For roughly a third of my life, I have been associated with Saint Xavier High School. As a student, teacher, and alumni, St. X has always been a beacon of academic success, athletic prowess, and dedicated service. It’s a school with state-of-the-art buildings, advanced technology, and prestigious teachers. St. X is a place that people often assume to be saturated with privilege and wealth. While the assumption does not describe every student, the reputation of St. X certainly propels students towards privileged circumstances.
Being at St. X Bungoma has been a stark reorientation. To see the famed St. X logo in a place that is startlingly opposite from the St. X that I have known has been an unforeseen adjustment this summer. Everything that I have associated with St. X is inverted. Yet, as shockingly different as the two St. Xs appear on the surface, there are wonderful parallels.
I imagine that St. X Louisville in 1864 resembled this place today. A group of Xaverian Brothers uncertain of the future and responding to a constant flow of needs. Potential on the horizon, but unsure what tomorrow holds. They were driven by a mission to “respond to the signs of the time” and build a school where boys become men and better world citizens.
In Kenya, it is much the same. Beginning in 2018, St. X Bungoma is in a similar situation. The needs for new buildings mirror fears that there might not be students to fill them. Demands for additional students parallel concerns that only a few will pay the school fees. Each day presents a kaleidoscope of problems that require a response.
There are stories of the early days of St. X Louisville, where the Brothers didn’t have enough food to eat, were chased out of buildings for not paying rent, or were forced to beg for basic necessities receiving only a watermelon for their meal. Many Brothers were sent back to Brugge because their mission was deemed a failure, and only the least worthy Brothers remained. The origins of St. X Louisville are rooted in impotence, incompetence, and near failure. Given the prestige of rigor, excellence, and polish, the humble origins seem like an embarrassing stain rather than an inspiring feat of triumphant history. However, without those men, the St. X we know today would not exist. They are the giants whose shoulders we stand upon.
On the campus of St. X Bungoma, a tattered one-room school building that housed the first class sits empty as two modern classroom and science buildings find daily use. In the field where cows once grazed and eucalyptus trees swayed, a brand new assembly hall receives its finishing touches. On a grass patch, blueprints for additional classrooms, a library, and a computer lab will soon break ground. That original building is now just weeks away from a renovation as it prepares to temporarily host a new class before the latest buildings are complete. Compared to its older brother, this St. X is off to a much better origin story as the giants of St. X Bungoma come to age.
In these early days of St. X Bungoma, the teachers and brothers do everything. Without the funding and quantity of staff of its predecessor, the Brothers and teachers do everything. From before sun up to well after sunset, they work to support every need the students could have. In the classroom, on the fields, or headed to the doctors, a need isn’t met without the aid of the Brothers.
Only boasting one graduating class, the alumni have already made a name for themselves. Soon several will be headed to some of the best colleges in the country, while others pursue vocational training and careers. The impact of St. X on the lives of these boys has transformed their future. Few could have dreamed of these outcomes had it not been for their time spent as students of Saint Xavier High School.
At St. X Louisville, students, faculty, and staff, often recall this phrase, “Standing on the shoulders of giants.” It is a reminder that this school exists today because of the witness of those who came before. Still in its infancy, the students, faculty, staff, and Brothers of St. X Bungoma are “the giants” that people will speak of for generations.
This school is already a gift and blessing to the world. I cannot imagine what it will become in 160 years.
If you would like to assist the future of this school and help with tuition assistance or provide funding for their new building projects, your donations would be greatly appreciated.