From dawn until dusk on Oct. 12, approximately 175 Marist School students, faculty, staff and administrators lent their voices in a public reading of Vergil’s epic poem the Aeneid to raise funds for the “Lost Boys” of Sudan.
The event raised $1,400, which will assist the young men from Sudan who are pursuing coursework at Georgia Perimeter College.
Since 2001 Marist Latin students have delivered and decorated Christmas trees with this group of young men known as the Lost Boys.
“We heard of the needs of the Atlanta Lost Boys through Marist campus ministry,” according to Dr. Anne Washington Saunders, Latin teacher and event organizer along with Thomas Marier, another Latin teacher at the school.
“Over the years we have come to understand what they need in order to make the transition to modern urban life,” Saunders explained in an e-mail. “Education is their main priority in the U.S. They wish in turn to start schools in Sudan. Rather than just collect money, we decided four years ago to do something educational for both Marist and the Lost Boys. Hence the Read-a-thon.”
The response has been satisfying.
“It’s amazing how willing everyone is to fill in, to make sure that there is an unbroken chain of readers,” Saunders noted. “There’s a rhythm to it. The upper-level students enjoy reading the opening and closing lines in the original Latin.”
One of those students was senior Patrick Miller, who began reading the poem’s opening lines in the original Latin at 5 a.m. Miller is the 2007-2008 president of the Georgia Junior Classical League. Formed in 1936, the National Junior Classical League is an organization that promotes the study of the language, literature and culture of ancient Greece and Rome so as “to impart an understanding of the debt of our culture to that of Classical antiquity,” according to the organization’s Web site. The read-a-thon has won the Georgia Junior Classical League Service Award and the National JCL Most Creative Service Award.
Saunders explained the importance of studying the enduring legacy of both civilizations, saying, “trends come and go.”
“The classics don’t follow politics or fashion or the latest technological innovations. This is liberating. Students appreciate that their imaginations and curiosity have free play. The classics remain indispensable. If we lose touch with the traditions of the Greeks and Romans, we will find much of Western literature, religion, and language unintelligible. Latin in particular connects so many subjects like literature, Romance languages, law, history, architecture, science, etc. Latin is in our speech, even webspeak.”
To give momentum to this year’s fundraising effort, members of the Latin Honor Society engaged in a 5-mile Appian Way Walk in September to commemorate the famous trip from Rome to Brundisium taken by the poet Horace and his friends in 37 B.C.
Marist School, a private Catholic school owned by the Society of Mary and founded in 1901, is located at 3790 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Atlanta.