Growth, innovation top priorities for superintendent

Julie Filby

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: Archbishop: In this time of need, join me for a Rosary Crusade

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

When God chose to enter the world to save us, he chose Mary, whose deep faith provided the way for Jesus to come among us. She believed in the words of the angel, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk 1: 37). As she expressed her deep confidence in the promises of God, the Word became flesh. In our current time of crisis, our Church, world and our country need faith in God and the protection and intercession of Mary. And so, beginning on August 15, I am launching a Rosary Crusade to ask Mary to urgently bring our needs to Jesus.

The last several months of the coronavirus epidemic, the civil unrest that has broken out in different parts of the archdiocese and our nation, and the challenges the Church is facing have made the need for Mary’s intercession abundantly clear. Mary is our Mother and desires only our good like the Father.

In her appearance to Juan Diego, Our Lady reminded him and reminds us today, “Listen and let it penetrate your heart…do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain.  Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

Saint Padre Pio, who was known for his devotion to the Rosary offers us this advice: “In times of darkness, holding the Rosary is like holding our Blessed Mother’s hand.”

We turn to Mary in our difficulty because she is our spiritual mother, who with her “yes” to the Lord embraced the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. She is “the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that ‘nothing will be impossible with God,’ and was able to magnify the Lord: ‘For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #273).

We know, too, from history that Mary has answered prayers brought to her through the Rosary and that she has personally asked people to pray it for the most serious needs, especially for the conversion of souls.

Pope Pius V famously asked all Christians to pray the Rosary in 1571 to prevent Christianity from being overrun by the invading Ottoman Turks, and the Christian naval forces were subsequently victorious in the Battle of Lepanto. In the apparitions at Fatima, Mary identified herself as “The Lady of the Rosary” and asked the shepherd children to whom she appeared to pray a daily Rosary for world peace and the end of World War I.

During his pontificate, Saint John Paul II spoke of the Rosary as his favorite prayer. In his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, he added, “The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort” (RVM, 2).

This past May, Pope Francis encouraged praying the Rosary, saying, “Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial.”

During this time of trial, we need to hear the words of Jesus spoken often in the Gospel, words spoken to Mary by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, “Be not afraid.” We need to pray especially for a deeper trust and hear the words of Elizabeth spoken to Mary in our own hearts. “…blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). The Lord is with us in this time as he has promised! Praying the rosary helps us, with the aid of our Mother, to relive in our own lives the mysteries of Christ’s life.

I personally invite all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Denver to pray the Rosary every day between the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, August 15, through the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15. I would be remiss if I did not thank Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita for inspiring this Rosary Crusade by launching one in his diocese at the beginning of August.

As we unite in asking Mary for her intercession and protection, please pray for the following intentions:

* For a growth in faith, hope and charity in the heart and soul of every human being, and most especially in our own that we may seek only the will of the Father

* For a recognition of the dignity of life from the moment of conception until natural death and that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God

* A quick end to the coronavirus pandemic

* For all who are suffering from COVID-19, for their caregivers, and for those who have died from the virus

* In reparation for the sins of abortion, euthanasia, and racism

* In reparation for the sins and failings of our spiritual leaders and for our personal sins

* For healing and justice for all those who have been discriminated against because of their race

* For the conversion of the world and the salvation of souls

* For all those who are persecuted throughout the world for the Faith

* For the conversion of those who carry out acts of desecration against our churches, statues and religious symbols

* In reparation for these acts of desecration, especially against Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

* For our civic leaders and those who keep us safe to experience a deeper conversion, to govern justly, and to seek the common good

* That we may learn how to love and forgive from the example of Jesus

* For all marriages and families, neighborhoods, churches and cities to be strengthened

* For an increase in vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life

Thank you for joining me in this prayer on behalf of our world, country and our Church. I am confident that many of the faithful will respond in turning to the Blessed Mother who “shine[s] on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope” (Pope Francis’ Letter to the Faithful for the Month of May 2020). May you always know the protection of Mary as she leads you to her Son!