July 31, 2020

Roncalli High School to choose a new nickname that better fits its mission

Leaders of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis recently announced that it will forgo its previous nickname, “rebels,” for a new one more in keeping with its Catholic identity and mission. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Leaders of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis recently announced that it will forgo its previous nickname, “rebels,” for a new one more in keeping with its Catholic identity and mission. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

For its first 50 years, Roncalli High School in Indianapolis had “Rebels” as its nickname.

As it moves into its next 50 years, a new moniker will be chosen that is more in keeping with the school’s Catholic identity and mission.

School leaders announced the decision to forgo the original nickname in a video posted online on July 22.

“This summer, I will appoint a special task force to explore alternative names and symbols which will better reflect our Catholic mission, and honor the legacy of our patron—Angelo Roncalli,” said Roncalli interim president Father Robert Robeson in the video.

Members of the task force will include current students, faculty, staff, alumni and board members.

Roncalli was the family name of St. John XXIII, who served as pope from 1958 until his death in 1963. It was chosen as the name for the high school, founded in 1969 through the merger of the former Chartrand and Kennedy Memorial high schools.

“Rebel” was chosen as its nickname in part as a reflection of the “revolutionary spirit of Angelo Roncalli,” said Father Robeson in the video, because he convened the Second Vatican Council in 1962, which brought about many changes in the life of the Church.

“As we have learned more about St. John XXIII, it is clear that characterizing him as a rebel, in many ways, misses the mark,” said Charles Weisenbach, Roncalli’s principal, in the video. “In fact, he was a visionary leader. He was a saint who was deeply rooted in his love for Jesus Christ, his devotion to the Catholic faith and his respect for the dignity of all people. These qualities are what formed him into the great saint that we venerate today.”

Terese Carson, Roncalli’s vice president for institutional advancement, spoke in the video about other reasons for forgoing the previous nickname and seeking a new one.

“The confusion and negative connotations attached to the nickname ‘Rebels’ are also a source of concern as we move forward over the next 50 years,” she said. “We have had alumni and community members express concerns about how this nickname can be misunderstood, particularly as it relates to our deep commitment to honoring the dignity of every person—as Christ calls us to do.”

In a subsequent interview with The Criterion, Father Robeson said that, while there is not a set timeframe for when the task force will complete its work of developing alternative nicknames, he expects an announcement of a new one sometime during the spring semester of the 2020-21 academic year.

Whatever the new nickname is, Father Robeson said it will have ties to the Catholic faith.

“We’re realizing that there are better options for conveying our Catholic identity and mission,” said Father Robeson, who also serves as pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove and administrator of Good Shepherd Parish in Indianapolis. “Whatever name that we choose will have some kind of Catholic symbolism.”

While acknowledging that some in the Roncalli community may be disappointed by the change, Father Robeson expressed hope that recognizing the importance of the school’s mission will help them to accept and even be excited about possible alternatives.

“Changing the nickname will not change the incredibly good work that Roncalli does in forming and educating young people,” he said. “Roncalli is much bigger than its nickname.”
 

(To view the video announcing the change in nickname for Roncalli High School, visit https://bit.ly/39nSRCU.)

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