Senior staff writer
Roncalli Principal Charles E. Weisenbach is in his 35th year as a teacher or administrator at the school, which formed when Kennedy and Chartrand high schools merged in 1969. Weisenbach, a 1979 graduate of Roncalli, explained that the Catholic school thrives on the principles of a faith component, a prayerful life, giving back to others and religious education.
He points out the importance of all students in public or private schools to develop a “moral compass.” The most important element is developing a relationship with Christ. “A moral compass can be established in our public schools, but it is more difficult when you cannot bring a faith component into it,” he said. “The faith component makes it easier to establish that moral compass – being the best version of yourself that you can be, being all that God wants you to be, and treating others the way you want to be treated.”
A prayerful life
Weisenbach emphasized that the pope wants everyone to have a personal relationship with Christ, and that’s what prayer is all about. Nearly 90 percent of Roncalli’s students are from Catholic grade schools, so the concept of being prayerful during the day is not new to them. Prayer life at Roncalli consists of teachers, coaches and music and drama directors who include prayer in their activities. “Prayer isn’t just something we do every day at 9 o’clock (end of second period),” Weisenbach said. “We have good faith-filled Christian people in our classrooms who share their faith with students, and that is so powerful.”
Service to others
Students are required to fulfill a number of service hours, ranging from 12-26 per semester throughout their high school careers, plus taking part in HOPE (Handicapped or Poverty and Elderly), a program in its fourth year. “We found that HOPE is of great value because it establishes in our students’ minds that there are people in need out there,” Weisenbach said. “And when you do that, whether it is being at a soup kitchen or going to a nursing home and playing euchre with those residents, it is hard not to see the face of Christ. The HOPE hours have taken the concept of service to another level.”
Weisenbach pointed out that the religious classes are not leveled; the valedictorian may be sitting next to a special needs student, so they get to know each other. “Our religious study teachers have the hardest job in the whole building,” he said. “There is an academic component (religion), but the students won’t realize that component until they know the person of Jesus Christ and want to have a personal relationship with him.” He poses two questions daily to students: Are you trying to connect with Christ?
Are you having a daily encounter with Christ? Weisenbach said the school takes pride in its Four Star status as designated by the Indiana Department of Education for the fourth straight year. The building program continues with plans for a new gymnasium during the 2019-20 academic year. The first day of school for the more than 1,200 students is Aug. 8.