Catholic high schools unite to provide hurricane relief

Regis Jesuit and Mullen high schools host a drive at rivalry football game

Therese Bussen

After Hurricane Harvey left the city of Houston in disaster and Hurricane Irma threatened south Florida, two Denver Catholic high schools came together at their rivalry football game Sept. 8 to host a drive for hurricane relief efforts.

At what would have been an ordinary high-intensity rivalry game, the schools decided to come together for a relief initiative after Mullen cheer coach, Demi Zimmermann, organized a drive at the school during the week leading up to the Friday game.

“Mullen Cheer head coach, Demi Zimmerman, who recently relocated from the Texas area, initiated the drive by organizing the transportation of a semi-truck to the Houston area…students [rallied] together to donate essential items and fielded endless phone calls from the community who were all anxious to help. Saturday morning, a full semi-truck [left] the Mullen campus for Houston,” said respective presidents of Mullen and Regis, Carl Unrein and David Card, in a joint statement.

“This week, we collected donations for those affected by the hurricane. Seeing everything Mullen students brought to donate made me proud of what our community could accomplish,” said Mullen junior student, Mike Woodhouse, who is part of the student council.

Mullen High School gathered supplies from the community to send Houston following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. (Photo provided)

Zimmermann and her husband grew up just outside of Houston and said most of her family and friends still reside there. When she saw the devastation of Harvey, she was “heartbroken.”

“Many of our friends, family members, and co-workers lost everything. Some of them still have not been allowed to enter or get back to their homes due to stagnant and high levels of water that are present today,” Zimmermann said. “Rivalry or not, it’s important that our community recognizes that people should help people.”

Leading up to the football game, Regis also collected nearly $9,000 in support of displaced families from two Jesuit high schools in Houston and continue to collect funds.

“We are called to be brothers and sisters in Christ, and part of that is supporting each other when things are not going well,” said senior Regis student, Olivia Marie Ary. “These hurricanes have been devastating, and people in the southern part of our country are going to need lots of help and resources to get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Regis Jesuit High School students pose at the football game against their rival, Mullen, where the schools hosted a drive for hurricane relief. (Photo provided)

“[Having a drive] not only creates a feeling of support for those directly affected by the hurricane, but it also aids in a feeling of community and brotherhood,” said Mullen senior student Marguerite Whiteside, a student council vice president of service. “By coming together as a school, and community, we were able to support those in distress. The fact that the drive occurred during a rivalry football game is powerful. It goes to show that, yes we are rivals, but we are all humans who have the basic understanding of common good.”

Presidents Unrein and Card echoed the sentiment that the generosity of both communities “will serve those who have been dislocated from their everyday routines”

“Our rivalry melts away when heeding the call of our shared Catholic faith and serving those in need,” they stated.

COMING UP: 500 years later, who was Luther?

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Hero, villain, heretic, saint, reformer, corrupter, man of integrity, bombastic glutton. Which image of Luther should we believe? Because Luther primarily sought not to reform abuses in the Church but to reform the Church’s beliefs, Catholics cannot recognize him as a true reformer or a holy man. Nonetheless, it is widely agreed that Luther played a major role in shaping the modern world. With the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant movement he initiated approaching on October 31st, we have been given a number of new books to assess his legacy.

Paul Hacker, Luther’s Faith: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion, preface by Pope Benedict XVI (Emmaus, 2017).

Hacker’s book provides an in-depth, theological analysis of the issue that stands at the heart of the Reformation: Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone. Pope Benedict’s preface tells us that the Reformation dispute fundamentally concerned Luther’s “turning away from the center of the Gospel” (xxii). Emmaus released a new edition of Hacker’s book for the anniversary this year. It was published originally in 1970 (in English translation), the fruit of Hacker’s own intense study of Luther’s teaching on faith that led him into the Catholic Church from German Lutheranism.

Catholics agree with Protestants that salvation comes only through faith. The key issue of dispute, which Hacker reveals, is Luther’s subjective emphasis of absolute, personal certainty, which cannot be undermined even by serious sin. Hacker describes Luther’s faith as reflexive, that is turned back on oneself, by emphasizing subjective experience and personal surety more than anything else. He describes how Luther differs from the Catholic position: “Faith is the way to, or the perquisite of, salvation, but Luther makes it coincide with salvation itself. This becomes possible because he has first identified salvation with the consciousness of being saved or the certitude of salvation, and then he equates this consciousness with faith” (71). Hacker shows us how this view of faith negated the Church’s authority, the sacraments, and even the need to love God.

Brad Gregory, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape Our World (HarperOne, 2017).

For those looking for a more general and accessible book, Brad Gregory gives us a broader narrative of how Luther’s troubled conscience exploded into the crisis that tore Christendom in two. The first section looks at Luther’s own story, tracing step by step his conflict with Church authority. The second section explains how Luther’s teaching spawned a multitude of new sects and divisions, all interpreting the Bible in their own fashion. Greggory explains: “What the early Reformation shows so clearly is that scripture and the Spirt can be interpreted and applied in radically divergent ways. Once the papacy and the Catholic Church are thrown off, there are no shared authorities to adjudicate disagreements” (137). The final section looks at how the Reformation set the tone for the development of a secular culture. Though not intending these consequences, Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformers “led indirectly to a profound diminishing of Christianity’s public influence in Western societies. The religious disagreements and conflicts that followed the Reformation set the stage for religion’s eventual separation from the rest of life” (2).

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking, 2017).

Metaxas, who wrote a monumental biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, provides us with a different perspective on Luther. His book seems poised to capture the largest audience for the anniversary this year. While I can’t agree with his view of Luther as a hero of faith, I can appreciate his presentation of a more sympathetic and thorough look at a man who has inspired many Protestant Christians. It is helpful to recognize why Luther is such an important figure for so many people. This book definitely provides many more details on the life of Luther (with over 450 pages). However, I would exercise caution, because it unfortunately also contains many gross misrepresentations of the state of the Church at the time of the Reformation.

For instance, even though Metaxas shows us many ways that Luther encountered the Bible in his early life, he still claims that the Bible and Church had no connection in the early 1500s and that “the study of the Bible per se was simply unheard of” (52). Luther himself was a theology professor and throughout the Middle Ages the Bible was the primary text for teaching theology. Brad Gregory makes clear in his book on Luther that there were even “twenty-two editions of the complete vernacular Bible . . . published in German . . . by 1518” (29). Metaxas presents a false picture of Catholics as ignorant, afraid to pray to Christ, and thinking they must earn their salvation through works. Good historical research could easily dispel these myths, such as the books of Eamon Duffy, but we see Protestants continue to project Luther’s own scruples (hating God and spending six hours in Confession, 47) onto the Church of his time.

Jerome K. Williams, True Reformers: Saints of the Catholic Reformation (Augustine Institute, 2017).

What could have Luther been if he had chosen faithful reform? The answer is a saint. There is no doubt that the Church was in need of serious reform in the 1500s. We have a number of great saints who show us that fidelity to God does not contradict fidelity to His Church. They stood against corruption and initiated deep and abiding reform. The Augustine Institute has release both a book and video series on true reformers, who boldly spoke out against abuses and led to a deeper realization of the truth found in the Bible, read in harmony with the Church. These figures—Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, Ignatius of Loyola, and Charles Borromeo, for instance—continue to inspire us to take up the task of genuine reform today.