A new name for a new chapter

The Name Change Task Force works to move Roncalli into a new era of change

Although the administration has been looking into changing the name ‘Rebels’ for several years now, the recent activism calling for equality for black lives has pushed this concern to center stage. Father Bob Robeson, priest at Holy Name and interim President of Roncalli, was the one to officially take action concerning the nickname ‘Rebels.’ 

“For the past 20 years, there has been a lot of controversy over the nickname ‘Rebels’ because it is often associated with the confederacy and a sort of justification of slavery,” Robeson said. “Of course, Roncalli students and alumni don’t think of the term ‘rebel’ in this sense, but outside of our southside Catholic community, many others do.” 

The change is especially important considering Roncalli’s past use of confederate theming and its direct association with the name. Robeson believes that this change from ‘Rebels’ will contribute to an environment that encompasses both the spirit of Pope John Roncalli and the values of the Catholic faith. 

What is exciting is that we have the opportunity to begin a new era and select a nickname that better reflects our Catholic faith and mission; and the life and ministry of our patron Angelo Roncalli,” Robeson said. 

While Robeson might be leading the charge, a group of Roncalli community members work alongside him to find the right name for Roncalli. This task force’s main goal is to involve the full community in the process. One such member is sophomore Mary Luebkeman.

“The task force has been chosen to incorporate different groups from the Roncalli community,” Luebkeman said. “The task force has students, faculty, and alumni all working together to come up with a new name that better reflects our identity as Catholics.”

Another of these task force members is Rick Dias— an ‘86 grad of Roncalli, father of three alumni, and husband of Jane Dias, who works in the guidance office. Dias’ school spirit continues to live within him, as he still proudly announces that he was on the first Roncalli State-winning team and his graduation year.

“86, 86, eighty eighty eighty 86!” Dias always exclaims after introducing that he is an ‘86 graduate.

The announcement of the name change was both shocking and upsetting to some.

“It is no secret for those that know me that I was totally against changing the name…for us that grew up in the ‘80’s, it is hard to believe that our beloved Rebel name is offensive to anyone,” Dias said. “However, the only thing in life that is constant is change, so change we must, no matter how painful it is.” 

Even though this change has left some alumni grieving, he suggests that it can push Roncalli in a bigger and brighter direction.

“I believe the new name will be the onset of the next great chapter in the life of Roncalli High School,” Dias said. “[This] generation will have the opportunity to be a part of something new for Roncalli, a new beginning and a new identity…this new name can bring about some positive and welcoming change that we all need in a dark world.”

The change will be difficult to accept at first for some in the community, however. 

“There’s so much passion for the school,” Dias said. “Changing this name is going to be a difficult process, and it’s not going to be something that takes one week to do. It’s going to be over a period of time, and even when a name is picked, there’s going to be some healing involved.”

Others involved in the name change task force are a selection of administration members, staff members, alumni, Roncalli parents, and current students. After a survey for name suggestions was sent out to students and community members in September, the task force is now narrowing down name suggestions for another survey to be released to collect information about the top picks. Chair of the social studies department Erin Bohn is taking the lead on making sure the new name doesn’t clash with historical references. 

“The reality of my experiences as a Roncalli Rebel is that none of them happened because of a nickname,” Bohn said. “They happened because of the people who have walked through our halls, sat in our desks, played on our courts, sang in our choirs, and served our neighbors in need, and they will continue to happen for Roncalli students for generations to come.”

As Mrs. Bohn said, “we may not be yelling out the same mascot name at pep rallies and games, [but] the same Roncalli spirit, unchanged and unmatched, will engulf all who are present. You see, it is this spirit that makes our school so incredibly special, and that will not change when our nickname does.”