First eighth grade class graduates from Escuela de Guadalupe

Before she passed away in 2012, Sister Susan Swain, one of the founders of Escuela de Guadalupe, gave a video interview where she explained her dreams for the school.

One of her goals was “that there will be a 20th celebration and a 25th celebration and then we’ll go on from there.”

She also stated her hopes that the school would eventually go all the way through eighth grade.

Sister Swain’s goals were not in vain — Escuela’s first eighth-grade class graduated June 7 and the school will celebrate its 20th anniversary this August.

Michelle Galuszka, Development Director at Escuela, said that both Sister Swain and Father Tom Prag, a Jesuit priest who was the school’s primary founder, were “looking down with big smiles on their faces and were there with us on Friday night when we had our eighth-grade graduation.”

Galuszka, who will become Escuela’s president on July 1, just finished her fourth year at the school and has seen first-hand the tremendous growth it has experienced.

When it first opened in north Denver, Escuela was a K-2 school and continually added grades 3-5.

“We opened with the intent that the neighborhood really needed a school that reflected the community around it,” said Galuszka.

The founders decided Escuela would be a dual language Catholic school  (the only one in Denver) because the neighborhood was predominantly Hispanic.

They always hoped to offer a K-8 grade program, so four years ago Escuela moved to the former Presentation School campus to embark on an expansion. Now, it offers grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

“When we left our old school and our K-5 model, we had 124 students,” said Galuszka. “We finished this school year with 214 students. It’s incredible.”

Philip Evans, a middle school math and religion teacher at Escuela, first got involved with the school through his master’s program but is choosing to stay at the school next year.

“Some of the big things that are drawing me here are the community and how invested all of the families are, as well as the bilingual model,” he said.

“It’s something where speaking Spanish is celebrated and there’s a lot of confidence in the students in that. We’re valuing both languages, and the students realize that.”

Evans noticed that this year’s eighth grade class is “mature, independent and had a desire to make a difference.”

They also take their faith seriously — 20 of the 21 graduates are going on to attend Catholic high schools this fall.

When the school staff found out each student that applied to a Catholic high school was accepted, it “was just a huge excitement wave that went through our building,” said Galuszka.

“We were just thrilled that they wanted that for themselves and fought academically to get into the places that they wanted to.”

As Escuela enters its 20th school year this August, Galuszka and her fellow staff members look forward for even more growth to come.

“I’m really excited for what’s to come in the future of this school,” said Galuszka. “We really hope to be a model for future schools in how we have adopted the dual language, faith-based program for our students.”

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash