First eighth grade class graduates from Escuela de Guadalupe

Moira Cullings

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: St. Scholastica parish in Erie has served community for well over 100 years

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For more than a century, St. Scholastica Catholic Church has served the faithful in the northern community of Erie, Colo. Over time there have been many changes to the structure of the parish, but it still stands on the same foundation that Benedictine pastor Father Cornelius Enders set in place in 1899.

Vibrant, spiritually alive, and welcoming is how St. Scholastica can be described. For years, the church formed part of a circuit assigned to one priest of different parishes and missions, but four years ago, Father Robert Wedow was assigned to St. Scholastica as its first full-time pastor in history.

Since day one, Father Wedow knew there was a lot of work to do for the growing community: “To do what Jesus told us. To go to the ends of earth and baptize all the nation,” said Father Wedow to the Denver Catholic about his mission.

In order to accomplish that mission, he and the pastoral council came up with a parish plan that consists of three goals for the church.

“One of the goals is what we call our spiritual needs, to understand and begin to use our resources to meet the spiritual needs of the people of Erie. The second one is the evangelization of ourselves and others. And the third one is the development of our parish so that we will put ourselves to be able to have a brand-new parish,” he said.

The altar at St. Scholastica was recently renovated and blessed by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. The Erie parish has served the community for over 120 years. (Photos by Brandon Young)

When he first became the pastor of St. Scholastica, Father Wedow noticed things in the church that required maintenance and renovations in order to keep serving the community in Erie. Among those renovations were the floors, the carpet and the altar of the church that was starting to break apart. On Oct. 13, after months of hard work and dedication, parishioners and friends attended a special ceremony in which Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila dedicated the new altar at St. Scholastica, one of the biggest renovations.

For a parish of approximately 200 families, St. Scholastica offers a wide range of ministries to meet the needs of the whole family. From youth groups, bible study and the Knights of Columbus, the community stays involved and keeps growing bigger and stronger.

To serve the community and continue evangelizing, the church holds a variety of fun events throughout the year where parishioners have the opportunity to help others while having a good time. Among these events is St. Scholastica’s Annual “Cookies and Caroling,” where the community gathers to make delicious cookies, then goes door to door and hands them out to the neighbors while caroling and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

“I personally think what’s unique about my parish is the powerful love of the volunteers and the way in which they show their love for God and for their neighbor,” Father Wedow said.

Although there is still much work to be done in the 120-year-old parish, Father Robert continues to work hard and does everything in his hands to meet the needs of his growing community.

“It’s a great privilege for me to be able to serve the people of Erie and to be a part of this growing community. May the joy of seeing the face of God overwhelm us all, as we celebrate the true gift of Christmas at Christmas night mass,” concluded Father Wedow.