Principal gives schools office A+

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.”

Office of Catholic Schools
Phone: 303-715-3200



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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.

To make a donation
Mail: 1300 S. Steele St., Denver, CO 80210
Phone: 303-715-3111

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, call 303-715-3200 or email

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.




COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.

Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.