Mr. Kyle James, whose cheerful face illuminated the front page of our last newsletter, is certainly the missionary volunteer with the most unique background. We are proud to have him working with us, not because of his fascinating credentials and backstory, but because of his serious devotion to prayer, erudition, and affability, among other things. Having studied an interesting pairing - chemical engineering and music - on top of his already wide-ranging knowledge, he came abundantly prepared for his teaching assignments at JPII of Music, World History and Geography, Biology, and Christian Moral Living.
Mr. James hails from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, where he benefited from the energetic educational system before flying away to Massachusetts to obtain his degree at MIT. Mr. James’s understanding of chemistry has come in handy when answering my barrage of questions in pursuit of the true role of Aristotelian Natures in the world. Mr. James is known around the volunteer community for wearing a T-shirt that reads “Protons have Mass? I didn’t even know they were Catholic” from his days in the “Tech Catholic Community.” It is no surprise that with such smart people floating around over there, the T-Shirt has the college's Mass times right on it. Why hasn’t anyone else thought of that?
One might expect that, since Belize and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are both in the Caribbean, Mr. James would waltz to and from Belize in the twinkling of an eye. By no means! Mr. James, under the best conditions, must complete an Odyssey of several days through Panama and various islands. Americans tend to forget that the tropical part of the world is much wider than our arctic north. The Caribbean is very wide, and one finds it very difficult to drive across the ocean to a large airport at such distances as we find normal in the US. Believe it or not, St. Vincent is just a little bit closer to Belize than my home in Ohio.
St. Vincent holds a special significance for Belize as the homeland of the Garifuna, a people who migrated around the Caribbean before settling in Honduras and southern coastal Belize.
It was not MIT which propelled Mr. James to this other Caribbean paradise, though. During breaks from College, Kyle volunteered with the Fransican Friars of the Renewal in the Bronx at a homeless shelter. There, working beside serious Franciscans and other volunteer gentlemen, he experienced a routine of prayer and self-giving among truly poor and needy people that was both material and personal, and it left him desiring more. Another volunteer there, who went on to serve with SOLT in North Dakota, told Kyle about SOLT.
Mr. James returned to St. Vincent after university and taught a year of high school science and became, as far as I can tell, rather knowledgeable about classroom management. Then, he decided to return to volunteering, and thus we JPII teachers received word that we were looking to employ a very interesting fellow for the coming year.
Mr. James was able to present recent World History from a vantage point other than that of the American volunteers. St. Vincent, like Belize, was a British colony, and received independence peacefully. It was interesting to me to overhear the class’s progress through classic American State Papers. I was also interested to hear of the emphasis he placed on the Algerian war of independence. In all of his classes, Mr. James is known for holding a high standard for students and having no stinginess with regard to his vast reservoir of knowledge.
To conclude, once again, we are very grateful that providence and the homeless of New York propelled Mr. James from his volcanic island to our beloved school in the foothills of the Maya Mountains.