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Joy of Christ

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Found in the Students and Chaplain at Royalmont Academy
by John Stegeman

When one has their eyes and heart fixed on Jesus, any occasion can be one of joy—even the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Although the feast focuses on sadness, Legionaries of Christ Father Jesús Salinas said that’s not the end of the story.

“Obviously, Mary was suffering, but she had hope,” Father Salinas said. “She knew there was a bigger plan and that gave her a lot of joy.”

At Royalmont Academy, a private Catholic K-12 school in Mason, instilling the joy of that bigger plan is a priority. This was seen September 15, when the school marked the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows by installing a new Marian grotto. Father Salinas, school chaplain, blessed the statue and led the service as happy students laid flowers at Mary’s feet.

Father Salinas said the student’s smiles are rooted in Royalmont’s approach. “The most important thing is that our spirituality is Christ-centered,” he said. “Christ is at the center of everything we do. That’s why our chapel is in the center of our school. The first thing we do here when we arrive in the morning is pray and entrust our day to the Lord. True, authentic joy comes from our interaction with the Lord in the Eucharist.”

Royalmont Academy was founded 27 years ago and formally recognized by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2009. The high school expansion took place beginning with the 2015 school year. There are roughly 170 students enrolled in grades K–12.

“The goal for us is that every single person who comes to Royalmont grows in their personal relationship with Christ,” Father Salinas continued. “If we can establish that, it brings us joy. The rest comes after that. We want to be strong in academics and athletics, too.”

In academics, keeping Christ at the center includes seeing each subject as a gift from God. “Our Christ-centered curriculum permeates everything we teach,” said Anne Polak, Communications and Marketing Director at Royalmont Academy. “Even math and science are the work of God.”

Father Salinas is another source of joy for the students. Each First Friday the school has adoration and benediction, but Father brings extra fun. He rides his electric scooter around the playground, letting students give chase. It’s a small moment that reminds the students that it is a special day.

“Father Jesús just lights up a room,” said Polak. “You can tell that he cares and loves each student, staff, parent and grandparent. His homilies are always great, and the students are always engaged. Father Jesús brings a lot of love to us all. He knows each student by name and knows each child’s source of joy and some of their struggles, too.”

Ordained in 2019, Father Salinas is in his first assignment as a priest. For him, the joy flows both ways. He enjoys being present for the students and added that he always wanted to work in a school.

“I really enjoy just being around,” Father Salinas said. “Seeing the kids in the classroom or joining them for their lunchtime or seeing them on the playground. That’s where you open the door for conversations and sometimes those can go deeper.”

“I try to be present to the students, to staff, to their parents and families. Sometimes we don’t have to do a lot of things. Just by being you, you are being authentic with them.”

He said the other ingredient for joy is bringing faith alive in every activity of the day.

This article appeared in the November 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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