Extracurriculars & Campus Ministry
The Senior Retreat
For the most part, the issues of the separation of the schools or of the Korean War did not impact the students, who continued to focus on the day-to-day routine of classes, their extracurricular activities, their spiritual growth and their social lives. The three-day senior retreat continued to be a highlight of their time at SI. In 1950, the yearbook reported on this hallmark of Jesuit education:
“Dear Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve Thee as Thou deservest, to give and not to count the cost, to labor and not to seek for rest; to toil and not to seek reward, save that of knowing that I do Thy will.
“Long will thoughtful Ignatians remember this short but powerful prayer, the traditional keynote of the annual three-day Senior Retreat at El Retiro.
“They will remember, too, the new but uplifting experience that was theirs during those few days, when far away from the turmoil and nervousness of city life, they turned their minds and hearts to God.
“Some among them, such as Moore, Sheehan, Fazzio and Enright, will remember special duties that helped keep the retreatants in that atmosphere so necessary for a good
retreat. All will remember the strict silence, the soul-searching meditations and the impressive Stations of the Cross.
“They will remember especially the spirit of the retreat, which perhaps remained with them after their departure from El Retiro; how it rendered them quiet and thoughtful, anxious to put their retreat resolutions into faithful practice, hopeful some day to return to El Retiro for another ‘spiritual checkup.’”13
The St. Ignatius Church Monthly Calendar ran a few student reflections on this retreat, written by members of the class of 1950. Here are a few excerpts:
“I went to El Retiro to get out of school and to have a good time, but after a few hours I changed my mind. I think the main reason for the change was the total lack of distraction. My thoughts there were more serious than at any other time of my life. I changed my mind, too, as to what made up the important things of life, for the things that seemed so important a few days before now seem to be trifles. I made resolutions; I pray to God that He will give me the strength to keep them.”
“I have made many retreats before, but none impressed me so greatly. I think the reason for this is the wonderful atmosphere of the place. I enjoyed the whole retreat, but I especially enjoyed making the out-door Stations of the Cross and saying the rosary while walking through the lovely gardens and visiting the outdoor shrines.”
“When I first came to El Retiro, I must admit I was prepared for a rather boring time. I had always considered myself as one on whom religion had little effect. I had never thought much about God, religion or life after death. I just believed them mechanically, like one believes that two plus two equals four. I never tried to reason any religious matters out, but took the word of the teacher. But as I look back on it now, I didn’t really believe my religion, and because I attended a public school for quite some time, I was even at times prone to disbelieve. However, at El Retiro, I had a chance that was never offered me before to thinkthese problems out, and today I am convinced that the Catholic Church is the right church, that God exists, and many other matters of Faith on which I was weak…. What at El Retiro helped me clear up my mind? I believe it was the atmosphere. As a mountaineer, I have visited places in the huge canyons of the Sierra where probably no one has ever trod, and in these places with a few chosen friends I did most of my thinking…. At El Retiro I believe the atmosphere of the mountains was provided; the guidance of the Church in important matters was added.”14
Both the Sanctuary Society (which provided the altar servers for the many Masses the priests said) and the Sodalities continued to provide avenues for the boys of SI to serve the Church and grow in faith during the school year. The Junior and Senior Sodalities were much like SI’s modern Service Club and CLCs. “Whether it was waiting on tables for the Fathers’ Club, washing dishes at the Old Folks Home, or enjoying the convention dances of the Bay Area Catholic High Schools, [members of] the Sodality worked together,” strove for “personal sanctification and sanctification of one’s neighbor,” and held daily noon rosaries during October and May.15
This faith life of students in the 1950s was the pre-Vatican II Catholicism of theBaltimore Catechism. Spiritual life for the boys would continue much this way until the late 1960s and early 1970s when the effects of Vatican II began to influence the way the Jesuits shared their own rich spiritual traditions with their students.
Fight Night & Rifle Club
SI used the new gym for more than just basketball. It provided Ignatians a place to launch a new event: Senior Fight Night. In March 1953 “the toughest sluggers in the class of ’53” took part in a boxing contest. The school borrowed a boxing ring from the Presidio through the help of Capt. Buckley, in charge of ROTC at the school. The evening featured nine bouts. “Some of the glove wars were antics, others full of clever punching and smooth footwork.”16
Fighting wasn’t the only unusual competition held at SI. Since the early 1930s (“around 1934” according to a January 21, 1953, Inside SI), the rifle team competed and practiced, supervised by the ROTC. The same edition of Inside SIreported on the annual Hearst Rifle match, with “five shots per person in each position,” for the 13-man team coached by Sgt. McAllister.
The Ignatian Comes of Age
To celebrate the centennial year of the school, Inside SI grew from a small 4-page publication into a slick 16-page magazine. Its moderator, Robert Piser, SJ, who later changed his name to Kaiser when he moved to Rome in 1962 — I got tired of everyone calling me Pee-Sair — instigated the change when Fr. Leonard assigned him as moderator of both the literary magazine and the school newspaper. He asked if he could combine budgets and produce one publication, and permission was granted.
Kaiser was a devotee of Time and had even written his Master’s thesis about the ethics of Time-style journalism. “Inside SI had a strong resemblance to Time,” he noted in a 2003 interview. “Writing Time-style taught the kids to write colorfully and concretely, and the format helped us organize what we thought was important about SI and its culture.”
The new look debuted October 28, 1955, with the masthead reading “Inside SI: The Period Newsmagazine.” Editor James O’Brien ’56 offered this by way of introduction: “This year we are trying to make our writing so interesting and persuasive that when the fellow who hates football reads our article about the sport, and through it feels the exhilarating excitement of the game, he won’t be able to see enough football.”
The following year, Kaiser and his editors changed the layout to emulate Sports Illustrated “because we realized Time wasn’t the right model. We were so much of a jock school then, and we featured Gil Dowd ’57, a star football player, on the cover in a full-page, full-bleed duotone photo. The kids just loved it. We delivered it during class time, and teachers suspended class so that students could read about themselves.”
Dan Flynn ’57 served as editor in his senior year, and the magazine won national renown in 1957 with an All-American Award from the University of Minnesota. Roy Camozzi also won a $100 scholarship at a Northern California Student Press Conference put on by UC Berkeley for a feature story he wrote. The magazine went on to win first place for its cover photo of Fr. Leonard from the Catholic High School Press Association, which also named the magazine a “Publication of Distinction” among high school and college publications on the Pacific Coast. Future magazines would earn SI first-place rankings from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Convention.17
The big award in 1957 went to the school yearbook, The Ignatian, which took first place in the nation from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. The yearbook featured the first place football and golf teams and a full-color cover, a first for that publication.
The Ignatians over the next few years continued to excel and, at times, offered new ways of showcasing the student body. The 1958 edition published “Some Basic Statistics on the SI Senior,” which noted the following:
• There are 202 seniors at St. Ignatius.
• The average senior is 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs 158 pounds, has dark brown hair, brown eyes, and is 17 years old.
• 51.2 percent of the seniors participated in the SI sports program this past year.
• The percentage of seniors working after school has dwindled during the past 10 years; now it is 10.8 percent.
• The SI senior estimates that he spends on average of 1.5 hours studying each night; time spent in slumber, 7.6 hours.
• Though studies seemed to be more difficult this year, the senior class maintained an average of 84.3 percent in all subjects during the fall semester.
• Seniors seem to be more social now, with 16.3 percent going steady.
• 91.8 percent of SI seniors plan to attend college next year. More than half of these, 58.2 percent, will attend Catholic colleges.