Great things are happening right now at Bishop Machebeuf High School: recent State appearances by Boys Golf, Girls and Boys Cross Country Teams, and Boys Soccer; State Championship in Cheer; Fall play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and upcoming Spring musical, West Side Story; strong spiritual formation opportunities including class retreats and an Ignatian Spirituality Retreat continue… the list goes on.
This article is the first of an upcoming 10-part series that seeks to shed light on these and other tremendous things happening at Bishop Machebeuf High School, including the Archdiocese of Denver’s confidence in the strong Machebeuf leadership team assembled by President-Principal Dr. Tony Bonta and the successes with the Catholic Liberal Arts curriculum, the implementation of the Integrated Humanities program and the school’s athletic program. With the many rumors surrounding what Bishop Machebeuf is and isn’t, it’s essential to set the record straight.
For those unfamiliar with the school, Bishop Machebeuf High School was founded in 1958 and is named after the founding Bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver, Bishop Joseph Machebeuf. This May, the high school will graduate its 60th class, the Class of 2022. Found throughout the Denver area and beyond, with successful careers in business, law, education, in numerous medical professions, graduates of the school have experienced rich traditions and a lasting legacy of community, faith, and excellence established by generations of alumni.
Graduates of Machebeuf have gone on to many well-respected colleges including Benedictine College, Colorado School of Mines, Creighton University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Gonzaga University, University of Notre Dame, Purdue University, University of Wisconsin, Madison, and many more.
Recent changes at Bishop Machebeuf
Readers of the Denver Catholic may recall an article published in February 2020 announcing that Bishop Machebeuf High School planned to move from a two-track system, College Preparation and Classical, to a Liberal Arts curriculum with an Integrated Humanities component (a merging of the most successful elements of both tracks). At that time, a decision was also made to pursue the President-Principal model, allowing greater outreach to the Denver community, alumni, and stakeholders.
While the current Machebeuf team has successfully implemented these changes, some members of the Bishop Machebeuf Family felt confused and frustrated that changes were being made and the reasoning behind them. “I was saddened to hear of the hurt that some members of the Machebeuf family experienced,” Dr. Tony Bonta, President-Principal of Bishop Machebeuf, said. “Despite the best intentions from many parties to pursue the best for Bishop Machebeuf and the students, there was some miscommunication.”
Since then, through many listening sessions and the efforts of many from the archdiocese, the Machebeuf Team, and Dr. Bonta, progress has been made in moving the Machebeuf mission forward and helping heal and rebuild bridges.
To dispel any rumors or misunderstandings of my and the archdiocese’s commitment to Bishop Machebeuf High School, as well as talk of closing Bishop Machebeuf: Nothing could be farther from the truth.
— Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
“I am so grateful to my predecessors for their efforts and their support of Bishop Machebeuf,” Dr. Bonta said. “In a special way I want to thank some former staff members, Mrs. Kellie Carroll, Mr. Marc Lenzini, Fr. James Claver, S.C.J., Sr. Cecilia Marie Evans, O.P., Mrs. Tamara Whitehouse, and Mr. Michael O’Hagan, to name a few, who really made me feel welcome and helped me understand the rich history, legacy, and pride of Bishop Machebeuf and why its future is so critical.”
Through the years and seasons to come — as students, teachers, and even those in positions of leadership come and go — the high school’s long-lasting commitment to this mission will remain its priority.
“When I first arrived and engaged in several open forums and meetings, I heard comments about Bishop Machebeuf trying to be everything to everyone or looking for its identity,” said Dr. Bonta. “What has not changed are the qualities of Machebeuf alumni and the school’s commitment to holistic Catholic education for a wide range of families, something that has remained true since 1958.”
What about the other Catholic High School opening in the city of Denver?
Recent news has circulated about an independent Catholic High School (St. John Paul the Great) opening soon. Elias Moo, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, expressed his conviction, “Regardless of what other independent high school projects are starting up, we are 100% committed to Bishop Machebeuf and will not stop doing everything we can to live up to the commitments that have been made and help lead Bishop Machebeuf to where we know it can be and toward where it is already starting to move. The presence of a new high school program to us is not a threat to Machebeuf, as we see not only plenty of opportunity for multiple Catholic high school options but also a distinctive quality that Bishop Machebeuf brings that no other school can when it comes to its location, the richly diverse community it serves, and the various elements of its program.”
Keith Parsons, Chief Operating Officer at the Archdiocese of Denver, affirmed this, adding, “I think there is a growing desire in people looking for alternatives to public education — and an authentic Catholic education especially. What is important to us is that we don’t want this to be one particular school to serve one particular demographic. Machebeuf is meant to be the school for all. We open the doors to everyone seeking a relationship with Christ and anyone seeking an authentic Catholic education.”
Bishop Machebeuf High School has stabilized and is thriving
One major factor to the successful stabilization of Bishop Machebeuf High School has been the attention given to the Plan, the People, and the Partnerships. “Our team has worked hard to build on the past and focus on the present and future plans that the Archdiocese of Denver Board of Members shared with Bishop Machebeuf,” said Dr. Bonta. “I am truly grateful to the many people who stepped up at Bishop Machebeuf to give structure to the plan of focusing on the school’s long-standing pillars of Faith, Academics and Academic Support, Student Life, and Discernment. We are all grateful for the unconditional support of Archbishop Aquila and the Board of Members.”
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila himself put it plainly: “To dispel any rumors or misunderstandings of my and the archdiocese’s commitment to Bishop Machebeuf High School, as well as talk of closing Bishop Machebeuf: Nothing could be farther from the truth.”
The Archbishop and Board of Members are working with the Machebeuf team to reduce the financial dependence on the archdiocese while increasing enrollment and outreach to stakeholders and alumni over the next five years and beyond. The archdiocese has committed to a five-plus-year plan to ensure Bishop Machebeuf has the level of support (including financial support) necessary to thrive moving forward.
Superintendent Elias Moo expressed his belief in the current reality at the high school. “Bishop Machebeuf today is in a much stronger place than when we shared the vision of what we discerned our Lord was asking us to do to double-down on the mission of Bishop Machebeuf, a mission we believe even more so today is critical to our Catholic educational ministry in the archdiocese. We believe strongly that we have an incredible team of leaders, teachers, and staff in place. The academic program is beginning to see great results. School culture has improved significantly. The financial situation is on the road to stabilization, as the [Machebeuf] debt has been alleviated thanks to a generous investment [$1.5 million] from the archdiocesan community.”
The archdiocese forgave the remaining debt owed by Bishop Machebeuf. “We are 100% committed to Bishop Machebeuf and will not stop doing everything we can to live up to the commitments that have been made and help lead Bishop Machebeuf to where we know it can be and toward where it is already starting to move,” said Mr. Moo.
In addition to the financial support of the archdiocese, Machebeuf has also been blessed with partnerships from ACE Scholars, which awarded $250,000 this year for scholarships and school assistance, and the Schmitz Family Foundation, which provided $125,000 this year as part of a block grant to be used to strengthen marketing and communications.
“These two groups have supported Bishop Machebeuf with well over $3.7 million in scholarships for our students and support for the school over the past ten years,” said Dr. Bonta. He added, “We are grateful for the monies Seeds of Hope gave to many of our families hit hard by COVID-19, and an additional $30,000 grant they recently awarded Machebeuf to enhance professional development for our faculty.”
Next summer, Bishop Machebeuf High School will team up with The Challenge Foundation to offer a summer enhancement program. “We are so grateful to all these outside organizations and foundations willing to partner with Bishop Machebeuf to continue building upon the momentum,” said Dr. Bonta.
Other partnerships firmly committed to Bishop Machebeuf include the many joyful and faith-filled faculty and staff (including Dominican Sisters of the Saint Cecilia Chapter in Nashville, Tenn., and the Servants of Christ Jesus) who are 100% committed to Machebeuf’s mission of holistic and comprehensive Catholic education and formation.
And to echo Moo’s confidence in the leadership currently in place at the school, Keith Parsons added, “I have great confidence in President Dr. Tony Bonta. At the same time, he’s only one man. The great thing about him is that he’s built a great team of great leaders around him. So, in that way, the school’s success is not dependent on one particular person. We have built great leaders around Tony that can help drive the success of the school as we move forward.”
Throughout the rest of this series, the Denver Catholic community will meet many of those responsible for the stabilization and excitement surrounding Bishop Machebeuf.
From Maintenance to Mission
“We want Machebeuf to be one of the leaders driving our Church and our schools away from what we describe today as a ‘maintenance mode’ and toward an organization that’s forming intentional disciples. We want to form young men & women to become apostle-like disciples to help drive evangelization and the mission of our Church,” Parsons said.
Archbishop Aquila added, “I have been around Machebeuf for years as a priest, as a pastor, as Secretary for Education; I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Today, I firmly believe Bishop Machebeuf High School is the centerpiece of the renewal of our Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. This is the most polished, diverse, passionate, and unified team and vision for the high school that I have seen in my time associated with it. Our involvement in Bishop Machebeuf High School has been an attempt to demonstrate our support for Machebeuf as the archdiocesan, Catholic School, and Catholic School in the City of Denver area, along with Holy Family High School in the Denver Metro area.”
Dr. Bonta personally invites everyone to come and visit Bishop Machebeuf High School. “Once you walk in the doors and meet the Machebeuf community, all rumors will be dispelled, and you will see the truth of the great things happening because of our amazing students, incredible and committed faculty and staff and their care of Catholic education and the legacy and pride in Bishop Machebeuf.”
Tours can be arranged through Mrs. Dakota Pesce, Admissions Counselor at Bishop Machebeuf. Contact “email@example.com,” or visit machebeuf.org to apply.
Please be sure to check back for the subsequent articles in this series in the weeks to come. The series will explore the pillars of faith, academics, student life, and discernment, and much more. You will hear firsthand accounts from students, faculty, staff, school leadership, parents and families, alumni, and supporters who will share what makes a Bishop Machebeuf High School education genuinely transformational and a real value in Catholic education.