Fostering Catholic identity in Catholic schools

Aaron Lambert

Living the Catholic Faith should be evident in all aspects of life, and especially so in the classroom, according to the organizer of the inaugural Catholic High School Formation Summit that took place at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial on Dec. 3 and 4.

There were 55 people in attendance representing 23 schools from around the nation, and the summit featured speakers from all avenues of Catholic education.

The event was conceived and organized by Father Paul Kostka, chaplain at Bishop Macehbeuf High School, and its purpose was to create a national network of collaboration between Catholic high schools around the nation in order to form students as authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.

“The spiritual formation of students was the key focus of the conference,” Father Kostka said.

More than that, however, it was meant to be a forum for Catholic educators to come together and help each other become more effective at fostering a strong sense of Catholic identities in their respective schools.

The Catholic school symposium that took place on last October was part of the inspiration for the summit, Father Kostka said. The summit was a natural outflow from the theme of discipleship that was prevalent at the symposium, he said.

Father Kostka has done much ministry around the county, and in doing so, he’s encountered many school faculty and professionals who are doing great things to encourage discipleship at their schools. He’s built a network of Catholic educators from these encounters, and among these were the attendees of the summit.

There were talks on mission, athletics, house communities and other access points that are opportunities to bring kids to Christ, he said.

Thomas Wurtz, founder of the Varsity Catholic branch of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, was one of the speakers in attendance. He gave a talk on school athletic programs and the role they play in making intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.

“A young person involved in sports has the chance to be formed,” Wurtz said. “I hope we can rally around the need to use sports as a tool in the formation of our young people.”

A portion of the conference was also dedicated to Catholic high school teachers, specifically theology teachers, and different ways they could bring kids to Christ in the classroom through the use of primary sources such as scripture.

From this teaching, though, must also come action, and this was another primary goal of the conference.

“We can give talks on mission, but if we don’t have the students go and do mission work, all we’re doing is talking,” Father Kostka said. “There is a teaching part of it, but the teaching then has to manifest itself in concrete actions.”

The culture of collaboration discussed at the summit wasn’t meant only to apply nationally, but also locally. Father Kostka said the independent nature and distance between the two Catholic high schools in the Archdioces¬e of Denver, Bishop Macehbeuf and Holy Family in Broomfield, can make them feel like islands. He hopes to build and foster a more collaborative relationship between the two schools.

“[A lot of people] walked away from the summit encouraged to more intentionally live the faith in their schools, [and to] try some of the ideas people proposed and integrate them into their schools,” Father Kostka said.

The next Catholic High School Formation Summit will be held Oct. 19-21, 2016, at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Atlanta, Ga. For more information, visit

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Don’t miss ‘the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century’

Denver’s Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition brings to life Judaism at time of Jesus

Vladimir Mauricio-Perez

“Welcome to Israel, the Biblical land of milk and honey at the crossroads of Africa, Europe and Asia… an archaeologist’s paradise”: These words mark the start of a once-in-a-lifetime immersion into ancient Israel that the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition brings to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science March 16 to Sep. 3.

The exhibition, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Denver, not only displays the authentic Dead Sea Scrolls that have captivated millions of believers and non-believers around the world, but also a timeline back to Biblical times filled with ancient objects that date back to events written about in the Old Testament more than 3,000 years ago.

“We are convinced that the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the Judean desert are the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century,” said Dr. Uzi Dahari, deputy director of the Israel Antiquities. “These scrolls, written in Hebrew, are the oldest copy of the Bible.”

In fact, some of these manuscripts are almost a thousand years older than the oldest copies of the Bible that had been discovered, providing a great wealth of knowledge about Judaism at the time of Jesus.

“So many things have changed [since this discovery],” said Dr. Michael Barber, professor of Scripture and Theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver. “We now understand first-century Judaism in a way we didn’t in the past and see how the Biblical authors are breathing the same air as other ancient Jews.”

An exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science will be on display until Sept. 3. (Photos by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

The air of first-century Israel was filled with expectations for the coming of the Messiah. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which have been associated with a unique religious Jewish community that lived a structured life, are a witness to this reality, he explained.

“[These communities] were trying to live in such a way as to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. They looked forward to a new covenant and the restoration of the glory of Adam” Dr. Barber said. “We see so many overlaps of how the New Testament is a fulfillment of the Jewish expectations of the time.”

The exhibition immerses guests into the history of the chosen people of God, from artifacts impressed with seals belonging to Biblical kings, such as Hezekiah, to an authentic stone block that fell from Jerusalem’s Western Wall in 70 AD.

“We preferred to select scientifically important items, some very small, some very large… but all of great significance,” Dr. Dahari said.

“Israel’s archaeological sites and artifacts have yielded extraordinary record of human achievement,” added Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn, curator of the exhibit and professor at San Diego State University. “The pots, coins, weapons, jewelry and other artifacts on display in this exhibition constituted a momentous contribution to our cultural legacy. They teach us about the past, but they also teach us about ourselves.”