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High Schoolers Hear Inspiring Message from John O’Leary

John O'Leary

Thanks to a generous donation by the Brnjac and Brannan families, Priory high schoolers traveled to Villa Duchesne Tuesday morning to hear a talk by Mr. John O’Leary, a St. Louisan with an incredible life story he now uses to inspire others.

Michael F. Baber, Head of School for Villa Duchesne welcomed students from Priory and Villa in grades 9-12, faculty, staff, and guests, and led the assembly in prayer. Sarah Barrett, Student Council President at Villa Duchesne, introduced Mr. O’Leary.

John O'LearyAlmost from the moment he took the stage, Mr. O’Leary commanded the audience. He was engaging, witty, and forthright, using the example of his own struggles in grade school and high school to encourage everyone to be the best versions of themselves. He spoke about how God works through all things, perfectly for his purpose, even when things are hard. He talked about how our calling is to be heroes, just as his older brother became his hero, and to be examples of Christ for all those around us. He played his mother’s favorite hymn, Amazing Grace, on a keyboard, as an act of honor for her.

Mr. O’Leary spoke about the various heroes in his life – his parents, his brother, the doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save his life, even legendary Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck – and challenged the audience to share stories of one individual who had inspired us to keep fighting, to become the best version of ourselves. Courageous students from both schools stood and spoke in front of their peers. Ally, a sophomore at Villa, spoke about her brother Jimmy. Ellie, a freshman, shared that her mom helps her through everything and cheers her up when she’s sad. Kayla recognized a fellow student, her friend right there in the audience. From Priory, sophomore Bret Wang talked about Coach Steve Rolwes, who “is always there to push me, to make me be my better self.” Sophomore Noah Mollett honored his girlfriend, a Villa student named Jessie, to rousing applause from both sides of the aisle.

Finally, Mr. O’Leary shared that the Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster who made such a difference in his life and the lives of many others, continually asked himself, “What more can I do?” He said that one voice can make a difference, and that one voice is ours. We are all given gifts, and Mr. O’Leary told us to embrace each gift and use it to help others. “It’s yours,” he said. “Take it, grow, expand.” He challenged us to finish the sentence, “Because of today’s message, I commit to…” and gave us time to think while he played another song on the keyboard. As Coldplay’s The Scientist wafted over the gym, people reflected, then shared their commitments. Mr. O’Leary pointed out that the lyrics are, “Nobody said it was easy,” and reminded us that one person can make a difference.

Priory student council president Nick Boveri thanked Mr. O’Leary for his inspiring speech, and led the audience in a standing ovation.

For more information about John O’Leary’s powerful message, visit

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”

Prologue, 1

“This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.”

Prologue, 1

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection.”

Prologue, 4

“If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim. (Ps 33[34]:13)”

Prologue, 17

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess 2:12).”

Prologue, 21

“If we wish to dwell in the tent of this kingdom, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds.”

Prologue, 22

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.”

Prologue, 41

“Therefore, we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.”

Prologue, 45

“The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.”

Prologue, 47

“The reason why we have said all should be called for counsel is that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger.”

Chapter 3, 3

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.”

Chapter 4, 20-21

“Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love.” –Chapter 4, 25-26

“Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue.”

Chapter 4, 27-28

“Place your hope in God alone.”

Chapter 4, 41

“Respect the elders and love the young.”

Chapter 4, 70-71

“Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ. “

Chapter 4, 72

“If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.”

Chapter 4, 73

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.”

Chapter 5, 1-2

“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.”

Chapter 6, 6

“The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (PS 35[36]:2) and never forgets it.”

Chapter 7, 10

“Let us consider, then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and his angels, and let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.”

Chapter 19, 6-7

“On arising for the Work of God, they will quietly encourage each other, for the sleepy like to make excuses.”

Chapter 22, 8

“Every age and level of understanding should receive appropriate treatment.”

Chapter 30, 1

“Above all, let him be humble. If goods are not available to meet a request, he will offer a kind word in reply, for it is written: A kind word is better than the best gift (Sir 18:17).”

Chapter 31, 13-14

“Let all the rest serve one another in love.”

Chapter 35, 6

“Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.”

Chapter 43, 3

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.”

Chapter 48, 1

“The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.”

Chapter 49, 1

“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35).”

Chapter 53, 1

“Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims.”

Chapter 53, 2

“(B)ecause wherever we may be, we are in the service of the same Lord and doing battle for the same King.”

Chapter 61, 10

They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10).”

Chapter 63, 17

“We wish this rule to be read often in the community, so that none of the brothers can offer the excuse of ignorance.”

Chapter 66, 8

“Trusting in God’s help, he must in love obey.”

Chapter 68, 5

Never to do another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16).”

Chapter 70, 7

“No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else.”

Chapter 72, 7

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Chapter 72, 11-12

“What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life?”

Chapter 73, 3

“What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator?”

Chapter 73, 4


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