It’s not everyday that the archbishop of Los Angeles shows up at your school.
But the kids at St. John Chrysostom School in Inglewood knew there was something “super” happening when he showed up March 1 bearing enough ice cream and cookies to feed the entire campus.
The special event, which coincided with Fat Tuesday, brought Archbishop José H. Gomez bearing the delicious spoils of a bet he made with his friend (and briefly, rival) Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati ahead of Super Bowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams.
In betting that the Rams would win the game, Archbishop Gomez put up a treasure trove of treats from iconic Southern California bakery Porto’s as his wager. In picking his hometown Bengals, Archbishop Schnurr promised to send a selection from Cincinnati's own iconic sweet shop, Graeter’s Ice Cream, westward, in the case of a Bengals defeat.
Spoiler alert: Rams 23, Bengals 20.
Tuesday’s surprise was that Archbishop Gomez decided to share his good fortune with the students and staff of St. John Chrysostom, located a mile north of SoFi Stadium, where the Rams play home games and, coincidentally, also the site of last month’s Super Bowl triumph.
That good fortune not only included the treats, but a significant amount of tuition assistance raised by those who contributed to “Bishop’s Big Game.” More than $22,000 was raised and, by virtue of the Rams’ victory, 60% was allocated to go to the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, around $13,000. That money will go towards 13 $1,000 scholarships for deserving students at St. John Chrysostom.
“I’m grateful and delighted to celebrate this moment with the wonderful students, teachers and staff members at St. John Chrysostom School to showcase our communities’ continued support of Catholic education,” Archbishop Gomez proudly announced at the school on Tuesday.
CEF executive director Doug Cooper said he considers the outcome a “win-win situation.” The eager young faces waiting for the ice cream he helped wheel out on Tuesday seemed to be in agreement.
Their excitement got a boost from the visit of three Rams cheerleaders, as well as the school’s own cheer team, whose blue and gold colors coincidentally match the Rams’ (although the St. John Chrysostom Cougars have been in Inglewood much longer).
As they performed, a few of the students spontaneously started a “Whose house? Rams’ house!” cheer.
And when Archbishop Gomez extended a special blessing to the school’s students, staff, and parents, he made a point of punctuating it with “Go Rams!”
St. John Chrysostom Principal Miguel Arizmendi said he had found out only two weeks earlier about the archbishop’s offer, calling it “exciting and humbling.”
After what had been a challenging last two years for teachers and students alike, Arizmendi said that Tuesday’s event, along with a recent tour of SoFi Stadium granted to the entire school, as well as the gradual relaxing of COVID-19 protocols, had the effect of “giving us the definite feeling that we are getting back to normalcy.
“With the Rams win and now this, it’s like ‘Here we go!’ ”
The school, which fields a formidable flag football team, not only played host to the archbishop but a significant number of media members, with five local TV crews showing up to record the festivities.
As per tradition, the two archbishops’ bet had caught the public’s imagination. But this year, it also gave way to some unexpected generosity: As it turned out, Archbishop Schnurr did get to dig into some of Porto’s treats. The bakery, which has locations in Glendale, Downey, and Buena Park, ended up sending a whole lot of their creations to Ohio, which Archbishop Schnurr shared with students and staff of Our Lady of the Rosary School in Dayton.
What was more, Porto’s donated its cookies to be distributed at St. John Chrysostom. Beatriz Porto actually attended the event, racing around, determined that every child and adult should get one.
“We’re so happy to take part in this. What an honor to know that when [Archbishop Gomez] thought of offering the best of Los Angeles, he thought of Porto’s,” Porto said with a smile.
There were a lot of smiles Tuesday at St. John Chrysostom, perhaps the biggest belonging to its principal.
“This just says it all,” exclaimed Arizmendi, who is in the middle of his first year as principal. “The Rams win, the school is back, and we get ice cream! God has really been looking out for this little school.”