School to teach the 3R’s via virtues of truth,goodness and beauty

Eastern Plains St. Anthony to adopt classical education

Saving St. Anthony School from closure through a last-ditch appeal was the first hurdle. Now the Eastern-plains grade school is looking for ways to stay afloat in the long run.

After St. Anthony escaped certain death last year through a successful emergency fundraiser dubbed “St. Anthony’s miracle,” principal Joe Skerjanec shared long-term plans to adopt a classical education model to bolster the school in the years ahead.

Like other archdiocesan schools’ models founded on Catholic tradition, their mission is to educate the whole child.

“The ultimate goal is to get kids to heaven,” Skerjanec said. “Our hope is we not only make ourselves viable as a Catholic school but make it a place where kids want to send their kids.”

The school decided to emphasize classical education after successfully raising $1.06 million in pledges a year ago over its $600,000 goal. The funds, which are not being used to employ the new education model, will be used to operate the school through the next school year.

Emphasizing the school’s classical education model is how it hopes to set itself apart and raise its current enrollment from 86 students to 100 next year in preschool through eighth grade. To be viable, the school needs about 130 students enrolled, Skerjanec said.

“We decided we need to distinguish ourselves from the local school district,” he said. “All the public schools in Sterling are trying to meet the requirements of the state government. We need to focus on educating the whole child. Through this approach we’ll be incorporating the tools, resources and books that teach the virtues of our faith.”

This year the faculty began phase one of a three-year phased approached to institute what is considered the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Rather than teaching students “subjects” measured by tests, teachers will give students the tools of learning based on grammar, logic and rhetoric.

“Our curriculum doesn’t change, it’s just the tools and methods of how we are implementing that curriculum that changes,” he said.

Each class will also point toward God and teach the virtues. Math, for example, will be taught to show how God created the universe with order, Skerjanec said, and is not finite.

“We want to teach them the Catholic faith, but we aren’t doing that just in a religion class—we want to do that in every class,” he said. “We want kids to learn truth, goodness and beauty so they can live a good life.”

Our Lady of Lourdes School made a similar move to adopt classical education in 2012 after enrollment was dwindling.

Principal Rosemary Anderson visited St. Anthony faculty in August to share her implementation of the model and the results.

“This kind of education really does teach kids how to think,” she told the Denver Catholic Register in 2012. “It’s like going to the gym for your brain.”

The faculty is also receiving training from Andrew Seeley, director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, and the Circe Institute, a consulting organization for classical educators. They’ve read books about classical education including “Beauty in the Word” by Stratford Caldecott.

The response has been positive with some teachers learning about the model more quickly than others, he said.

St. Anthony is the only Catholic school on the Eastern Plains. Some students come from considerable distances—some from Holyoke and Haxtun—to make it to the school, which has a reputation for high test scores and Catholic values.

The future is still unknown but the principal remains optimistic.

“It’s all in God’s hands,” he said.

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