Bishop Machebeuf’s ‘Shut Down for Service’ day enriches community

Moira Cullings

Every year, students at Bishop Machebeuf High School take a break from classes to go out and serve their community for an entire day.

Known as “Shut Down for Service” day, the students often accomplish significant tasks, which benefit a variety of people and organizations in need, in a matter of hours.

When Cari Ervin, Director of Activities at Windsor Gardens, an active adult living community in Denver, reached out to the school to promote a lifeguard position, she was asked if Windsor Gardens could use any help from the students for their day of giving.

“I had been wanting to do a large community event like this,” said Ervin. “It was the perfect opportunity when they asked if we could receive some students for the service day.”

Windsor Gardens had been wanting to partner with Arc Thrift Store to give their residents the chance to donate unwanted belongings to the store.

Around 50 students from Bishop Machebeuf High School spent their “Shut Down for Service” day at Windsor Gardens in Denver. (Photos provided)

“But even though we are an active adult living community, there are some residents who don’t necessarily have the ability to load up their car with unwanted items to donate or dispose of them,” said Ervin.

The task was perfect for the more than 50 Bishop Machebeuf students who showed up at Windsor Gardens ready to help collect boxes for Arc.

While one group spent time helping the residents with their cell phones, apps and emails, among other elements of the technology world, the rest of the students spread out throughout the 72-building community, tackling the more than 2,500 condo units to collect donation boxes for Arc.

“It’s a huge task and something that made me a little bit nervous,” said Ervin. “But it worked incredibly smooth and operated well and we got everything covered.”

The residents were able to simply set boxes of items they wanted to donate right outside their door, and the students walked up and down the hallways picking them up.

The students collected more than 1,000 boxes, filling up two semi-trucks, in the span of a few hours.

Although it wasn’t Bishop Machebeuf’s intention, Ervin scheduled the day as a fundraiser, so Arc gave credit of more than $1,000 back to the school — a dollar for each box collected.

The Bishop Machebeuf students collected more than 1,000 boxes from residents at Windsor Gardens to donate to Arc Thrift Store. (Photos provided)

Ervin only heard positive feedback from the residents, “which is amazing when you’re working with so many residents,” she said.

“I think our residents love that youthful energy around,” she added, “just to see the promise of the future.”

The Arc employees were also grateful for the students’ hard work.

“They really appreciated the help of the students with that loading process,” said Ervin. “They were overjoyed and amazed at the success of the event.”

Tami Bonner, General Manager at Windsor Gardens, said teaming up with the young people from Bishop Machebeuf was “a huge success and truly impacted the community in a positive way.

“While we always enjoy impacting the greater community in any way we can, what a blessing it was to have this great community of young people from outside our walls come in and serve our people, while at the same time helping us serve Arc,” said Bonner.

“When different communities come together in this way, everyone is a winner,” she said. “We are excited to see how this partnership can grow in the future.”

COMING UP: Denver’s first Catholic classical high school opens under patronage of Our Lady of Victory

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Nearly half a millennium ago, thousands of Catholics heeded Pope Pius V’s call to pray the Rosary requesting Our Lady’s intercession for the deliverance of Europe from Turkish invasion.

In a miraculous triumph, at what came to be known as the “Battle of Lepanto,” the outnumbered Christian “Holy League” overcame the Turkish forces, winning Our Lady of the Rosary a new advocation: Our Lady of Victory.

Today, Denver’s new and first Catholic classical high school has chosen Our Lady of Victory as its patroness, with the mission of developing the whole person and forming students who are holy, well-educated and prepared to engage the present culture and contribute to society.

Our Lady of Victory High School is part of the Chesterton Schools Network, which encourages parent-led Catholic schools across the nation, inspired by the life and work of G.K. Chesterton, who wrote a poem about the victory at Lepanto.

Although the school is not an archdiocesan high school, it has been officially recognized by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila as a Catholic school. This fall’s inaugural 9th grade class will launch at the St. Louis Parish School building in Denver with nearly 20 students.

“Chesterton’s model of joyful Catholicism draws upon the classical tradition but is very evangelical: It engages the culture with a joyful approach to being Catholic… rather than a reactionary one,” said Dr. R. Jared Staudt, President of the school, Director of Formation at the Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor at the Augustine Institute. “We want to form saints to go out and do great things for the Lord within our culture.”

The classical education approach highlights the trivium (logic, grammar and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy).

“We emphasize Socratic dialogue as well as the trivium: how to read texts carefully and understand them through grammar, how to think about them in a coherent manner through logic, and then how to express yourself well in writing and speech through rhetoric; but also the quadrivium: How do we understand the logical order and beauty of the universe?” Dr. Staudt explained.

The benefits of this type of education are many, he assured.

“It’s not just a practical output, but about forming strong dispositions of thinking, of being able to evaluate things, being able to form a plan of action for your life that will translate into being successful in the future.

“It’s about becoming the person that God wants us to become… We emphasize the fundamental things that shape who we are, so that, secondarily, we are also good at doing things,” Dr. Staudt said.

Part of what makes this goal possible is the communion between faith and reason. Students begin the school day with daily Mass; read Homer, Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dostoevsky, G.K. Chesterton, etc.; and study the Bible and the Catechism. They participate in a curriculum where history, philosophy, literature and theology are “braided together,” as their website states.

Part of what makes it unique is also its approach to the fine arts and to mathematics and science.

“We emphasize the fine arts because we want the students to be engaged with beauty and wonder… We want to humanize them, to make them more fully alive,” Dr. Staudt said.

“I would say we also approach math and science from that perspective. We take math and science very seriously, but not as something dry and textbook based, but something that is engaging the beauty, the logic, the wonder of the universe, and the fact that we can logically understand [it] because it is itself something that is a creative work of a mind, of God’s mind, and his beauty is impressed within it.”

As part of this approach, the school has implemented in its unique formation a lot of time in the outdoors, beginning the year with a three-day backpacking trip with the students and ending with a whitewater rafting trip.
The school also plans on having retreats throughout the year, attending and hosting fine arts events and providing service opportunities for its students.

“I think that’s truly part of what makes us unique, that we want to develop the whole person: body, mind and soul,” Dr. Staudt explained.

“It’s about becoming the person that God wants us to become… We emphasize the fundamental things that shape who we are, so that, secondarily, we are also good at doing things.”

The seed for the foundations of the school began with the desire of a group of Denver Catholic parents for a holistic, classical formation for their children, also motived by the need for a Catholic high school in the South Denver metro area.

Hoping to open a Catholic classical high school for their children in the future, six dads organized a series of monthly talks titled “The First Educators” at St. Mary Parish in Littleton from September to November 2018 as a first step to help in this direction.

Little did they know that their dream would become reality only a few months later, with the help of Dr. Staudt, the Chesterton Schools Network and the support of other parents around the archdiocese.

With six experienced teachers on board, the mission-driven school is set to begin forming students in the classical tradition.

“We want them to be holy. I would say that is our biggest overarching goal, that we want to form saints in the sense that they are thinking people who are well-educated and well prepared to engage the world and make a contribution in society – but [in a way] that holiness integrates everything else that we do,” Dr. Staudt concluded.

For more information, visit ourladyofvictorydenver.com.