For 46 years, the Father Edward Troike Summer Leadership Program at Cathedral Prep Seminary, Elmhurst, has been molding young boys into men.
But this year, those young men have been further evolving into the heroes of the future.
The theme of this year’s summer program, which lasted four weeks from July 1-26, was “The World Need Heroes,” with Jesus Christ serving as the ultimate super hero.
“Jesus Christ is our hero,” said Father James Kuroly, Cathedral Prep’s assistant principal for academics who finished his first summer as the director of the Troike program. “We are called not just to be leaders but to be heroes in our Church and in our world.”
The Troike program has been a summer staple at Cathedral Prep. The beloved late Father Troike taught mathematics at the school and is remembered as an energetic, fun-loving priest. Despite his battle with cancer for most of his teaching years, his enthusiasm inspired everyone around him to live a joyful life.
Each day of the four-week summer program began with Mass and academic classes for students in sixth through eighth grade. Individual subjects were offered as well as a training course for the TACHS Exam, the Catholic High School entrance exam.
The Cathedral Prep students served as the counselors and received the opportunity to hone their own leadership skills.
“The vision of Father Troike and the other faculty members 46 years ago when they began this program wasn’t so much the leadership skills to be given to the students but rather to the counselors here at the prep seminary,” Father Kuroly said.
The counselors volunteer precious time from their summer vacation to take part in the program. The kids look up to the prep seminary students, so the counselors always try to set a positive example.
“They’ve (the counselors) been helpful; they’ve been fun; they’re good leaders,” said Joshua Taberas, a seventh-grade student in the program. “They’ve helped us with our work and our projects. You could become friends with them.”
“It’s a big responsibility, but I love it,” said William Tarrant, a rising senior at the Prep and the program’s co-head counselor. “I love doing work and being proactive.”
Tarrant’s co-head leader Orian DelFierro said the Troike program provided him a different perspective on teaching and leadership. During the school year, he and his fellow student leaders are normally sitting in the desks listening and taking notes, but for the summer program, they serve as teacher aides and guide the students as mentors and big brothers.
“I’ve learned a sense of responsibility,” DelFierro said. “I didn’t realize how much work it was going to be. I’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes work and making up the schedules.”
The afternoons of the program were filled with sports games and activities. In keeping with the theme, each team was named after a super hero group such as the X-Men and the Avengers, and each classroom was nicknamed for a super hero’s headquarters like the Baxter Building or the Hall of Justice.
“My favorite super hero is the Hulk because he’s strong,” said Peter Ilse, a rising eighth grader. “God needs strong people out there who can stand up above all the others.”
Father Kuroly gave his counselors free-reign with this year’s theme since he wanted them to take ownership of the program. The theme was fun for the students, but it also served a meaningful purpose in all aspects of the program.
“One of the characteristics of a real leader is service,” Father Kuroly said. “That’s what we try to instill in our students throughout the year. Certainly that is seen in the counselors…their sacrifice and their willingness to come here. You cannot have service without sacrifice.”
With another summer program now history, the ideals that Father Troike practiced are still alive at Cathedral Prep – with the counselors serving as heroes to the students while recognizing Jesus as the ultimate super hero.