Joel Maldonado offers the sign of peace to Fr. Scott Santarosa May 3 at St. Andrew Church in Northeast Portland. The priest, leader of Jesuits in the western United States, announced that the order would continue to sponsor the school. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Joel Maldonado offers the sign of peace to Fr. Scott Santarosa May 3 at St. Andrew Church in Northeast Portland. The priest, leader of Jesuits in the western United States, announced that the order would continue to sponsor the school. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
The superior of Jesuits in the western United States visited St. Andrew Nativity School in Northeast Portland May 3 to confirm that the order would continue sponsorship.

“God just wants us to keep trying, keep working, keep improving,” Father Scott Santarosa said in a homily at the middle school, which offers a free Catholic education to low-income students.

The innovative school opened in 2001, housed in the former parish school, which closed in 1986.

Reflecting on apostles and martyrs, Father Santarosa seemed to be urging the students to embrace calls to greatness as opposed to being frustrated in a quest for perfection.

“Even St. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, ending up giving his life for Jesus,” Father Santarosa said. “If he were here today, he might say that you, too, are called to be apostles, even though you are not perfect.”

Father Santarosa told the students that their discipleship will really take off when they realize that they are not doing everything on their own, but that God is doing work through them.

“At St. Andrew Nativity School, we want you to hone your skills, polish them up,” Father Santarosa said. “Then we want you to use them for other people.”

About 96% of Nativity students go on to graduate from high school, including from institutions like Jesuit and Central Catholic. About 80% go on to college, a high rate among the demographic. The school offers support to graduates as they progress through education.

During the May 3 Mass, students flashed their bilingual genius, reading prayers in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Tagalog. Others sang in a student choir, offering one song that said, “Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.”

edl@catholicsentinel.org