Growth, innovation top priorities for superintendent

An educator who started his career teaching at Bishop Machebeuf High School 10 years ago is making his way back to Denver to serve as superintendent of the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools.

Kevin Kijewski, 33, a Michigan native who taught economics, politics and history at Bishop Machebeuf from 2005-2007 will officially begin as superintendent July 1. Kijewski (pronounced Kiev-ski) will replace Richard Thompson who retired at the end of February after 14 years in the position.

“I see a lot of opportunity here,” Kijewski told the Denver Catholic while visiting the Mile High City Feb. 26 in advance of moving here in June with his wife Ashley. “The Archdiocese of Denver is known for its Catholicity. Archbishop (Charles) Chaput left it in great condition and Archbishop (Samuel) Aquila has carried that on.”

Kijewski is currently serving under Archbishop Chaput, archbishop of Denver 1997-2011, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as associate superintendent of secondary schools. Philadelphia has 17 high schools, educating some 14,000 secondary students. In the Archdiocese of Denver, he will head up 35 elementary schools and two high schools, representing a student body of nearly 11,000.

“Kevin brings a fresh perspective and great enthusiasm to our Catholic schools’ team,” said Father Randy Dollins, vicar general and moderator of the curia. “Our school system is facing some difficult challenges. We were looking for someone who could help us change the game.”

Kijewski said his number one priority will be growing the Catholic school system in the archdiocese.

“Catholic schools are the premier teaching center for the Church,” he said, and “innovation, growth and leadership” will be the three levers of his tenure.

Also among his priorities are specifically increasing the Hispanic enrollment in schools, continued responsible fiscal management, meeting the schools’ funding needs, and strategic investments and philanthropy.

“We can do things in a brand new way,” he said. “There is ‘no box’ anymore. We have to expect a culture of growth.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila agreed, saying, “His vision for Catholic schools is right in line with my vision.”

Catholic education exists to educate children in the faith, Kijewski explained, and to develop the whole person.

“The predominant reason (Catholic schools exist) is to get kids to heaven,” he said, “We’re not just a collection of buildings with crucifixes on the walls.”

They are “sacred places” that aim to develop adults that raise families, and succeed in rewarding careers.

He said his philosophy could be summed up as “heaven first, Harvard second and hoops a distance third.”

Kijewski originally landed at Bishop Machebeuf in 2005 while participating in the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program.

“I was the first ACE teacher here,” he explained. “Now there are 49 ACE alums in Denver schools, the third biggest group of ACE alums.”

Through ACE, teachers and administrators serve in a select Catholic school for two years, and during that time complete a curriculum that results in a master’s in education from Notre Dame. While at Bishop Machebeuf, he prepared an application that obtained the school a place on the Catholic High School Honor Roll, as well as named it among Denver’s Top 15 High Schools as ranked by 5280 magazine.

Kijewski holds a doctor of jurisprudence degree from Michigan State University and worked as an attorney in the Detroit metro area for three years before taking the position in Philadelphia in 2013. He previously served as the dean of business administration and professor of economics at Baker College in Allen Park, Mich., and taught economics, politics and legal courses at Northwood University and Lansing Community College. He also holds a bachelor of art degree in American history from the University of Detroit and a master’s in economics from Walsh College in Troy, Mich.

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