By Carly York | Correspondent
“I see it every year at these events,” Christian Brother Frank Byrne, president of Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, explained. “You see guys walk in who graduated in the 70s, 80s, 2000s, not quite sure of what to say. Then in 20 minutes, they are all swapping stories just like they did back in the cafeteria at school. That is how strong the brotherhood is with CBA alumni.”
On Feb. 22, more than 100 graduates of CBA gathered in Beacon Hill Country Club, Middletown, to celebrate that brotherhood at their annual networking event. In addition to a networking cocktail hour and buffet dinner, Bishop David O’Connell, C.M., served as the keynote speaker.
Photo Gallery: CBA Networking Dinner
“As a lifelong educator with about 35 years in service, I am very proud of CBA’s many achievements,” he said. “Twice awarded the prestigious academic ‘Blue Ribbon of Excellence’ by the United States Department of Education, CBA is also a powerhouse in athletics, Christian service and extracurricular activities.”
Pat McGann, alumni president, explained that the event is a continuing education opportunity for the alumni. Past speakers have included Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden and Gian Paul Gonzalez, motivational coach for the NY Giants.
“Every year, we have a guest speaker come to discuss a topic of importance to the networking theme,” McGann said.
Steven Ham, a Fair Haven resident and 1974 CBA graduate, said he attended because he has had a lifelong connection, both as a school student and a parent of students.
“It is a tough school, with lots of work,” Ham said. “But there is a great camaraderie among all the guys that they can do this work and keep up with sports. My older son, who is graduating from UVA, recently looked back on his old CBA transcript and said, ‘I’m pretty smart.’ It’s great that CBA gives the kids such pride in their work.”
It is that pride and camaraderie that drew many alumni and current parents to the networking evening. Charles Fixter, Class of 1994, recently moved back to the area and said he felt the networking event was a great way to reconnect.
Chris Teevan, Class of 1995, shared that idea, saying, “CBA is such a great community. This event is a good way to see familiar faces and also meet new people.”
During his keynote address, Bishop spoke on the obstacles youth face today as well as the importance of family. He mentioned the recent tragedy in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 students and staff were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He acknowledged that the motivations behind such violence will always be questioned. He also spoke to the important role of parents in their children’s lives.
“Let us listen to the words of Pope Francis, ‘‘Your children are always watching you, even if you don’t realize it. That is why one of the first things I would say to you is: take care of them, take care of their hearts, their joys, their hopes.’”
“Love them. Teach them. Listen to them,” he continued. “Correct them gently. Don’t leave them alone to figure it all out by themselves. Be a presence, the presence of a loving father and mother who are a loving husband and wife. Is there any more important ‘networking’ than in the home?”
Bishop O’Connell also spoke to the roles of Catholic education and the Church at large in addressing the world today and young people.
“Four months before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed, ‘Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.’ Kennedy was right, but I would change his quote to say, ‘Children are our best hope for the present.’
“On this great occasion for CBA networking, I’d like to leave you with that thought and one more: why are we ‘networking’ if not for them, for their present with us and for our future? Take care of yourselves by taking care of them,” he said.
Bishop O’Connell received a standing ovation from the CBA alumni, who were clearly moved by his remarks.
“I think the Bishop’s comments regarding the importance of parents loving their children was important for us to hear,” said Tori Sikkema, who attended the event with her husband, both CBA parents. “He is right when he said that children view the world through our eyes. We always need to be engaged with our children, listening to them and be present for them.”