Longtime organist was a business exec with zest for life

Generosity of time, talent, treasure were hallmarks of accompanist Sage Ann Scheer

Roxanne King

Sage Ann Scheer, a trained classical pianist who shared her talents as organist at Denver’s Risen Christ Church for more than 40 years, died April 26. She was 71.

While most of her fellow parishioners knew Scheer as a dedicated organist, many were unaware that she had a doctorate in marketing and systems design. Throughout her career, Scheer held leadership positions ranging from senior partner to president for educational firms. Companies she served included EDmin, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, The Learning Systems Group and The University of Phoenix.

“Sage was a real lady” and “a high-powered executive,” Diane D’Aquila said about her older sister.

“She always took the high road, didn’t sing her own praises much and never said a bad word about anybody. She was incredibly generous — a big philanthropist, especially to the Anchor Center for Blind Children.… She loved to travel, loved to shop and was a spiffy dresser.”

The longtime Denver resident was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on April 12, 1948. Her family moved to Minneapolis, Minn., when she was in high school. She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. from The Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif. She was married to Roger Scheer for 38 years until he died in 2012.

“She was really well loved,” D’Aquila said. “She and Roger didn’t have any children, but she was like Auntie Mame to nieces and nephews.”

“No one in Sage’s sphere of influence ever lacked for anything, not did anyone feel less than perfectly adored,” Scheer’s niece Alex Johnson wrote in an obituary. “Her door always was open, as was her wine cellar. She like to write long, effusive letters to her loved ones, and when her handwriting started to fail, she would type them out. She loved her dogs, her garden, and her Denver Broncos.” 

Scheer loved to laugh and have fun, D’Aquila said, but she was also a devout Catholic and a daily communicant.

“[Former pastor] Msgr. [J. Anthony] McDaid said that when he first took over Risen Christ Parish, they had to do some job shuffling for economic reasons so Sage started to be paid only for Sunday Masses, but she continued to play for daily Mass. He was so grateful.

“That was Sage. She went to daily Mass and music is a form of prayer, so why wouldn’t she play? In her mind, it was the right thing to do.”

Scheer was openhanded with her time, talent and treasure, family and friends said.

“She was so generous with her time and talent, despite working and traveling,” said Jeanne Iske, Risen Christ’s director of music and liturgy coordinator. “When she was working she would often be traveling out of town Monday through Friday, and no matter what time she got back in Friday night she would be at Risen Christ at the organ in time for Saturday morning Mass.

Plus, she would play at weekend Masses.

“She was just a wonderful person. Very committed to Risen Christ and being part of this parish. She was an organist here, but she was also a parishioner: if we needed cakes for the fall festival, she made cakes. If we needed soup for soup night, she made soup. You could count on Sage to do anything and everything — she would do it all.”

Former Risen Christ music director Bill Kittle agreed.

“She was a bright, enthusiastic, totally giving person with the biggest heart—the most loving person you’d want to meet. She was a classy person. She was ever so enthusiastic about life and about making music. I’ve never met another person quite like her, so giving of all of her talents.”

Risen Christ pastor Father Scott Bailey described Scheer as “a prayerful person.”

“In those last months as I’d visit her, she would turn the conversation to prayer and how good God is, even in her suffering,” he said.

As her sister battled cancer the last few months of her life, Father Bailey, Msgr. McDaid, parochial vicar Father Eric Zegeer, and the parish community showered Scheer with Communion visits and attention, D’Aquila said.

“The care they showed my sister is something I will never forget and will be eternally grateful for,” she said. “The cancer took its toll, but her spirit and her soul were extraordinarily healthy because of the love and prayers given her by the community. If there’s such a thing as God walks among us, I’ve experienced that [through them].”

COMING UP: Denver’s first Catholic classical high school opens under patronage of Our Lady of Victory

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Nearly half a millennium ago, thousands of Catholics heeded Pope Pius V’s call to pray the Rosary requesting Our Lady’s intercession for the deliverance of Europe from Turkish invasion.

In a miraculous triumph, at what came to be known as the “Battle of Lepanto,” the outnumbered Christian “Holy League” overcame the Turkish forces, winning Our Lady of the Rosary a new advocation: Our Lady of Victory.

Today, Denver’s new and first Catholic classical high school has chosen Our Lady of Victory as its patroness, with the mission of developing the whole person and forming students who are holy, well-educated and prepared to engage the present culture and contribute to society.

Our Lady of Victory High School is part of the Chesterton Schools Network, which encourages parent-led Catholic schools across the nation, inspired by the life and work of G.K. Chesterton, who wrote a poem about the victory at Lepanto.

Although the school is not an archdiocesan high school, it has been officially recognized by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila as a Catholic school. This fall’s inaugural 9th grade class will launch at the St. Louis Parish School building in Denver with nearly 20 students.

“Chesterton’s model of joyful Catholicism draws upon the classical tradition but is very evangelical: It engages the culture with a joyful approach to being Catholic… rather than a reactionary one,” said Dr. R. Jared Staudt, President of the school, Director of Formation at the Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor at the Augustine Institute. “We want to form saints to go out and do great things for the Lord within our culture.”

The classical education approach highlights the trivium (logic, grammar and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy).

“We emphasize Socratic dialogue as well as the trivium: how to read texts carefully and understand them through grammar, how to think about them in a coherent manner through logic, and then how to express yourself well in writing and speech through rhetoric; but also the quadrivium: How do we understand the logical order and beauty of the universe?” Dr. Staudt explained.

The benefits of this type of education are many, he assured.

“It’s not just a practical output, but about forming strong dispositions of thinking, of being able to evaluate things, being able to form a plan of action for your life that will translate into being successful in the future.

“It’s about becoming the person that God wants us to become… We emphasize the fundamental things that shape who we are, so that, secondarily, we are also good at doing things,” Dr. Staudt said.

Part of what makes this goal possible is the communion between faith and reason. Students begin the school day with daily Mass; read Homer, Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dostoevsky, G.K. Chesterton, etc.; and study the Bible and the Catechism. They participate in a curriculum where history, philosophy, literature and theology are “braided together,” as their website states.

Part of what makes it unique is also its approach to the fine arts and to mathematics and science.

“We emphasize the fine arts because we want the students to be engaged with beauty and wonder… We want to humanize them, to make them more fully alive,” Dr. Staudt said.

“I would say we also approach math and science from that perspective. We take math and science very seriously, but not as something dry and textbook based, but something that is engaging the beauty, the logic, the wonder of the universe, and the fact that we can logically understand [it] because it is itself something that is a creative work of a mind, of God’s mind, and his beauty is impressed within it.”

As part of this approach, the school has implemented in its unique formation a lot of time in the outdoors, beginning the year with a three-day backpacking trip with the students and ending with a whitewater rafting trip.
The school also plans on having retreats throughout the year, attending and hosting fine arts events and providing service opportunities for its students.

“I think that’s truly part of what makes us unique, that we want to develop the whole person: body, mind and soul,” Dr. Staudt explained.

“It’s about becoming the person that God wants us to become… We emphasize the fundamental things that shape who we are, so that, secondarily, we are also good at doing things.”

The seed for the foundations of the school began with the desire of a group of Denver Catholic parents for a holistic, classical formation for their children, also motived by the need for a Catholic high school in the South Denver metro area.

Hoping to open a Catholic classical high school for their children in the future, six dads organized a series of monthly talks titled “The First Educators” at St. Mary Parish in Littleton from September to November 2018 as a first step to help in this direction.

Little did they know that their dream would become reality only a few months later, with the help of Dr. Staudt, the Chesterton Schools Network and the support of other parents around the archdiocese.

With six experienced teachers on board, the mission-driven school is set to begin forming students in the classical tradition.

“We want them to be holy. I would say that is our biggest overarching goal, that we want to form saints in the sense that they are thinking people who are well-educated and well prepared to engage the world and make a contribution in society – but [in a way] that holiness integrates everything else that we do,” Dr. Staudt concluded.

For more information, visit ourladyofvictorydenver.com.