Sunday, January 16, 2005

Tough Jesuit at Tough School

Tough Jesuit at Tough School

Father William Stout says Mass at Our Lady of Peace Church in Santa Clara. After Mass, he is surrounded him by people of many nationalities. Father is chatting and blessing with a natural joy in Spanish, Vietnamese and other tongues. If at any time of day or night you need him, he is there with that same joyfulness.

He is a Jesuit priest whose day job has been teaching at the toughest school in Eastside San Jose - Overfelt High.

“I wanted to go to the Eastside of San Jose to help the next immigrant people.” Father said, “My family was German and Irish. My brother and I were the first to graduate from college in the family. The Mexicans were the next group of immigrants we ought to help”

The Jesuits had hoped to have a Catholic High school in the Eastside of San Jose. But in 1984 since no Catholic school was build, Father Stout proposed to the Jesuit provincial that he get hired at Overfelt to teach math to help the kids from Mexico with problems in English.

Teaching for over 16 years at the school, he knew many good students, but found that many kids saw the gangs as “heroes“. “The Overfelt riots and bad reputation give a false representation of the kids at the school. If they like you, they like you-if they don’t like you, you are in trouble.”

Father said, “I told the gangs I didn’t respect them. They carved their gang letters into my car window. I left it there so everyone could see what they were about. But, so long as kids lack parents with religion or lack parents who are home for them there will be problems.”

According to Stout the problem is students, now, come from broken homes with family problems and drugs. They don’t see direction or see the need to study. The gangs provide for the vacuum the family used to provide. They provide approval, direction, protection and a sense of belonging. These people become their family.

“The only solution is for the family to do their job - some do. They are home for their children and give them religion.“ Father said,

“ My mom was paralyzed for 10 years and my dad went out to see her everyday for 10 years. He would talk to her-you could tell she understood by her eyes looking at him. Parents must live their message! A loving couple will do more than any book. They must sacrifice their pride for each other and offer it to God.”

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