Last Catholic school on Eastern Plains to have last year

St. Anthony School pastor announces its closing

St. Anthony School’s pastor announced this week that its doors would close after a nearly 100-year history of educating students in the Catholic academic tradition.

Father Robert Wedow, who consulted with principal Joseph Skerjanec, the Archdiocese of Denver, staff and advisory councils, decided the Sterling school would close in May 2015.

“Everyone wants a Catholic school, but the reality of our situation is our current school ministry is unsustainable,” he said. “It is with an extremely heavy pain in my heart that I make this statement.”

In a letter written to parish and school communities, Archbishop Samuel Aquila stated while the closure was a difficult decision, it is “the right course.”

Father Wedow broke the news to school staff Sept. 16 and in the following days informed parents and students.

The archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools’ superintendent Richard Thompson said teachers, parents, students and the community reacted to the news with grief but an air of acceptance.

He made frequent visits to the kindergarten through eighth-grade school throughout last week and held several meetings. Counselors and a human resources representative were also on site. Thompson said it is normal to grieve a loss and he encouraged the community to pay tribute to the school and its history.

“This is a moment in time that you’ll not get back,” Thompson said to the school community. “When you work through the grief, make sure you honor the nearly 100 years of this school and the shoulders upon which all of you are standing, and the people who have been there and the contributions it’s made.”

Like many schools, St. Anthony had its heyday and became the fabric of life in the rural town. More than 400 students were enrolled at one time, Father Wedow said.

Enrollment reached 133 students in 1999 and 175 students in 2007. Since then the number of enrolled students has declined. This year there are 68 students.

“Considering the demographics of that area, the pool of potential students is smaller, which makes sustainability more difficult over the long run,” Thompson said.

In recent years, the community rose to stand behind the Eastern Plains school as it began to falter from declining enrollment and burgeoning deficits. About $1.1 million in checks rolled in after the school sounded the alarm in January 2013. Seeds of Hope Charitable Trust, The Catholic Foundation and the archdiocese also invested more than $1.8 million over the last decade.

“For all those who generously contributed to our campaign two years ago, you need to know you changed the lives of our children, you helped them grow in holiness, you helped them to learn the Catholic faith and you helped them to become who God created them to be,” Father Wedow said. “I am extremely grateful.”

Yet the despite the heroic efforts of so many, the school can’t remain open, he said.

Father Wedow also said faith must be put in God.

“As in all things, I put my trust in the Lord that he will inspire us and raise us up to do his divine will,” he said, “for Jesus Christ is the greatest teacher.”

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.