John Pendergast's office and teaching room at the prestigious Brunswick School in Greenwich is dominated by a large table at which his students discuss religion and philosophy. But sitting alone at the table after school, he admits his life almost went down a different path.
While I was teaching high school in Jamaica, I spent the first month and a half living with the Jesuits. I found myself seriously considering joining the priesthood. Then I found my wife, who was teaching down there, and I realized I had a different vocation, Pendergast said.
Religion had always been a part of Pendergast's life. His parents raised him Roman Catholic and he studied theology at Harvard.
When he came to the Brunswick School, religion and philosophy weren't subjects taught to the students. He proposed the idea and now serves as head of the department. He said he doesn't preach to the kids or teach catechism. He focuses on the concepts, thoughts, ethics and questions surrounding religion and philosophy. More than anything else I want to encourage the boys to ask questions, Pendergast said.
Pendergast is also the school's director of community service. While that involves helping raise money for causes, those activities aren't his favorite. He prefers putting the students in positions where they have to interact with people outside of their societal norms. He says its important to teach them now about the less privileged members of society.
It's unrealistic to expect them to go out and change the whole world while they are in school, said Pendergast. But later on they will be in positions of influence and authority. I'm trying to plant the seeds now.
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