By Jerry Duggan
In his 11 years at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Brian Greenfield has been a theology teacher, a director of campus ministry and an assistant principal for discipline. These roles had little in common in terms of daily tasks but are all connected in a powerful way – they are all a form of ministry.
“All of my work at Jesuit has been a form of ministry – each just looks a little different,” Greenfield said.
As a theology teacher (and head of that department), Greenfield focused on evangelization, and getting his students to apply in their lives what they learned in the classroom.
“Theology is not just another subject, where you have terms to learn and things to memorize,” he said. “It’s about taking what you learn in the classroom and living it in the real world.”
He gave his students as many assignments as possible that had a real-world application and emphasized the Jesuit idea of “magis.”
“Magis is not just about doing ‘more’ things,” he said. “It’s about doing what is most pleasing to God and most fulfilling for you as a person.”
This dovetailed into deep explorations of topics with students, such as vocations, the difference between masculinity and machismo and having a personal relationship with God.
“It’s important to fight cultural influences that advance the ‘unholy trinity’ of me, myself and I, and to recognize that there’s a difference between having muscles and money (machismo) and being a man of God and a man for others (masculinity),” he said.
In his time leading the school’s campus ministry department, Greenfield oversaw a department with similar goals, but his daily encounters with students looked different.
“As director of campus ministry, I was able to discuss the faith with students one-on-one, be there for them through ups and downs and help them work toward conversion to Christ,” he said.
He was also involved in leading retreats and community service efforts.
Greenfield is now an assistant principal for discipline. He makes sure to keep Christ at the forefront of this work, too.
“These are not bad young men that I encounter. They just need to be redirected and swayed away from impulsive behavior that is not up to the standards God has set for them to live up to,” he explained.
He starts each encounter with a student in need of discipline with prayer and seeks to rectify their actions by means of a rehabilitative, rather than punishment-focused, approach.
“These students need to have consequences for their actions, but that does not mean that there cannot be any compassion involved,” he said. “I try to see these young men through a lens of compassion and work with them to, together, realize that God is calling them to a higher standard of behavior.”
Greenfield is understanding toward the youth he works with at Jesuit because he attended a Jesuit high school himself (Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.) and, while not an unruly student, did not, at that time, center his actions on Christ.
“I was never a bad kid, but the spiritual side of things hadn’t really clicked for me at that age.”
After enrolling at Seton Hall University, a Catholic institution in New Jersey, he met a group of faith-centered friends, and he began to give more attention to his relationship with God.
“I got involved in a prayer group, then in retreat ministry, and started to see the appeal of focusing my life on Christ,” he recalled.
Years later, he keeps those foundational lessons in mind in his encounters with young men at Jesuit Tampa.
“My work boils down to redirecting young men away from self-centered behavior and toward Christ.”