It’s CPA awards season!

Each year, at the annual Catholic Press Association conference, the CPA issues awards to Catholic newspapers all over the country for their steadfast devotion to reporting on all matters related to the Catholic Church. We don’t like to brag, but we’re very proud of the work we’ve put in here at the Denver Catholic over the past year, and it’s nice to be recognized for it. This year, we won several awards from the CPA, including a few in first place. We thank you, our dear readers, for all your support and for helping us to be the best diocesan newspaper we can be. Below is a list of everything we and our sister publication El Pueblo Catolico (now known as Denver Catholic en Espanol)won this year.

Best feature photograph, first place: “Cathedral ordination” by Andrew Wright

Best general news photograph first place: “Bishops” by Andrew Wright

Best reporting on the celebration of a sacrament, first place: “Be Simple. Be One” by Melissa Keating

Best online presentation of multimedia visuals, first place: “Little Woman, Giant Spirit” by Aaron Lambert, Andrew Wright and James Baca

Best redesign, first place

Best coverage of Mother Teresa’s canonization, first place

Best election coverage by a diocesan newspaper, third place: “Voting in Good Faith” by Aaron Lambert, Andrew Wright

Honorable mentions:

Best front page: Denver Catholic, “Little Woman, Giant Spirit” by Karna Swanson, Andrew Wright, Aaron Lambert, Filippo Piccone and James Baca

Best reporting on special age group: Denver Catholic, “Millennial Catholics: Here to Stay” by Karna Swanson, Andrew Wright, Melissa Keating, Filippo Piccone

Newspaper of the year, non-weekly diocesan: Denver Catholic by Karna Swanson, Andrew Wright, Michael O’ Neill, Aaron Lambert and Filippo Piccone

El Pueblo awards:

Best sports reporting, third place: “Altetas olímpicos que manifestaron su fe cristiana” by Clemente Carballo

Best treatment of vocations to priesthood, religious life, or diaconate, third place: “Un sacerdote es lo que es por Jesucristo” by Carmen Elena Villa

Best reporting on family, second place: “Consejos del Papa a las mamás” by Carmen Elena Villa

Best coverage of the Year of Mercy, third place: “Lo que Dios ha unido, ningún hombre lo separe” by Carmen Elena Villa / Mavi Barraza

Best coverage of Papal visit to Mexico, second place: “Cruzarán la frontera para ver al Papa” by Carmen Elena Villa

Best coverage of World Youth Day. Second place: “Cien mil millas en busca del plan de Dios” by Monseñor Samuel Aquila, arzobispo de Denver /Lara Montoya / Carmen Elena Villa

COMING UP: In new Denver school, Byzantine spirituality meets Montessori method

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.- With the goal of encountering children on a more personal level to meet their academic and spiritual needs, a Montessori school influenced by the Byzantine Catholic tradition is opening in Denver, Colorado.

Pauline Meert, who co-founded Sophia Montessori Academy along with Irene O’Brien, said the two “wanted to combine Montessori and Catholicism because it just made so much sense.”

Meert said the school aims to help children fulfill their God-given potential, and that “the Montessori message really makes that possible for each child, not just for a classroom as a whole, but for each individual.”

Students in Montessori schools work in periods of uninterrupted time – ideally three hours – having the freedom to choose from an established range of options. The Montessori Method uses hands-on techniques in presenting concepts to individual children, rather than a group oriented, lecture-based approach to learning. The student’s involvement in his or her own work then gives the teacher the freedom to spend time with each child and cater to each of their needs.

Sophia Montessori of Denver is in its final stages of its development, pending licensing and a few business inspections. But classes for children aged between three and six are expected to start in the fall of this year, and both Meert and O’Brien hope the school, currently with 11 families enrolled, will grow in number and into the high school level.

When asked about the origin of the school’s idea, Meert discussed her connection to children and her dream helping bring about a child’s full potential. She began her Montessori training in high school, and later envisioned Catholic teaching and the Montessori Method together.

Meert said the school has been four years in the making, but that she added the Byzantine spirituality aspect within the past year after she became a parishioner at Holy Protection Parish in Denver.

“The Byzantine faith is going to be the foundation,” she said, noting that the day will begin with a form of the Jesus prayer.

Montessori schools often begin the day with the “silence game,” in which children learn how to be calm and quiet in a time period of about 30 seconds to two minutes. Many schools have interpreted this freely, but she expressed a desire to tie this into the Byzantine’s Jesus Prayer.

“The beauty about being Byzantine is that we do that through the Jesus prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on us, your children,’ she said, “You know because it’s kind of hard to call them sinners right away.”

The school will also have the kissing of icons and will teach according to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

“The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a very hands-on way of teaching the children about who Jesus is in time and space: through the parables, through infancy narratives, and through learning the nomenclature of the church.”

Children want to be a part of the world of adults and understand the liturgy, she said, and so the teachers aim to give them direct experiences related to the tabernacle and liturgical seasons.

“If we just tell them to be quiet and read a book during mass and during liturgy then we are not meeting their needs. They just want to know, they just want to be a part, they want to be welcomed by the church.”

She said many people would be surprised at the theological discussions she’s had with four-year-olds as well as the harmony created in the classroom. The environment is “surprisingly peaceful and calm, even though there are 20 three-to-six year-olds together.”

Meert also described the trust needed to allow children the freedom to make choices within prescribed limitations. “Three year-olds can do so much!” she said.

Meert defined this freedom as “not the freedom to do whatever you want, but…the freedom that Saint Thomas Aquinas talks about – having freedom within responsibility, within boundaries and within awareness of other people.”

In her interview with CNA, she also voiced her hope to establish afternoon classes for homeschooled kids and support for parents.

“We want to give parents tools and support. Some of the Montessori approach is common sense, but sometimes it’s a little trickier and parents just need extra support (or) someone to bounce ideas off of,” she said.

“We really want to be that support with those tools, and create a community that is often missing in our life.”

Featured image by Natalia Zhuravleva – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47443889