The sound of more than 850 young men singing “Rise up o Men of God” filled the air at a principal’s assembly on Feb. 18 in the Gene Bennett Sports Complex. Although this song is sung on many occasions at St. Paul’s School, it was extra special in this instance because it was sung to welcome back the 16th Principal of St. Paul’s, Bro. Jeffrey Calligan, FSC, who returned to school community in February.
Originally from New Orleans, Bro. Jeffrey met Bro. Francis Beck, FSC, a former Principal of St. Paul’s, in fourth grade before moving to the Philippines because his father was a U.S. diplomat. He and Bro. Francis wrote each other from Bro. Jeffrey’s fourth grade to his eighth grade year.
“In grade eight, he sent me a letter saying ‘Have you ever thought of being a Brother?’” said Bro. Jeffrey. “And I wrote him back and said ‘no.’ And he wrote me again and said ‘you ought to think about it.’”
After thinking about it, Bro. Jeffrey told his parents that he wanted to be a Brother.
“I come from New Orleans, so when my father heard (brother), he thought of a black man playing a trumpet, and he figured I couldn’t be that. So then I tried to explain it to him, but he said no, but my mom said yes. In my family, she always won.”
“I liked the idea of being a teacher, and I had an older sister who was a nun, so I liked the idea of a group of men living together doing something important. I didn’t want to be a priest, and so, it just attracted me,” said Bro. Jeffrey.
So, Bro. Jeffrey returned to Louisiana to join the Brothers when he was in the ninth grade and attended a school in Lafayette for young men who wanted to become brothers. While attending college in Santa Fe, Bro. Jeffrey taught English for one semester at St. Michael’s in Santa Fe, but his first full assignment was at De La Salle High School in New Orleans. After teaching there for six or seven years, he studied in New York for a year and then came to St. Paul’s to teach and later became principal.
In addition to his time at St. Paul’s, Bro. Jeffrey has worked with Lasallians all over the world including in England, France, Italy, Central and South America, Asia, the Philippines, New Zealand, Papa New Guinea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, and most recently in Australia.
“I think my very favorite place is Australia,” said Bro. Jeffrey. “The people are wonderful…They’re very gracious. They tend to think ahead rather than backwards. They are a very secular society, and that’s good because they dare to do things that religion’s afraid of doing.”
However, Bro. Jeffrey emphasized, “Each place serves the people that are there. There’s no one place that is better than another. Everybody strives very hard to serve the kids that they have and the families they have.”
“That’s true whether it’s St. Paul’s or De La Salle in New Orleans or one of our schools in Papa New Guinea or Sri Lanka. It’s the same thing; it’s just a different language, different customs, the color of people, things like that, which don’t make any difference other than they define them,” said Bro Jeffrey. “It’s like saying ‘Who’s the best kid at St. Paul’s?’ There is no best kid. Each kid is great, and so if you deal with that kid as that kid, you don’t deal with him as if he were somebody else. And that’s pretty true every place I’ve been.”
Bro. Jeffrey also stressed how happy he was to be back at St. Paul’s, saying that he had his choice of where he wanted to be and picked St. Paul’s, where he is currently living with a group of Brothers that includes many men who have taught him or worked with him.
“What is beautiful here at St. Paul’s—I think it’s probably a leftover of the time when we were the boarding school—is the closeness of people. I know [President/Principal Bro. Ray Bulliard, FSC] has worked at that very hard and been quite successful. He’s not only the 17th principal, but probably the best one St. Paul’s has had, and he does it beautifully. So, I’m privileged to come live here and look forward to teaching in the school,” said Bro. Jeffrey.
Bro. Jeffrey also said he enjoyed his previous years at St. Paul’s when he worked as a teacher and principal.
He said one of his favorite times was living with the boarders at St. Paul’s because “They taught me a lot of things that books can’t teach you. They taught me to be more patient with people. They taught me to try to understand before I want somebody else to understand me…I just found that no matter what the obstacle was, we could work around or work through it.”
Bro. Jeffrey also told a story about a student at St. Paul’s who constantly lied to him, and it got to the point where one night Bro. Jeffrey decided that he’d have to get rid of the student because he could not work him out. But after thinking about it overnight, Bro. Jeffrey decided that the student was more important than his lies. So, the next day he and the student took a walk on the campus, and Bro. Jeffrey told him, “You lie to me all the time. I don’t know why, but you seem to need to do it. But you’re more important than your lies, so I won’t send you home.” After that, the student never lied to him anymore.
“It was like once I stopped the pushing on the whole thing, he stopped pulling,” said Bro. Jeffrey.
Bro. Jeffrey says he is looking forward to getting back to having a normal class, but will still be traveling for brief assignments such as when he goes to the Philippines for two weeks in April to teach a class about St. John Baptist de La Salle.
“I told Bro. Ray, I’m perfectly open to anything, even if it’s just replacing other teachers or being a supervisor on the yard or something.”
Bro. Jeffrey also made it clear that his return to St. Paul’s is not the end of his work.
“My health is extremely good right now. I have a new heart—it’s Australian. It’s a good time to be alive; I’m only 74, so I’ve got a lot more years to go…I’ll take it as it goes.”
“It’s been a great life. I entered the Brothers when I was 14. I’m 74. I wouldn’t trade a year,” said Bro. Jeffrey. “And while I wouldn’t recommend anybody to enter at 14 anymore, I wouldn’t change my life.”
Bro. Jeffrey will officially return to the classroom next school year. In the meantime, he has begun substituting in various classes, as needed, and can often be found on campus in his office in the Lasalle Hall Guidance Center.