Delbarton Head on Renewed Ties : “An Amazing Idea”

Delbarton School Headmaster Fr. Michael Tidd, O.S.B, is embracing the idea of a renewed friendship between SBP and Delbarton

Courtesy of Delbarton School

Delbarton School Headmaster Fr. Michael Tidd, O.S.B, is embracing the idea of a renewed friendship between SBP and Delbarton

On Friday, Feb. 8, Benedict News’ Social Media Editor Jonathan Oniyama interviewed Fr. Michael Tidd, O.S.B, who was named the 12th Headmaster of Delbarton School in Nov. 2017. The purpose of the interview was to discuss a recent editorial in the Benedict News that called for a closer relationship between the two Benedictine, all-male high schools. Here is a transcript of the interview. The questions and answers have been lightly edited for brevity.

Benedict News: As you know, Fr. Tidd, the focal point of the interview today is about the editorial written by Jules Gouton, SBP class of ‘19 and editor-in-chief for The Benedict News, calling for a renewed relationship between Delbarton School and St. Benedict’s Prep. What do you think of the idea?

Fr. Tidd: I think it’s an amazing idea. Long before I became (Delbarton’s) Headmaster, I’ve had the thought that this was overdue, that we had drifted very far apart, and that, as the two major Benedictine secondary schools in New Jersey — certainly as the high schools for boys — with so much shared history, shared spirit, shared goals, it’s long past the time for us to collaborate in an active, ongoing way. So I am very much committed to that idea and will do whatever we can on our end to help make that happen.

BN: When did you first hear about the idea proposed by the St. Benedict’s students?

Fr. Tidd: I got an email from one of your colleagues, I think it was someone on the (Benedict News) staff. It came to Mrs. Jessica Fiddes, our communications director, and she forwarded it to me. So this would have been the last week right before Christmas break. And so what I did, right away, was respond to her, and respond to the folks who had sent the email, and then gather our Campus Ministry folks, our Diversity Among Peers students and teachers, and then our Council of Seniors, which is our student government, and asked them to put their heads together. Actually, right about now was the time I was going to ask them to report back to me about what we would like to do as a first step.

BN: How do the Benedictine values affect your students in their everyday lives?

Fr. Tidd: Well, I was interviewing a job applicant today and he asked the same question. One of the most important things here, for our students especially, is the Benedictine notion of community. It’s a very intense experience in this particular place, and something that is especially important. I am sure you may use this word, too, but our kids talk about brotherhood  a lot as an experience day to day. It’s not just an admissions slogan. I think it is something they do take very seriously and they live it out, you know, not perfectly all the time, but I think they do take it that seriously and aspire to it. (Also, there is) our commitment to service in the wider community. Like you, we have a lot of service opportunities, including tutoring kids, working with (disabled) children, and other activities. There is lots of hands-on, one-on-one service to people directly. These are things that are particularly important to us. In fact, we thought an initial way we could collaborate with you might be for both schools to identify a joint service project — something really significant that would draw on all of our resources and really make an impact.

For example, we participate with Catholic Charities in its toy drive at Christmas. That could be something that could easily be a way through which the schools could collaborate. You know, you do all the prep work where you are and you bring everything to one place and directly serve, literally, hundreds of people. That could be a way, in a manner where you roll up your sleeves and you do good for somebody else. That could be an easy first step toward a kind of ongoing collaboration.

BN: How did the article (in the Benedict News calling for renewed, closer ties between the schools) affect you personally?

Fr. Tidd: It’s always helpful when you have other people who think along the same lines that you do. All of a sudden, you’ve learned that something that you have kicked around in your head for a while is also on someone else’s mind. And so you might be onto something. So I felt very encouraged. I got the sense that, wow, we’ve kind of historically reached a turning point to be able to renew the relationship between the two schools– and the two Benedictine communities, to be quite honest.

We have a long history together — not always a pleasant one. But that’s how human communities are.  Benedictine communities are not perfect. We make mistakes. We make judgments about people. We harbor grudges, or we become neglectful. It’s also a way for us to reconcile and to show others how you can reconcile with one another. So I just took the article and thought it was incredibly insightful and very encouraging.

BN: What is your relationship with the monks at Newark Abbey?

Fr. Tidd: I have met several of them over the years in various contexts. I actually met (SBP Headmaster) Fr. Edwin a long time ago, before I even came to Delbarton. I don’t know any of them particularly well, like on a personal level, but we have done more contact between the two (religious) communities in the past few years. As you know, a lot of the community, both here and at Newark, are older, so that has limited the ability of the men who actually were members of the same community to be with one another. But, the fact that both communities now have younger men, as well is, A. good for them and B. where those building of relationships can take deep root.

BN:  How do things work on a daily schedule at Delbarton?

Fr. Tidd:  Day to day, we start at 8:10 a.m., that is when First Period begins. So every class prays the same reading from Scripture and the same school-wide prayer. And then we have four periods in the morning — three academic periods and there’s a period in the middle of the morning known as “M Block.” It’s a universally free period — you can go see a teacher, get extra help, or take a quiz or something like that. Fourth Period is lunch and we eat in shifts. Then Fifth and Sixth Periods are in the afternoon, with school ending at 2:40 p.m. Our classes vary in length. First Period is an hour, Second Period is 40 minutes, Third Period is 55 minutes. So your class meets at different times of the day on different days, depending on the day of the cycle. We have a seven-day class cycle. The idea is for each class to meet at different times, so you are not stuck in the same pattern every day.

BN: Thank you for your time, Fr. Tidd.

Fr. Tidd: You are very welcome, Jon. I look forward to meeting you.