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Fostering Catholic identity in Catholic schools

Living the Catholic Faith should be evident in all aspects of life, and especially so in the classroom, according to the organizer of the inaugural Catholic High School Formation Summit that took place at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial on Dec. 3 and 4.

There were 55 people in attendance representing 23 schools from around the nation, and the summit featured speakers from all avenues of Catholic education.

The event was conceived and organized by Father Paul Kostka, chaplain at Bishop Macehbeuf High School, and its purpose was to create a national network of collaboration between Catholic high schools around the nation in order to form students as authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.

“The spiritual formation of students was the key focus of the conference,” Father Kostka said.

More than that, however, it was meant to be a forum for Catholic educators to come together and help each other become more effective at fostering a strong sense of Catholic identities in their respective schools.

The Catholic school symposium that took place on last October was part of the inspiration for the summit, Father Kostka said. The summit was a natural outflow from the theme of discipleship that was prevalent at the symposium, he said.

Father Kostka has done much ministry around the county, and in doing so, he’s encountered many school faculty and professionals who are doing great things to encourage discipleship at their schools. He’s built a network of Catholic educators from these encounters, and among these were the attendees of the summit.

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There were talks on mission, athletics, house communities and other access points that are opportunities to bring kids to Christ, he said.

Thomas Wurtz, founder of the Varsity Catholic branch of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, was one of the speakers in attendance. He gave a talk on school athletic programs and the role they play in making intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.

“A young person involved in sports has the chance to be formed,” Wurtz said. “I hope we can rally around the need to use sports as a tool in the formation of our young people.”

A portion of the conference was also dedicated to Catholic high school teachers, specifically theology teachers, and different ways they could bring kids to Christ in the classroom through the use of primary sources such as scripture.

From this teaching, though, must also come action, and this was another primary goal of the conference.

“We can give talks on mission, but if we don’t have the students go and do mission work, all we’re doing is talking,” Father Kostka said. “There is a teaching part of it, but the teaching then has to manifest itself in concrete actions.”

The culture of collaboration discussed at the summit wasn’t meant only to apply nationally, but also locally. Father Kostka said the independent nature and distance between the two Catholic high schools in the Archdioces¬e of Denver, Bishop Macehbeuf and Holy Family in Broomfield, can make them feel like islands. He hopes to build and foster a more collaborative relationship between the two schools.

“[A lot of people] walked away from the summit encouraged to more intentionally live the faith in their schools, [and to] try some of the ideas people proposed and integrate them into their schools,” Father Kostka said.

The next Catholic High School Formation Summit will be held Oct. 19-21, 2016, at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Atlanta, Ga. For more information, visit http://hsformation.org.

Aaron Lambert
Aaron Lambert
Aaron is the Managing Editor for the Denver Catholic.

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