Editor’s note: This story is the second in a Denver Catholic Register series about archdiocesan ministries and programs funded by the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal.
As she finishes up her first year as principal at Sts. Peter and Paul School in Wheat Ridge, Carmelite Sister Mary Patrice Matamoros reflected on the experience. While it’s been a good one, it has also involved a learning curve.
Sister Matamoros, along with all school principals, manages numerous details and makes many decisions over the course of a school year. She is grateful for the support she has received from the staff of the Office of Catholic Schools in managing those details, making good decisions, and continually striving to provide students with a rigorous education and strong spiritual formation.
“They have been extremely supportive,” she told the Denver Catholic Register May 8 while on a break from the monthly principals’ meeting at the St. John Paul II Center in south Denver. “Whenever a new and unknown situation has come up, number one, they always answer the phone. They respond quickly, and they are always there to give advice.”
Sister Matamoros, a native of Miami, Fla., entered the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles community in 1993. She is an experienced educator, serving in elementary education for 25 years, including teaching in Colorado, Florida, California and Arizona.
“Not only do they provide support, but true dialogue,” she said. “They guide and mentor and form the principals, with love and encouragement, in a straightforward way.”
Part of that formation has included participation in the principal induction program provided by the Office of Catholic Schools. The program brings new principals together for a full day once a month to help set “principles for the principals” through study and learning to apply Church documents, such as St. John Paul II’s writings on catechesis, to the Catholic culture of the school.
“In the induction program we receive solid Catholic formation so we are equipped,” she said. “To help form students we must make sure we ourselves are solid in our faith.
“We have the mission to impart the Catholic faith that is subtlety being eroded by society.”
The program also includes time for the Office of Catholic Schools’ team to further educate new principals on policies and procedures, and for the principals to get feedback from the superintendents.
In addition, the office assigns each new principal a seasoned mentor principal: Sister Matamoros was assigned Sister of St. Francis Mary Rose Lieb, principal at St. Francis de Sales School since 2012 and principal of Holy Family High School for 18 years.
Sister Matamoros also appreciates the Office of Catholic Schools for their guidance and expertise in areas such as legal and contract situations, compliance, liability, events, marketing and planning.
“They walk us through any situation,” she said, “and they direct us and teach us where to find the information we need.
“Because the support is there and I’ve been able to keep in contact with them,” she said, “I in turn can do the best I can for the school.”
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Central office ‘pays it forward’ to 40 Catholic schools
While Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools is the largest private school system in Colorado—at nearly 10,000 students and 1,000 teachers—it is a relatively small, but dedicated and experienced, team of individuals that act as the “central office.” This team of five provides vision, direction and supervision to the community of 38 elementary/middle schools and two high schools.
Individuals that make up the Office of Catholic Schools, based at the chancery building on the campus of the St. John Paul II Center in south Denver, include: Richard Thompson, superintendent; Sister Elizabeth Youngs, S.C.L., and Mary Cohen, associate superintendents; Barbara Anglada, special programs director; Deidre Moog, executive secretary; and the office is in the midst of hiring a Spanish-speaking administrative assistant.
“We work hard with the funds we’re provided,” Thompson told the Denver Catholic Register May 7. “We try to be good stewards of those funds and pay it forward.”
In the spirit of servant leadership, the office advises and assists administrators and teachers, so they in turn can achieve their mission: to form the whole child in moral and academic excellence.
“When (donors) invest in us,” Thompson said, “they’re investing in all kinds of students and teachers.”
From a practical and catechetical standpoint, just a few of the ways the office serves the schools are: helping recruit qualified teachers by attending teachers’ fairs, heading up a principal formation program that forms teachers into potential leaders through 65 hours of discernment, education and catechesis; complementing education and Church teaching related to sexuality with an annual chastity rally for eighth-graders, and developing ethically responsible sports leaders by promoting the “Play Like a Champion” initiative of the University of Notre Dame. The office recently received a Faithful Leadership Award from Notre Dame for their efforts implementing “Play Like a Champion” in the archdiocese.
“We work to get kids to college,” Thompson said, “and (ultimately) to heaven.”
Additional support services they provide include long-term strategic planning, policy promulgation, safety guidelines, financial review, legal advice and school accreditation.
For more information about the Office of Catholic Schools, visit www.archden.org/schools, call 303-715-3200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal Through the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal, nearly 40 archdiocesan ministries are supported by donations to the annual campaign. Donations fund ministries created to catechize students, educate seminarians, provide food and shelter to the impoverished, lead the wayward back to the Church and communicate the Gospel message. Archbishop Samuel Aquila chose this year’s theme “Go, therefore, and make disciples” (Matt 28:19) to encourage the faithful to re-evaluate their roles in making disciples. Everyone can be disciples for Christ, he said, either directly or indirectly. Gifts to the appeal are one way the faithful can help make disciples for Christ.