3 Things You Should Know about ACE 22
In just a few short weeks, members of ACE 22 will be embarking upon their very first experiences with student teaching, lesson planning, and Fr. Joe’s legendary baking. While it’s hard to say what ACE 22 will look like until all 96 new teachers arrive on campus in a few weeks, we were lucky enough to gather almost all of the ACE 22 community together for the first time on April 17th for a retreat filled with a brief glimpse at what the next two years has in store for all of us. After less than 48 hours on retreat together, here’s what I can tell you about ACE 22 so far:
1. We have nothing (and everything) in common.
"How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been,” says C.S. Lewis, “How gloriously different are the saints.” Gloriously different is exactly how I would describe my fellow classmates and teachers in ACE 22. Moving from introduction to introduction on the opening night of the retreat, I met a theoretical physicist turned theater director from Dublin, a former Chemistry major and current Saint Joseph Worker from Guam, and a marine biologist finishing a year spent living on an island off the coast of South Carolina. Conversations during meals were punctuated with a “wicked” or two from our Boston teachers, a rather heated debate about the legitimacy of “pop,” soda,” and “coke” between all represented dialects, and a few curious inquiries about the quirks of American culture from our two Irish classmates.
By the end of the weekend, I had enthusiastically discussed the nuances of Augustine with one soon-to-be theology teacher, listened to a biology major passionately explain her senior research on girls and motivation in STEM education, and chatted about migrant workers, the Spanish language, and social justice with my future housemate. In other words: if you think ACE teachers fit any sort of mold or type, think again.
2. Full disclosure: We’re a little nervous.
If we’re being completely honest, I don’t think you could find a single member of ACE 22 who isn’t at least a little nervous about all of the changes that the next few months hold for us. The very premise of teaching in ACE sounds crazy: pack your bags and move across the country to a place you’ve never laid eyes on and housemates you hardly know. Not only that, but commit to allowing those housemate-strangers to become your companions and cheerleaders for the next two years. And, on top of all of that, throw yourself into all of the struggles, rewards, and stresses that are part-and-parcel of anyone’s first year as a teacher.
It’s a radical call, but one which is not very far from the call made to the disciples in the gospel. “Take up your cross and follow me” are words just as intimidating, in my opinion, as “pack your bags and move to Compton.” I’m sure (if Peter’s denial of Christ and the disciples’ tendency to huddle in upper rooms is any evidence) that Christ’s earliest followers were no less nervous and unsure of themselves than any of the 96 teachers about to answer ACE’s call to service. As John Schoenig, Director, Teacher Formation and Education Policy, carefully pointed out in his April Retreat reflection, those disciples were not yet prepared for the work they had been called to—but they were ready for it. I’m not sure any of the ACE 22 teachers are prepared for the challenges waiting for us in August, but we certainly hope to be ready for them.
3. We're already building community.
It’s not everyday that one gets to celebrate the Eucharist with a group of strangers with the assured knowledge that, within two short years, those strangers will be close friends, confidants, mentors, and supporters. Surrounded by nearly a hundred individuals whose names I still had to read off of helpfully supplied name tags, I was reminded of Thomas Merton’s revelation on the corner of Fourth and Walnut:
"In the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
It is the blessing and mystery of intentional community that one can enter a room filled with strangers armed with the confidence that those strangers cannot remain strangers for very long. Although there are many more introductions to be made, ACE 22—like the two decades worth of ACE communities before it—is already on its way to becoming a community of teachers, disciples, and friends.