He prayed for guidance and started clowning around

He prayed for guidance and started clowning around

Photo by Alan M. Dumoff/More photos www.ccdphotoalbum.com

magicclown-webJed Doherty uses magic tricks in his presentation, “The Challenge: To Live as Jesus Taught.” At Bishop Schad Regional School on Oct. 29, he gets Anna Marie Bernard to create an illusion.

Standing in front of Bishop Schad Regional School students on Thursday, Oct. 29 — with a bag of magic tricks and wearing a red shirt with his stage name “Jedlie” on the front, a red bandanna, red and blue socks coming up to his knees and tennis shoes — Jed Doherty knows that he is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing.

“I’m responding to something very meaningful to youth,” he said.

Doherty is presenting “The Challenge,” a faith-based anti-bullying program that utilizes music, magic and dance to help students understand the need to love each other as Jesus did, and thus create a safe, bully-free school.

“If kids feel safe and secure, they perform better, and make better life choices,” he said.

For the past 20 years, Doherty has been spreading this message to schools, parishes, and youth groups all over the East Coast and Puerto Rico. The idea came to him after a discernment period that almost sent him to the altar instead of on stage.

“I thought I had a calling to the priesthood” in high school, he noted, even going on a discernment retreat where, he found out, the priestly life wasn’t where God was calling him.

“I got on my knees, prayed, asked God what he wanted from me,” he said. “Then I read the newspaper, and saw an ad for the Ringling Bros. circus; they needed clowns.”

He auditioned for a part but realized the circus wasn’t a right fit for him. Still, he was interested in the theatrical arts, and he started studying them in Boston, where he lived.

What motivated Doherty to create “The Challenge” and other youth-oriented programs, as well, was his work as a licensed social worker with the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice System, where he interacted with at-risk youth, youthful offenders and their families.

In 1983, Doherty worked at the ISEC School in Boston, for children with severe developmental disabilities, and he created a disability awareness program, “Meltdown! (The Walls Could Separate),” that was nationally cablecast and presented in schools and universities in 12 countries.

Six years later, he created the stage name Jedlie, a nickname given to him by his high school football coach, and he started performing the show “Boss of My Body,” where he discussed self-esteem issues and substance abuse prevention, in schools.

“The Challenge,” written by Doherty and his wife, Sonia Guerrios Doherty, a special needs teacher in Boston, helps the audience understand that all their choices matter, that they can turn their compassion into action, and that they should give thanks for their gifts and talents.

“I realized that the skills that are important as a social worker (could) address proactively in the guise of magic,” Doherty said. “It was a natural, organic thing.”

By using the parables of Jesus, such as the Good Samaritan, and helping others love as Jesus did, he feels he can “add enrichment to (youth’s lives and promote) self-esteem, healthy choices.”

What really makes him realize that he’s living out his true calling, though, is the reaction from children like his daughter, Alejandra, 13, on his show.

“She told me that, instead of me on stage showing the kids how cool I am, I bring them on stage, and show everyone how cool they are.”

Categories: Catholic School News

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