an experienced cast member in the shows. I was able to get from them both angles of producing a show at Mount Saint Joseph from the side of casting, directing and acting. 

Auditions are the real start of the process, when director meets actor. Here at Mount Saint Joseph, Mr. Hartsfield both directs the shows themselves, and casts the actors. That is a lot of responsibility right there, having to make all of the casting decisions in a short amount of time, not to mention the fact that Mr. Hartsfield doesn’t cut anyone from casting, and everyone gets to participate. 

When it comes to auditions, Mr. Hartsfield looks for certain things from his actors, varying from show to show, play and musical. So if you’re a student looking to audition for one of our shows, you’d better pay close attention. Preparedness is a top quality that our director looks for in an audition. He wants to see people that have done their research on the show, and that have practiced their audition, whether it be a song or a monologue. There are also some general things that Mr. Hartsfield wants to see on stage. Strong projection of their voice, personality on stage, clarity, and for a musical; obviously, he wants to hear their singing abilities.

Senior Brennan Hyde, one of the stalwarts of St. Joe’s productions.

Brennan Hyde had never done any real shows, and only began his career here at the Mount. He has since risen in the ‘ranks’ in theater, and has landed himself a number of strong roles, including the part of Tony in “West Side Story.” Brennan has been in the driver seat of a lead, so it’s safe to say, he knows his way around the stage. Brennan had very similar things to say, despite these being separate interviews. Brennan does his research on the show he’s going to audition for, and finds out the theme. For musicals, Brennan says it depends on the musical, but he makes sure to research them, too, so he can pick the best song for his vocal range, as well as the range of a part he wants to get.

A question or topic that has come up when it comes to casting decisions is awarding roles based on your grade level. The concept comes from students wanting ‘a chance’ to have a bigger role, before they leave high school. According to Mr. Hartsfield, that is a “constant critique of…every high school director in the country.” Mr. Hartsfield also says he does not factor grade level into his casting decisions, but he does; however, use it as a neck and neck tiebreaker for a part. When Brennan Hyde was asked if he believed Mr. Hartsfield made casting decisions based on grade level, he also disagreed. The same story came up in both interviews about another student, Patrick Scott, who was cast as Ren, the lead in “Footloose,” when he was ‘only a freshman.’ Scott is now a junior at MSJ, and has since also played the part of Riff in “West Side Story.” With that in mind, it seems that the process is based on the audition itself, with grade level being a minor aspect of the decision-making process.

Body microphones used in MSJ’s productions

After Mr. Hartsfield has created his cast list, the first thing he does is call the entire cast for a read-through of the show. This is done to familiarize the cast with the show and the feeling of it, before they get on stage. This also builds chemistry between the cast members so they become accustomed to who they will be working with. After that, the process of rehearsing a play is quite simple: walk and act through the scenes chronologically on stage to practice and get the blocking down. Musicals; however, can be quite a different story, with the order in which the scenes are practiced can be completely out of order. When Brennan was practicing as Tony in “West Side Story,” he spent a lot of time reading his part, and understanding what his character was going through. Brennan says it wasn’t a difficult transformation for him, although he had some trouble pretending to be as “sad” as the character.

Tech booth microphone box

The final piece of the drama puzzle before the actual show is Tech Week. Tech Week is the week leading right up to opening night where everything is supposed to come together – the sound, microphones, actors, major set changes, and stage lights. The biggest trouble that Mount Saint Joseph has had in recent years, is the sound system. Mr. Hartsfield calls it the “bane of our existence” for MSJ shows. When MSJ does musicals; however, there are even more things that need to be accounted for, tested, and incorporated into the show: the pit band and the singers, and managing the sound for both.

At the end of the week, Mr. Hartsfield and his stage and tech crew always manage, and the show is ready to be put on. So when MSJ puts on their show each night, where is Mr. Hartsfield? Is he back stage helping the stage crew? Is he at home taking his well-earned nap? No.

View of the auditorium and stage from the tech booth

Mr. Hartsfield is still hard at work, stressing it out up in the tech booth “calling the show.” That means Mr. Hartsfield has a walkie-talkie and is still directing, in a way. Instead of cueing the actors, Mr. Hartsfield gives cues to the stage crew in the wings (off to the sides of the stage) to make important set or curtain changes. Being in the tech booth, Mr. Hartsfield also calls cues for sound changes, lighting, and specific sound effects they need.

As you can tell, there is a plethora of moving parts that go into each of the productions here at St. Joe, thanks to Mr. Hartsfield, his crew, and of course, all of the talented actors that participate. Another special thanks to my interviewees, Mr. Hartsfield and Brennan Hyde, for their time and a bit of an inside scoop.

Christopher Kelleher is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.