Blessed Frassati to serve as patron of new school

Aaron Lambert

A new Catholic school featuring Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati in its namesake is coming to the Archdiocese of Denver.

Frassati Catholic Academy is a new Catholic school in Thornton slated to open in Fall 2017. Named after Blessed Frassati himself, Frassati Academy will be firmly Catholic in its approach to education and provide the highest-caliber educational experience to its students. The school will adhere to the classical model of education, which has time and time again proven to be extremely beneficial and effective in terms of academic success.

“Frassati Catholic Academy, with its classical approach to education, is a wonderful addition to our 35 existing Catholic elementary schools,” said Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. “Given the growing Catholic population around Thornton, we desire to offer a new opportunity to help form your children both spiritually and academically.”

Frassati Academy is located in Thornton at 133rd Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, a location that is bursting with growth and is home to a large Catholic presence. The location was determined to be appropriate after studying population and demographic data.

The purchase of Frassati Catholic Academy was announced at Masses in the surrounding parishes over the weekend. It is the first new archdiocesan school to open since Our Lady of Loreto in 2012, and is also the first regional school in the archdiocese, which seeks to serve those students in the area who do not have a school attached their parish.

The building itself, which was formerly a charter school, is in “tip-top shape,” said Kevin Kijewski, Superintendent of Denver Catholic Schools. The building was constructed in 2003 with an addition made in 2008, and it remains in gre¬at condition.

“Part of our new vision for Catholic schools in the archdiocese is to offer new academic configurations and specialties that are appealing to parents,” Kijewski said. “Frassati Academy helps to fulfill a need and desire in the northern Denver suburbs.”

‘Man of the Eight Beatitudes’

Archbishop Aquila named the school himself, saying that Blessed Frassati is an excellent role model for young people.

“Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati serves as a great example for young people today, especially here on the Front Range,” Archbishop Aquila said. “He is known as the man of the beatitudes, a title which speaks to living out the faith with authentic joy. We believe he is an excellent patron for this new school.”

Born April 6, 1901, in Turin, Italy, Blessed Frassati was an astute student and a fierce defender of the Catholic faith. At the age of 17, he began studying to become a mining engineer to “serve Christ better among the miners,” he once told a friend, and devoted much his spare time to serving the sick, needy, orphans and World War I veterans. In 1919, he became involved in political and social activist groups that promoted Catholic social teaching, and played a crucial role in the first convention of Pax Romana, an organization that called for unification among Catholic students throughout the world for the purpose of working together for universal peace.

At times, Blessed Frassati was known for physically defending the faith, getting into the occasional scuffle with anticlerical Communists and Fascists. Even so, his heart was in the right place. He stood for social justice and took every opportunity he got to lead others to Holy Mass, to read Scripture, and to pray the rosary.

Blessed Frassati contracted poliomyelitis at age 24, and died on July 4, 1925. At his funeral, the streets were filled with the poor and suffering whom he served during his life, a show of overwhelming support for a man Pope John Paul II dubbed “Man of the Eight Beatitudes” in 1977 while attending an exhibit about Blessed Frassati’s life. Of him, the Holy Father said, “Behold the man of the eight beatitudes who bears in himself the grace of the Gospel, the Good News, the joy of salvation offered to us by Christ…” On May 20, 1990, Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati.

The classical model

The classical model of education, as its name suggests, dates back to as early as the 6th century. It strives to lead students to discover knowledge and truth that is ordered, coherent, integrated and is rooted in the wisdom of the past, particularly in Western civilization such as Greece and Rome.

The three primary pillars of classical education, sometimes called the trivium, are grammar, logic and rhetoric. Furthermore, the study of Latin, art and music is integral to classical education. In the early grades, exploration and memorization are encouraged, and as students progress to higher grades, they transition from memorizing to engaging in learning activities that stress synthesizing ideas across academic subjects.

The Office of Catholic Schools has been consulting with the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education in the implementation of the classical model at Frassati Academy. The institute, headed by Andrew Seeley, Ph.D., works to promote the best and deepest kinds of Catholic education in Catholic schools and colleges, a big part of which is the classical model of education.

“If you read through the Holy See’s teachings on Catholic schools, there are five benchmarks for what Catholic schools should look like, and I think Catholic classical education meets those benchmarks in abundant and wonderful ways,” Seeley said. “Classical education prepares students for 21st century leadership. One of the key components is trying to teach students how to learn anything that they need to know, and because we teach them to learn and inspire in them a desire to learn, they’re going to be very effective at adapting to situations that change all the time.”

Coupling a classical education with a Catholic foundation has proven to be extremely successful, and one local school has exemplified this. Our Lady of Lourdes school in Denver was one of three schools featured in a recent article published by the Catholic World Report highlighting two key elements that appear to increase enrollment in Catholic schools: “embracing and proclaiming a Catholic identity, and switching to a classical curriculum.” In the midst of dropping attendance, Our Lady of Lourdes Principal Rosemary Anderson switched the school to a classical model of education beginning in 2011, and since then, their enrollment has increased drastically, jumping from 90 students in 2011 to 175 as of January 2016.

Proudly Catholic

As a Catholic school in the classical tradition, Mass and prayer will serve as the foundation of Frassati Academy’s curriculum. Religious formation will be fostered among the students with a weekly Mass in addition to support by parish priests from around the local area.

Priests will also play a crucial role in the operations of the school. Frassati Academy will be governed by a board that includes local pastors of the region, who will ensure the school remains on mission.

“This regional governance will include pastors from parishes in the local area,” said Father Randy Dollins, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Denver. “While the archdiocese will own the school, the pastors will help to ensure effective leadership and finances for many years to come.”

Denise Campbell is the newly-hired director of curriculum and instruction for the Office of Catholic Schools, but she is also overseeing Frassati Academy as its interim director.

“Frassati Academy will offer the highest quality Catholic education possible,” Campbell said. “I am very excited to be a part of this growth and innovation in the Archdiocese of Denver.”

Registration for Frassati Academy opens during Catholic Schools Week, which begins January 30, 2017.

Visit gofrassati.org to sign up for email updates.

COMING UP: Worthy of the Name: Vision document aims to revitalize Catholic schools

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Catholic schools week is Jan. 31 – Feb 6, and in honor of the occasion, the Office of Catholic Schools is releasing a vision document highlighting what characteristics make a school deserving of the title “Catholic.”

At last year’s Catholic school symposium, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila gathered with over 200 teachers, principals, pastors and archdiocesan leaders to discuss ways to overcome the challenges facing Catholic schools.

The fruits of the symposium have manifested themselves in a vision document titled “Worthy of the Name.”

The opening letter for the document, penned by Archbishop Aquila and Superintendent of Catholic Schools Kevin Kijewski, describes the mission of Catholic schools as assisting “parents in helping their children encounter Jesus Christ and the gift of our Catholic faith,” and speaks of the vision formulated as a result of the symposium.

“This vision is ambitious,” the letter states, “But rightly so, since the issues we are facing are significant and cannot be remedied without robust solutions.”

The document describes four focus areas: “On mission,” “Excellent in every way,” “Accessible to all,” and “Sustainable for the future.”

On Mission

With authentic discipleship in schools being a key focus of the plan, the hiring process for Catholic school teachers is going to be refined and will include a stronger focus on ensuring the teachers hired are what the vision document refers to as “disciple-teachers.” It also involves administrators and candidates discerning the profession of being a teacher at a Catholic school as a vocation and not just a job.

“Being a teacher at a Catholic school is a vocation, a calling that God gives to those whom he wants to play a vital role in helping parents,” the strategic plan states. “Teachers should strive to possess and communicate real Christian wisdom and virtue in teaching. The method of such teachers ought to convey to their students and awaken in them something beyond the subject by helping them understand the subject’s proper place in the students’ lives, showing them how it points to the universal truths of Creation and giving them a love for learning.”

In order to foster this mentality of discipleship, the Office of Catholic Schools will be implementing ongoing formation programs for its school employees as well as a mentoring program.

To ensure the highest-quality teachers are hired and to promote excellence from them, a new hiring toolkit with the intent of finding and forming disciple-teachers is being developed, as well as an improved teacher evaluation instrument “that will assess behaviors, actions and practices that are used by highly-effective Catholic school teachers.”Worthy of the name cover

Excellent in Every Way

The vision document also goes into detail about the role Catholic schools play in the formation of the entire person, their function in supporting families and their need for continuity and security.

To better compete with the education market, the Office of Catholic Schools will be assisting schools in developing new methods and innovations to meet the unique needs of students and provide an even higher quality of education to its students.

“This will assist schools in becoming uniquely and individually excellent, all the while driving enrollment across the school system,” the plan states.

Boards of specified jurisdictions could also potentially be established at schools to help alleviate some of the challenges pastors face being the president of a school. By employing board members with specific areas of expertise, pastors are given the tools they need to govern parish schools more effectively, the plan states. The Office of Catholic Schools will pilot two boards of specified jurisdiction at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Denver and St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Fort Collins, and should they prove successful, similar models will be deployed in various configurations across the archdiocese.

Another important pillar of the “Excellent in every way” focus area is implementing a more effective marketing strategy to share with the public the many benefits of enrolling students in Catholic schools.

“There are already many aspects of our schools that make them very attractive, yet sometimes they are not readily known to the community, and especially prospective families of students,” the document states.

Accessible to All

The ever-growing Latino population in Denver, as well as other immigrant groups, are also addressed in the document.

“The future of the Catholic Church is closely bound to this growing population,” the plan states.

The Office of Catholic Schools will launch specialized efforts to ensure that the Latino and immigrant populations have access to Catholic education and that this demographic is better-represented in Catholic schools.

“Efforts to transform the Latino population into key stakeholders in parishes and schools are necessary for the archdiocese to thrive in the future,” the plan states.

Taking inspiration from the Marinas Model at the University of Notre Dame, The Office of Catholic Schools will implement a Latino Enrollment Initiative to draw more of the Latino population to schools.

“Communication with the Latino community is different than the communication methods typically used for non-Latino communities. Within the context of the new communication efforts for Catholic schools, particular attention and resources will be used to create a plan specifically for Latinos,” the plan states.

A new position specifically for this initiative will also be created in the Office of Catholic Schools. The Director of Latino Enrollment will coordinate and lead efforts to recruit and retain Hispanic students in all Catholic schools.

Finally, those in leadership positions will be trained in understanding the culture and faith of Latinos, and there will be a conscious effort to recruit and form leaders from within this population.

Sustainable for the Future

The final focus area of the school strategic plan addresses the business and financial aspects of Catholic schools.

This part of the strategic plan involves reworking school budgets, centralizing fundraising and raising teacher salaries.

The concept of developing “right-sized” school budgets is a central pillar of this focus area. The Office of Catholic Schools will require schools to turn in budgets based on a reasonable enrollment projection and a reasonable allocation of the parish’s offertory, the plan states. Additionally, “right-sized” target ratios between school personnel and students will be worked toward over the next several school years, which includes a goal of at least 20 students for every core teacher.

School budgets, tuition and financial aid will be based on per pupil costs. The plan states that “tuition across the system will be set to give families an even starting line.”

The Office of Catholic Schools will also develop a more cohesive network between each individual school in the archdiocese to address fundraising needs.

“Archdiocesan schools operate mostly autonomously from each other. The future success of Catholic schools in the archdiocese, especially with funding, will depend on system-wide solutions where appropriate,” the plan states.

A centralized method for fundraising will be developed for all archdiocesan K-12 schools. This will include a centralized financial aid system to assess individual family financial needs and disburse aid.

A discount will be offered as incentive for teachers to enroll their own kids in Catholic schools as well as for families to enroll multiple children.

The plan also addresses the question of teacher salaries. Salaries will be “prudently” raised to offer a more competitive and attractive environment and better recruit and retain highly effective teachers.

Worthy of the Name
Vision DocumentRead “Worthy of the Name” at DenverCatholicSchools.com
TeleforumDiscuss the vision document with Archbishop Aquila and Kevin Kijewski on Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. Text “OCS” to 828282 to register.