By: St. Mary’s Ryken High School
When Janie Bryner first walked into the halls of St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Maryland as a freshman nearly four years ago, she had no idea the impact the school would have on her future, and her faith.
The school’s values not only have prepared her for college and beyond, she said, but its lessons in the Catholic faith led her to enter the Catholic Church in the spring of 2019.
“Through the passionate love and guidance of teachers and classmates, all such saints in the making, my heart was opened to the truth of Christ’s love and mercy in the Catholic Church,” Bryner said. “Now I am able to receive Him at Mass every day and to see Him during and after school.”
In her sophomore theology class, Bryner said she found herself wanting to learn more and more about her own faith, trying to understand better everything she knew to be true.
“The thing that really caught me off guard was that (my teacher) always knew so much about his faith… it made me verify my faith,” Bryner said.
As she entered her junior year in the fall of 2018, Bryner said she sat before God in prayer and, “He laid on my heart that something was missing,” she said. “And he told me to enter the Catholic Church.”
Bryner received the sacraments at the Easter Vigil at St. Joseph’s Church in Morganza in April 2019, and several of her fellow St. Mary’s Ryken students also entered the Catholic Church at neighboring parishes.
Beyond forming her in the Catholic faith, Bryner said that leadership opportunities, specifically with the Xaverian Brothers Sponsored School Stewards club, also helped shape her high school experience.
“Every school provides the possibility to be a leader in the classroom, which I’ve always strived to do by assisting struggling classmates or steering discussion in class with my questions or comments, but what makes St. Mary’s Ryken so special is that I’ve been given the opportunity as a high schooler to be a spiritual leader,” she said.
Along with several other classmates, Bryner met with student representatives from Xaverian Brothers schools from around the country in order to discuss “what our identity of being a Xaverian Brothers’ school (means) and what we want to bring back to our own schools,” she said.
While some of the ideas that her fellow classmates intended to bring to St. Mary’s Ryken had yet to be put in motion when the school switched to online learning in mid-March, Bryner said just being part of the group touched her deeply. In addition to bringing in speakers and hosting events, the group of school stewards planned to bring the school community together with Latin Mass followed by praise and worship.
“Having a community that’s striving for sanctity with you, just having other people around you that are also pushing you,” is so important, she said.
Bryner intends to attend Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio where she hopes to study philosophy. She first visited the Catholic university with a group of counselors from the St. John’s Summer Program and was drawn to the school’s Adoration chapel and household communities that come together to create families of faith.
The beauty of a Catholic education, bringing together faith and academics in the classroom, deeply impacted Bryner’s life, she said, adding that faith should integrate every part of one’s life.
“Our faith should penetrate everything that we do,” she said. “That’s what academics should always be pointing toward… our relationship with God. Everything should point us back to Him.”