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New leader of St. John s puts focus on values

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The Rev. Tim Kesicki, left, provincial of the Detroit Jesuit province, missions the Rev. Joaquin Martinez as president of St. John s Jesuit High School in a Sept. 6 Mass.

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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Every school strives for excellence in academics, sports, and extracurricular activities. For Catholic and other religious schools, there are added responsibilities, said the Rev. Joaquin Martinez, the new president of Toledo s St. John s Jesuit High School.

We have to be excellent in academics. In a sense, it s a given, Father Martinez said in an interview this week in his school office. And it s a given that our extracurriculars and our athletics are excellent. That s what you do. That s what you aspire to be as a school.

But as a religious school, there is the third aspect of our mission the values, teaching our boys to be Christian gentlemen.

Father Martinez arrived in Toledo on July 14 to prepare for the start of the school year on Aug. 14 for the private all-boys school that has 948 students in grades 7 through 12.

One of the first tasks he is undertaking is leading his staff of 125 in a conversation about a book, The Students Are Watching, written by Theodore R. Sizer and Nancy Faust Sizer.

Mr. Sizer was Father Martinez s professor at Harvard University, where the St. John s president received a master s degree in education. He also has a master s degree in divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., and a master s in philosophy from Loyola University.

Father Martinez met with three groups of St. John s faculty during the lunch hours on Wednesday to discuss the book, and all three conversations went in different directions, he said.

But the single purpose of the meetings is to help teachers recognize that the students are always watching their actions and attitudes, and sometimes they even listen to their words, Father Martinez said with a smile.

Father Martinez, 42, is a native of Manila who came to the United States in 1986, after graduating from college.

He was given the nickname Boom in childhood by his grandfather, but there s no interesting story behind the name, he said. While he has no problem with people using his nickname, he added one one caveat: Please don t call him Father Boom.

Father Martinez followed his parents to America after they fled the Philippines in 1985. His father had been active in the political opposition to President Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted from office in February, 1986, and the family moved back to Manila a few years after the turmoil.

Although Father Martinez grew up in a devout Catholic family, went to church faithfully, and attended the same Manila Jesuit high school that his father and grandfather did, he said he had not planned on the priesthood.

Furthest thing from my mind, he said flatly.

He was on his way to being a medical doctor, and was a pre-med biology student. He was accepted into medical school, he said, but decided to delay enrollment for a year.

Father Martinez began teaching biology on a short-term basis and found that he loved it. At the same time, he became youth minister of his parish.

I just fell into that. They needed somebody, they said, You work with kids, and I said, OK. You know how that happens, he said.

Father Martinez spent the next four years teaching biology and chemistry in school and serving as a youth minister, then realized God was calling me in some other direction than a career in medicine.

He came to Toledo from San Francisco, and was missioned as St. John s Jesuit president in a Mass at the school on Sept. 6 that was celebrated by Rev. Tim Kesicki, the new provincial of the Detroit Jesuit Province.

David Yonke

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