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Three Catholic schools welcome new principals

Three Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Denver recently welcomed new principals as they kicked off the school year last month. Additionally, two principals who have been working Catholic schools moved to new schools; Dana Ellis, former principal of St. Louis Catholic School is now principal at Assumption, while Marie Dunn, formerly at Assumption, is now principal of Sacred Heart in Boulder. 

Below are brief profiles of the three new principals. Be sure to keep them and all of our Catholic schools in your prayers! For more information of Denver’s Catholic schools, visit denvercatholicschools.com.

Father James de Cendra, DCJM – St. Mary, Littleton 

Father de Cendra, a member of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, is the new principal of St. Mary Catholic School in Littleton, Colo. Father James served at St. Mary as school chaplain from 2015-18. In 2019, he was transferred to Virginia where he served as School Chaplain in Queen of Apostles Catholic School. In 2020, he came back to Colorado to incorporate to St. Mary again as the school Chaplain and parochial vicar.   

Father James grew up in Madrid, where he got a degree in Law. Right after, he entered the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and was ordained priest in 2008. He spent three years teaching in a Catholic School different grades and subjects and got his Master degree in School Leadership in 2009. He was sent to Rome in 2011 to study a for Master’s degree in philosophy of education at the Gregorian University. In 2013, he was assigned to a Disciples’ School as teacher and Chaplain. In 2015, he was sent to Colorado to become part of St. Mary School staff. 

Father James is really excited to begin his new role as principal at St. Mary, a community that he has loved and served for four years. “St. Mary has become my family and my home. The way I understand this mission is literally as a way of parenthood where I try to help my faculty and students to flourish in wisdom and holiness. What describes St. Mary better is being a family where professionalism and love for the kids and the Lord is present everywhere. I am really grateful for the team that God has given me to fulfill His mission”. 

Sister Regina Marie Connor, RSM – St. Clare of Assisi  

Sister Regina Marie, a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, is the new principal of St. Clare of Assisi Catholic School in Edwards, Colo. Sister Regina Marie has served at St. Clare of Assisi for the past three years, teaching both K-8 music and middle school theology. A Colorado native from Centennial, Sister grew up at St. Thomas More parish.  

Prior to coming to St. Clare, Sister was in Rome where she had the opportunity to study at some of the pontifical universities. She was delightfully surprised to receive the mission to return to Colorado three years ago. Sister is currently working towards a masters in Catholic School Leadership through Marymount University in Virginia.  

Sister Regina Marie says she is excited to begin her new role as principal at St. Clare of Assisi, a school community she has already come to know and love. “We have an amazing staff of dedicated teachers, and a wonderful community of students and families. Walking in to St. Clare of Assisi you can tell right away it is joyful place, where our students and staff love the Lord and love learning. We are very blessed.”  

Brian Donelson – St. Mary, Greeley 

Things have come full circle for Brian Donelson, the new principal at St. Mary Catholic School in Greeley. Many years ago, he and his wife were living in Greeley and were members of the parish. The school was just being built (2000-2001) at the time they moved away.   

In the years since leaving Greeley, Brian has taught elementary school, high school theology, was a Campus Minister at the University of Kansas, worked in parish ministry in Denver, and is now finishing his doctorate in education. How wonderful for the Donelsons to be able to move back to Greeley and St. Mary’s after decades away.  

“I feel that God has been uniquely preparing me these past 20 years to know what a Catholic school is intended to be: a place where students grow in wonder, love of learning, and joy in friendship with Christ and with each other.  I am very grateful and honored to be at St. Mary Catholic School and greatly appreciate your prayers.”   

Carol Nesbitt
Carol Nesbitt is the Director of Communications for the Office of Catholic Schools.
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