Jeff is one of Roger Bacon’s biggest boosters
BY TONI CASHNELLI
Jeff Rapking leads the way to the cafeteria at Roger Bacon High School.
It’s as tidy as an Army mess hall, and Jeff is largely responsible.
“When the lunch starts, I start,” he says, proudly describing his duties with the custodial staff, from managing trays to sweeping the floor, from cleaning tables to straightening chairs. “I love to work here,” he says, fisting his hands at his sides and smiling so broadly he squints.
Jeff is lucky to be here, and they’re lucky to have him. Many people with special needs face a lifelong struggle for acceptance. Jeff, whose world is limited but not defined by disabilities, is trusted, loved and respected at Roger Bacon. “The Bacon family, that’s his family,” says Barb Coyle, the school’s former Outreach Director and a longtime friend.
“It’s a good example of how a community embraces one of their own to provide a place where they can thrive” instead of falling through the cracks, says Paul Zlatic, Assistant Principal. “There is a real sense here that everyone has value. We’re a diverse school – rich, poor, black, white. Jeff is just another great piece of that.”
It’s been that way for 33 years, ever since Jeff was hired by friar Jim Bok during his days as Principal. “He has a special place at Bacon in the hearts of a lot of folks,” says Fr. Jim, one of Jeff’s favorite people in the world.
“There is such a purity and honesty and sincerity to him,” Paul says of Jeff. “It’s easy to be drawn to that.”
Barb was running Bacon’s Community Outreach Program when she met Jeff. “He was always popping into my room. If something was driving me crazy, he would show up with his smile and innocence and joyful spirit and it just rubbed off. Everything makes him happy.” Ask him why and Jeff says, “I’m all the time in a good mood.”
Crazy for sports, he’s a fixture on the sidelines at Bacon’s football and basketball games. “He will offer players a high five,” Paul says. “Many times he rides with the football team” to away games. “He’s just another one of the guys.”
In Jim’s years at Bacon, “When kids were around, I never ever saw or witnessed anybody mocking Jeff. There was always a genuine respect for him on the part of the students. I think all the kids there knew that Jeff loved Roger Bacon and everything about it.”
One year when he competed in Special Olympics – winning gold in the softball throw and 100-yard race – the school held an assembly in Jeff’s honor. “Kids were high-fiving him all day,” according to Barb. “I am a good runner,” Jeff says shyly. “I’d love to go around the track more times.”
Eight years ago when awards were given for milestone service at RB, Jeff received the sole standing ovation for his 25 years. In 2007, Bacon students organized “Jumping for Jeff”, a Polar Bear Plunge into a freezing swimming pool to raise money for Special Olympics.
“Jeff means a lot to the kids,” says St. Clement Pastor Fred Link, who for years was Jeff’s walking buddy around St. Bernard. “They very much respect him. He is solid gold, just goodness, as tender-hearted as they come. He brings out the best in folks.”
It’s hard to say no to Jeff, says Barb. “He loves his Cincinnati Reds and goes to a lot of games,” courtesy of teachers, students and alumni. Each season, Paul says, “I usually go to at least one game with him, sometimes two.” Barb once managed to wheedle tickets from Reds owner Bob Castellini when she wrote to him explaining that Jeff had never been to Opening Day.
“We had great seats,” she recalls. “We went to the parade and game. His favorite player, Joey Votto, hit a home run. On the way home I asked him what was the most exciting part of the day, thinking it would be the home run. Jeff started clapping his hands. He said, ‘I loved the clowns and the bands.’”
This should not have surprised Barb. “Jeff was always a huge fan of the Roger Bacon band,” Jim says, and especially fond of Wes Neal, who in 37 years led the band to numerous state and national titles. “Wes was really nice to him. Every Friday night at football games Jeff would be right with them, marching along.”
More than sports, more than bands, “Jeff loves Fr. Jim,” says Paul. “He gets so excited whenever Jim gets into town” for a home visit from the missions in Jamaica. “Jeff will talk about it for weeks leading up to it,” anticipating their usual outing to Gold Star Chili. “If I ever came to Cincinnati and Jeff found out and I didn’t see him,” Jim says, “he would be hurt.”
Top, In the cafeteria at Bacon with friend Barb; middle and above, Bacon students took a Polar Bear Plunge in Jeff’s honor for Special Olympics.They’ve known each other for 40 years, since Jim was a cleric theology student. “I was going to law school at night and teaching at Roger Bacon during the day.” Outside the school, “I used to hear what sounded like a siren; it was this little boy, Jeff, riding his bicycle” and making a racket. “He and his family went to St. Clement Church. He was developmentally handicapped, going to Bobbie Fairfax School” for children with disabilities. From the day they met, “We were always friends.”
After ordination, as Principal at Roger Bacon, Jim got a call from Jeff’s school. “They had programs where they would place kids in internships” in preparation for the real world and asked if Bacon could take Jeff. Jim said, “We’d be delighted; what is he capable of doing?”
“Maybe he could clean tables in the cafeteria, that kind of thing?” they suggested.
Jim readily agreed. “He came and he never stopped working there.”
Jeff’s diligence is legendary. “He’s so conscientious about the work he does,” Paul says. “He takes it very seriously when a fork or spoon gets into the garbage.” After lunch Jeff patrols the tables, arranging the chairs in perfect alignment. “He always does a sweep of the grounds to make sure things are kept up.”
Satisfied that all is well at school, Jeff will head home, one street over from Bacon, to walk his dog, Rusty. “Jeff has a wonderful mom and a sister who provide a lot of support,” says Paul. “Together we kind of make sure he’s doing well.”
Apart from the televised sports he devours, “His world is very limited,” Jim says, “and Roger Bacon is a significant part of his world.” During the summer, when he helps prep classrooms for the school year, “Jeff gets depressed,” Barb says, because he misses the students.
“I love everybody here,” Jeff says. “I still miss Fr. Jim the most,” and wishes he weren’t so far away.
“Jeff is as innocent as a child, but he can get sad,” Fred says. “When somebody dies, he really grieves and doesn’t understand it.” He has his challenges, “no doubt about that. But he sure is devoted to Roger Bacon.”
In fact, says Jim, “You could consider him one of Bacon’s biggest boosters.”
PHOTO BY TONI CASHNELLI
03/31/16 eNews Notes
03/23/16 eNews Notes
03/17/16 eNews Notes
03/11/16 eNews Notes
03/03/15 eNews Notes
02/25/16 eNews Notes
02/11/16 eNews Notes
April 1-11, Dan Anderson and I will be in Galveston, Texas, where SJB is hosting the English Speaking Conference of Provincial Ministers. Hosting the Conference rotates among the Provinces and provides an opportunity for provincials to experience the life and ministry of the province. On Tuesday evening Holy Family Parish will host a dinner with entertainment from Mariachis! Wednesday afternoon will provide an opportunity to visit a maritime museum and see a video on the 1900 hurricane. We are looking forward to this chance to host the Provincials from the U.S., Canada, England, Ireland, Malta and Lithuania. This meeting will also be attended by the General Definitor, General Secretary, and General Treasurer. I am grateful to Dan for being a “gopher,” and to E. J. Stein, Maynard Tetreault, and Richard Goodin for their assistance.
— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM
COMPILED BY PAT MCCLOSKEY, OFM
ONGOING FORMATION MATTERS
Thomas Rosica, CSB
Dianne Bergant, CSA
June courses at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago include:
CTU’s fall Bible Study and Travel Programs include:
For more information, contact Sallie Latkovich, CSJ (firstname.lastname@example.org or
773-371-5436) or http://www.ctu.edu/summer-institute
In the wake of a terrorist bombing on Easter that left 70 people dead and more than 300 injured in Lahore, Pakistan, Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler sent this message of condolence to Fr. Yusuf Bagh, Custos of the Custody of St. John the Baptist:
I want to assure you and all the friars of the Custody of our prayers and support following the terrible attack in Lahore. We stand with you, your brothers, and your people. We join in praying for an end to violence and terrorism. May the Risen Jesus breathe his Easter peace upon us all, and may the Spirit guide us in all our actions and decisions.”
Fr. Yusuf responded:
Thank you so very much, Jeff, for your fraternal supportive e-mail. It is heartbreaking to see such kind of violence.
On Easter Day when we celebrate new life and victory over death, someone decides to kill innocent people who have no other agenda but to celebrate life with their families. Hard to believe, but unfortunately it is true that many people have died and scores are injured. On Good Friday, I spoke with [Archbishop] Sebastian Shaw and he was scared, and shared that they are told to be on red alert... He was not free to talk openly on the phone, for his phone is recorded! Ah, sorry to see all this. Once again, thank you so much for your concern and please do keep us and our people in your prayers. You are in our prayers, too. These are difficult times.
(Fr. Greg Friedman shared this link to an overview of Christianity in Pakistan: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35910331)
St. Mary’s Pastor Ric Schneider wonders what all the fuss is about.
PHOTO BY BR. TIM LAMB, OFM
Jack doesn’t look too fierce.
Give thanks to the Risen Lord!
Easter around the Province
Preparing for a baptism at St. Clement with Pastor Fred Link.
Left, General Minister Michael Perry at the novitiate in Burlington on Easter Monday; below, Easter at Mother of Good Counsel in Hazard, Ky.
Above, Easter Sunday in Negril with Pastor Jim Bok; right, a tired tyke at St. Clement’s Easter Vigil.
Send comments or questions to: email@example.com
2014 • Third Quarter
2014 • Fourth Quarter
2015 • First Quarter
2015 • Second Quarter
2015 • Third Quarter
2015 • Fourth Quarter
2016 • First Quarter