Serving Through Song, Art, and Word

By Sharon Sheara
In the Principle and Foundation from the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius says that “human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord.” This praising and glorification of God is a return of the divine love He has shown to us. God has imbued each of us with gifts and talents that we can use to glorify Him.

The visual, musical, and literary arts are all means through which humans express the glory of God, and the Strake Jesuit campus is filled with artistic students, faculty, and staff who do just that. They use their talents to glorify God, sharing their gifts for the service and benefit of others.

Orchestra student Matthew Mejia ’25 gives back to his community by sharing his musical talents with the retired priests and religious of St. Dominic Village. Before Mass each Sunday, Matthew transports the nursing home residents to their chapel and then plays his violin for them during the liturgy. Orchestra Director Mr. Guillermo Hernandez-Ching describes Matthew as one of his indispensable students. “He does everything we ask in a timely manner and with total enjoyment and commitment,” says Mr. Hernandez-Ching.

Mr. Hernandez-Ching is a mentor for Matthew and many other orchestra students. Through his generous spirit he leads by example in being a Man for Others by volunteering in two community orchestras and facilitating the Strake Jesuit Faculty and Staff Vocal Ensemble. “I am a music educator because of three organizations: the Jesuits, my local youth symphony, and community band, so outside of school I make time to give back to those groups,” says Mr. Hernandez-Ching.

In addition to Matthew and Mr. Hernandez-Ching, numerous other members of the Strake Jesuit Community share their musical talents with those outside of the Strake Jesuit community. Andy Kim ’24 began a new club this year, Music with a Mission, which includes members Jackson Cordes ’23, John Hill ’25, and Andrew Wong ’25. They play for local senior and assisted living centers, which Andy notes receive relatively few visitors and are elated to have the club perform. “Music with a Mission was started so that people can use their musical talents by giving others less fortunate an opportunity to experience music for themselves,” says Andy. “Live music isn’t much of an option for them, so why not bring music to them?”

Conrad Dichoso ’25, Pious Remigius ’25, and Leonardo Valente ’25 spend their Saturdays playing in Houston Orchestra for All, a program dedicated to inclusive and equitable music instruction and performance. The students not only perform with the group, but also serve as mentors and assist the orchestra director.

Leonardo is currently working one-on-one with a blind violinist, assisting him with verbal cues during rehearsals. “I tell him things that he can’t see,” says Leonardo. “The best part of the whole experience is when rehearsals are complete and the hours of practice come together into a seamless performance.” Leonardo finds serving other musicians who would not typically have access to music education to be rewarding and humbling.

This willingness to serve enlivens student activities all across campus. SAA Performing Arts teacher Mrs. Kim Mendoza observes it in the Triple Trio, whose members, she notes, always perform with cheerfulness and good spirits. “When it comes to being Men for Others, there are a good number of students in our department that we could put under that qualification,” she says. “They’re always willing to step up and be at the school’s beck and call to sing for Masses, events, open houses, dinners, luncheons—anything the school asks.”

Our Jesuit English faculty are also finding ways to use their gifts to glorify God. Faculty member Mrs. Lesley Clinton is an award-winning poet and an active member of the Catholic literary arts community. According to her, “The Catholic literary imagination produces creative work that examines the action of God’s grace upon people. Writers don’t have to be Catholic, though, to engage in this artistic search for the good, the true, and the beautiful.” Mrs. Clinton works to bring this literary community to Strake Jesuit. As moderator of the Creative Writing Club, she assists our student writers in creating beautiful imagery through the written word with the yearly publication of Inkwell Magazine. In preparation for each issue, the club brings in Christian authors for a speaker series and writing workshops. “The visiting authors we bring to campus help our students use their creative talents to examine the human condition and to share what St. John Paul II called epiphanies of beauty,” says Mrs. Clinton.

Creative Writing student Brandon Williams ’23 uses his gift for writing to entertain, enlighten, and engage others. He has presented his original prose and poetry at two recent events: Inkwell Creative Writing Club’s Thursday Café and the Black Student Union’s Soul Food Soirée. Brandon’s writing is inspired by personal stories, both his own and those of others in the Black community. One of those inspirations is his mother, who is currently pursuing an English degree. Brandon notes, “My mom and I have great discussions and work off of each other with our writing.” With his poetry and prose, Brandon wants to show others the world as he sees it. “My biggest hope for my writing is that I, too, can inspire others and be able to give them stories to relate to, the stories that I didn’t have much of as a kid.”

Digital graphic student Bryce Fucik ’23 also gives back to our community by using the skills he learns in the classroom. Bryce creates custom advertisements and digital artwork for various teams, clubs, and events on campus like Spring Fling, Crusader Arts, and the Golf Scramble. His teacher Mrs. Marilyn Othon says, “Bryce is using his talents to give back to the school and his schoolmates.” When members of our community share their talents with others, they are exemplifying the mission as Men and Women for Others, helping to create the kingdom of heaven on earth. The truth and beauty expressed from the act of using their God-given gifts brings glory to the One who bestowed those gifts.