For the past several months, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has encouraged the faithful in Colorado to adopt an apostolic mindset and live as true disciples of God. Although it is not an easy task, in a world that seems to have lost hope, it is essential to adapt this new mentality not only for ourselves, but also for our children.
Some Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Denver are working hard to teach and encourage students to adopt an apostolic mindset and build a deep relationship with Jesus Christ.
In 2013, the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles assumed the administration of Saints Peter & Paul Catholic STEM School. Today, the school not only has adapted a new teaching technique as one of the few catholic STEM schools in Colorado, integrating faith with science, technology, engineering, and math, but they’re also getting creative with ways to form missionary disciples of Christ.
Sister Faustina, the school’s principal, has been working with her faculty to accomplish their mission by ensuring that students take their relationship with Jesus Christ seriously and strive to put their faith into action. In addition to sacramental preparation and regular Mass attendance twice a week, the school offers different programs and activities in which even preschoolers get involved to discover the love of God.
“We want our students to really encounter our Lord in the Eucharist, develop a friendship with him, and then reverence that gift of life and creation that God has given us. We have a very integrated faith life at our school,” Sister Faustina said.
Sts. Peter and Paul STEM Catholic School organizes a Kerygma retreat during Advent, in which students are invited to respond to their faith. Students also have the opportunity to participate in a Holy Thursday retreat that prepares them for the Lord’s passion and resurrection. In addition to these retreats, every year the school chooses a scripture passage as a theme to take students and teachers deeper into the Bible and share their faith testimony.
The school also assures that the little ones start building a relationship with God at an early age through different activities and having prayer places on the playground.
“We help our little ones memorize lyrics that are faith centered and teach them to pray that God is hearing them, and they lift up their intentions even when they are very little to God. But a real important key is the witness of our teachers and their faith. If teachers are praying with devotion and joy, then children fall in love with that.” she said.
Sister Faustina shared how the love of God works wonders on the little ones just by introducing them to Jesus. “Children asked for us to include places to pray on the playground, which was very beautiful and surprising. During recess time, or when they’re worried about something, they go there naturally and pray together,” she said. “Outside the preschool classroom, we have a little tiny statue of Jesus holding on to the Sacred Heart, so the little ones get to come up in the morning and give Jesus a kiss because he’s about their same size,” Sister Faustina added.
While the Carmelite Sisters at Sts. Peter and Paul work as God’s instrument to teach these kids His love, one of their greatest challenges is making sure that parents are working on their children’s faith at home. “The children’s faith and the parents’ faith don’t always pair,” Sister Faustina emphasized.
Hence, the school implemented a new parents’ program called “Families of Faith” this year as part of their strategic outreach to parents. This program consists of faith groups led by seven couples who were formed with an apostolic mindset and have become models of faith at the campus. For five weeks in a row, families met with one of these couples in a home to build community and pray together as a family. “They found great support in their faith. We were able to share things that they knew, but also ask questions in a place that wasn’t threatening,” said Sister Faustina.
“You can just walk through the hallways and sense the gifts of the Holy Spirit in terms of the peace and the joy that pervade our school community. It’s very attractive because our Lord is attractive and our children are flourishing, and we have the faculty and staff that are fully on board with helping our children and our families grow as disciples.” Sister Faustina concluded.
Equipping Children to be Modern-Day Disciples
As part of her mission as a disciple of Christ, Sister Faustina participated in a Spiritual Mothers retreat in which she discussed the five characteristics of an apostolic mindset and how to apply them to children in order to help them develop a relationship with God in today’s world.
How to form children with an Apostolic Mindset:
Unique calling from the Father. Help children understand that God has a plan for their lives that will lead to their greatest fulfillment now and in eternity. God wants to share His plan for them through prayer and life experiences. Speak of your experience of God’s loving providence and help them pray about God’s call in their lives and the desires He has put on their hearts to serve Him in others.
Costly imitation of Christ. Help children understand Jesus was sent by the Father to set us free from sin and death. As adults, we need to witness to the joy of following Christ through service, sacrifice, and virtue. Providing these same opportunities for children can help them grow in spiritual strength and freedom.
Utter reliance on the Holy Spirit. We need to help children experience that God is always with them in the person of the Holy Spirit! Share with them how you have recognized the Holy Spirit’s voice in your life and teach them how to listen to His voice in their daily lives.
Conviction of the primacy of the Gospel. Adults should focus on the Gospel essentials when forming children: Created, Captured, Rescued, and Response. However, children need to understand the big picture of salvation first. Help them form a strong Catholic worldview through Biblical stories, liturgy, and other programs.
Joyful countercultural witness. Testimony is key to develop this characteristic. Share your experiences of God and help children learn to do the same.
For more information about Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Stem School visit: www.sppscatholic.com
Note: There are multiple positions open in archdiocesan Catholic schools for mission-driven individuals interested in helping to form young people to become disciples of Jesus Christ. For more information, visit the archdiocesan job board and/or contact the Office of Catholic Schools at 303-715-3200.