October 6, 2015

O’Dowd Cheer for Breast Cancer Awareness

October 5, 2015

Why Some of us Don’t Have One True Calling | Emilie Wapnick

Have too many passions to settle on just one? Perfect. Your unique mix of interests may turn out to be your very own super power.

Author, entrepreneur and artist, Wapnick was blessed with so many interests that she was unable to pick just one. She studied music, visual arts, film production and law, and graduated from the Law Faculty at McGill University. After years of feeling anxious about her zigzagging career path and hyphenated credentials, she finally decided to embrace her plural nature and start a movement for others who lean toward being “multipotentialites.” Since launching her website, Puttylike, in 2010, Wapnick has inspired thousands of multipotentialites to stop trying to fit themselves into boxes, and embrace their plurality. She has been featured in Lifehacker, The Financial Times, and The Huffington Post. Currently, she is working on her forthcoming book, “Multipotentialite.”

Katie Ring ’10 – A Woman for Others

When Katie Ring ’10 was a youngster, she assumed everyone became involved with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) after college graduation. After all, her mom and four of her aunts and uncles served as Jesuit Volunteers, and she always listened with keen interest to their stories about the experience.

Even when Ring later discovered such service wasn’t the norm, she couldn’t shake the strong desire to serve people on the margins.

“In a paradoxical way I drew a lot of strength from the girls, and the strong relationships that I had with them really sustained me.”

Ring recently concluded a year working as a Jesuit Volunteer at Seton Home in San Antonio, Texas, a residential facility that provides housing and supportive services for homeless teen girls ages 12-17 who have been placed by Child Protective Services and are also pregnant and/or parenting.

As victims of abuse and neglect, most of Seton Home’s teen moms suffer from chronic trauma related to poverty, violence, abuse and neglect with symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and maladaptive coping skills.

Seton Home works to break the cycle of abuse and poverty by providing a caring home, education, and support services necessary to transform the lives of pregnant and parenting teen mothers and their children.

It was while she was attending Boston College that Ring grew to appreciate the Jesuit mission, which centers on being a man or woman for and with others. Upon graduating from college, she was eager to embrace one of the four Jesuit leadership pillars – simple living – having been immersed largely in the middle class for much of her life. That led her to the JVC and Seton Home.

Putting Her Faith into Action

Being a Jesuit Volunteer was a transformative experience for Ring – one that allowed her to put her strong faith into action.

Ring says that while the seeds of her spiritual foundation were planted by her family, it was cultivated at O’Dowd.

“I believe that a lack of attachment is at the root of so many mental health issues and societal ills.”

“I really claimed my faith in high school, in large part because of the great support I got from the religion department faculty and staff, and today my faith is at the core of everything I do,” she said. “I feel so loved by God, and it seems like the best way to thank God for that love is to share it. I think I feel especially called to love the unloved. Much of my work at Seton Home centered on helping the girls understand how precious they are, and helping them uncover their own worth and beauty.”

At Seton Home, Ring served as a youth minister within the spirituality department. She led bible study and youth groups, and took the girls to church on Sunday. In addition she tutored the girls, drove them to doctor’s appointments, and encouraged them in deepening their relationships with their children.

Eye Toward the Future

Because of her Seton Home experience, Ring’s appreciation of infancy and early childhood grew, as well as her understanding of the long-lasting impact of abuse and neglect on the developing brain. And, her career path was shaped by her service there.

Ring was accepted into to the prestigious Yale School of Nursing master’s program, which she was to begin in August. She plans to specialize in pediatric nursing, with a focus on maternal-infant attachments.

“I believe that a lack of attachment is at the root of so many mental health issues and societal ills. I think a key part of a child’s foundation for success is being well-loved and well-nourished in his or her early years,” she said.

Eventually Ring would like to work in an inner city clinic or rural setting, serving children in greatest need. Ring said she was humbled by the strength of the young women at Seton Home. “It was wonderful to see their strength, optimism and hope – despite some of life’s most trying circumstances,” she said. “And I was amazed by how much joy they have despite the tremendous trials they’ve overcome. And they’re still quick to laugh. That shows that at the root of human nature we’re all called to joy more than suffering.”

Work at Seton Home was challenging at times, Ring said, but prayer sustained her. “Whenever I was struggling or frustrated with one of the girls I said a prayer and asked God to help me see the girl the way that God sees her – as a beautifully precious child.” she said. “In a paradoxical way I drew a lot of strength from the girls, and the strong relationships that I had with them really sustained me.”

Still, she admitted it was very hard to witness how the cycle of abuse often repeats. “It’s hard to both love the mom so deeply and to understand that she is trying her best at any given moment,” Ring said. “Sometimes because of a mom’s past or her mental health issues it’s hard for her to be her best self. There’s a sense of helplessness associated with that – despite all of our efforts to help any given mom, sometimes she falls back on what she knows. And what she knows is trauma and abuse.”

Ring’s JVC experience made her more fully appreciate her own family circumstances. “I hadn’t realized how important it was to have a foundation of a security and stability that my parents created for me,” Ring said. For that reason, Ring worked tirelessly to ensure that the teen girls at Seton Home feel both secure and loved.

October 3, 2015

School of the Madeleine’s STEAM Students Visits Living Lab

The School of the Madeleine (MAD) is piloting a new STEAM program this year in the 7th grade. Their first project of the year is to redesign their school garden, so what better place to visit, than O’Dowd’s Living Lab? They came to learn more about the Living Lab features, and how it is used by students as an outdoor classroom and laboratory.

For two hours, MAD’s 7th grade students immersed themselves in various hands-on activities that highlighted core elements of the Living Lab. The students dove into activities (see photos below) such as an ecosystems investigation, closed loop compost exploration, care for domestic animals, greenhouse planting, and a biodiversity blitz. Students left feeling inspired to transform the MAD garden.

O’Dowd in Rare Company as Fair Trade School

Originally Featured in the Catholic Voice: September 2015

Bishop O’Dowd High School is one of only 16 schools (at the K-12 Level) nationwide that have been recognized as Fair Trade Schools, embedding fair trade practices and principles into policy as well as the social and intellectual foundation of the school community.

At O’Dowd, students, faculty and staff members are committed to creating a spark and inspiring change that affects the global community. To that end, the school has pledged to purchase environmentally and socially preferable products and services. This means that O’Dowd strives to establish relationships with vendors/contractors who can attest to the strict adherence of fair trade standards, fair labor standards and conditions, child labor laws and responsibilities and environmental sustainability principles.

According to Director of Sustainability Andra Yeghoian, this policy is important because, “It means we are endorsing an economic system that holds businesses accountable to their impact on all stakeholders — suppliers, workers, community, and environment — not just a single bottom line, but a triple bottom line that balances people, profit and planet.”

Some concrete examples of O’Dowd’s commitment are:

  • Serving 100 percent Fair Trade Certified coffees and teas throughout the campus.
  • Contracting with Fair Trade aligned apparel companies for all clothing sold in the school’s spirit shop, the Dragon Den.
  • Becoming a Fair Trade School, part of a grassroots network that advocates on campuses and communities for normalizing Fair Trade as an institutional practice. This past year O’Dowd hosted multiple events to educate students, faculty and staff members about Fair Trade.
  • Contracting with Epicurean Food Group, a certified Bay Area Green Business recognized for community environmental responsibility, resource conservation, pollution prevention and providing fresh, natural, local and organic food choices. Epicurean even uses fresh produce from the school’s 4-acre Living Lab — a certified wildlife habitat and outdoor classroom — on a regular basis.


Students drive the effort through Students for Sustainability (S4S), a division of the Sustainability Corps (S-Corps), which is dedicated to greening the campus, spreading social justice and empowering others to live sustainability and build thriving communities. The club regularly hosts sustainability-related events and sponsors sustainability competitions.

New for the 2015-16 academic year is the Sustainability Certification Program, which prepares students for sustainability- oriented college majors, careers and lifestyles. O’Dowd has also been recognized by the California Department of Education the past two years as a Green Ribbon School.

October 2, 2015

Senior Parent Mass Photos

Click photo thumbnail to view full size. Images can be right clicked and downloaded at 1024px wide by 768px. Please note that Lisa Coffey-Mahoney’s shots are provided below.

Photographer: Donovan Rittenbach

October 1, 2015

Senior Parent Liturgy

September 30, 2015

Students Register to Vote

Representatives from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters visited Mrs. Harjehausen and Mrs. Sussman’s American Government classes on Sept. 28 in order to give the students the opportunity to register to vote, as well as hands-on experience with a voting machine. Students filled out their voter registration forms in class, and are now officially registered voters. Then, Jeffrey Normant of the Registrar’s office distributed a mock ballot which students completed and fed into the same voting machine that is used countywide at the polling places. Students left class with an “I Voted” sticker and valuable information about the voting process.

September 29, 2015

Important Letter to Parents 09/29/15

September 29, 2015

Dear Parent/Caregiver:

We discovered on September 24, 2015, that some of our students have been playing a word game, commonly played amongst teenagers throughout the U.S., to elicit a reaction by using socially and racially insensitive language. This activity violates our core values and exhibits a profound lack of sensitivity. We are grateful that an O’Dowd student brought this to our attention. We assure you that we have met with the students involved and their parents, and appropriate consequences have been assessed.

We are extremely saddened and disappointed to learn of this activity occurring in our student community. We acknowledge that many of us have experienced the historical impact of discrimination and intolerance and the resulting pain that this causes.

At O’Dowd, we are using this as an opportunity to focus even greater attention on all forms of intolerance, implicit and explicit, within our community-student, faculty/staff and families- and to continue to develop programs that address discrimination head-on as well as issues of class and power. Our goal is to engage our students in helping to lead this effort.

These are the steps we have already taken:

  • Provided support for the student who brought this “game” to our attention.
  • Enacted appropriate consequences and provided education for the two boys who engaged in the behavior.
  • Additional development of current programs to educate all students and faculty about the inclusive behaviors and attitudes we expect them to display towards all persons, including partnering with Sojurn to the Past and BLINK Consulting to enhance our efforts. We expect student and faculty behaviors to mirror the examples of our Pope and to align with the expectations detailed in our student handbook.

Acts of intolerance and insensitivity are never accepted on this campus. These acts run counter to our core values. Lack of sensitivity, intolerance and discrimination are all too common in our world and we as Catholic educators are perfectly positioned to develop solutions working together with you. We need you, as parents and caregivers, to engage and to support these efforts. We welcome your partnership, input, and energy as we move forward.


Stephen Phelps, Ed.D.
Pam Shay, MSA

Samuel Cohen: “Alzheimer’s is not normal aging — and we can cure it

More than 40 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to increase drastically in the coming years. But no real progress has been made in the fight against the disease since its classification more than 100 years ago, until now.

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Finding God in All Things

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