For administrators at St. Anthony Catholic School in Sterling, Colo., the situation was bleak. Facing financial peril, the elementary school considered shutting its doors earlier this year. Then, administrators decided to try something new — which, in fact, was really something quite old.
Like many Catholic schools across the country, St. Anthony’s is going back to its roots by embracing the Church’s patrimony of liberal education. “We’ve always distinguished ourselves by our faith, but also academically. We thought this was the best thing,” says Principal Joseph Skerjanec in a Catholic News Agency article. “The purpose of education ultimately is to get to heaven, and we feel this is the best route for us to do that.”
St. Anthony’s is gradually transitioning to a classical curriculum, one that utilizes the great books and which is aimed at teaching students how to think critically by way of the liberal arts. Perhaps not coincidentally, the pedagogical shift has accompanied a tremendous fundraising campaign — which set out to garner $600,000, but yielded $1.1 million — and the renewal of St. Anthony Catholic School.
Assisting St. Anthony’s in its tradition is an alumnus and tutor of Thomas Aquinas College, Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87), who also serves as the executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. Dr. Seeley has prepared the school’s staff to teach from a classical curriculum.
Dr. Seeley is just one of many Thomas Aquinas College alumni who are playing an active role in the resurgence of classical education at Catholic elementary and high schools. To name just a few:
- Laura Berquist (’75) founded the international online distance-learning program Mother of Divine Grace School.
- Marguerite (Ford ’79) Grimm is the headmaster of Saint Monica Academy in Pasadena, Calif.
- Michael Van Hecke (’86) is the headmaster at St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, Calif.
- Luke Macik (’87) and Mark Langley (’89) are the headmaster and academic dean, respectively, of The Lyceum in Euclid, Ohio.
- Luke Culley (’94) and Sean Fitzpatrick (’02) have founded Gregory the Great Academy in Falls Church, Va.
- Rev. Mark Moriarty (’95) is the superintendent of St. Agnes School in St. Paul, Minn., and the pastor of the parish.
Many more alumni are also teaching at such schools. Eight members of last year’s Class of 2013, for example, accepted positions at schools with classical curricula. Six of those were at the Great Hearts Academies in Arizona, where some 17 alumni teach, and one graduate serves as an assistant headmaster. A restoration in classical liberal education is under way, and Thomas Aquinas College alumni are at its forefront.