Archdiocese recognizes two new Catholic schools

| February 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
Seton Montessori

Elizabeth Trojack, right, head of school and lead guide at Elizabeth Ann Seton Montessori School in West St. Paul, works with kindergartners David Nelson, left, and Genevieve Onyeji in the atrium of the school, where students explore Catholic themes like the Mass and lives of the saints. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis officially has gained two new Catholic schools: Chesterton Academy in Edina and Elizabeth Ann Seton Montessori in West St. Paul.

After working for years to gain this status, the schools were granted the designation Jan. 29 by Archbishop Bernard Hebda, solidifying the relationship between the schools and the archdiocese.

The decision brought joy to leaders of both schools.

“I’m very excited,” said Elizabeth Trojack, founder of Seton Montessori and its head of school and lead guide. “It’s really just a dream come true.”

The prekindergarten and kindergarten-level school opened in November 2011. It enrolls 20 students with a waiting list of 10, Trojack said.

“There is strong potential for growth,” she said, adding that she hopes to find a facility with more space, both for more students and for expanding grades. It is located at 149 Thompson Ave. E.

Chesterton Academy at 5300 France Ave. S., Edina, was founded in 2008 with 10 students. It now has 150 students in grades 9-12.

“No longer are we an outsider,” said Chesterton headmaster Dave Beskar, who came on board in July. “Now, we’re a part of the archdiocese, continuing to help and do our job well.”

Ties to the bishop

With the addition of Chesterton and Seton Montessori, the archdiocese is home to 91 Catholic schools.

Chesterton Academy 2

From left, Chesterton Academy sophomores Miriam Lash, Mary Blackman and Rita-Kateri Hipp listen to a lecture by Dale Ahlquist, one of the school’s co-founders. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Becoming a Catholic school in the archdiocese is a process involving canon and civil law. In recent years, the archdiocese has also recognized as Catholic schools Ave Maria Academy in Maple Grove (2012), Cristo Rey in Minneapolis (2007), Providence Academy in Plymouth (2004), Way of the Shepherd Catholic Montessori in Blaine (2004), and Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria (2000).

Receiving recognition from the archdiocese was Chesterton Academy’s goal all along, said co-founder Dale Ahlquist, who also founded The American Chesterton Society and maintains strong ties to the school.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have the official recognition and sanction of the Catholic Church,” Ahlquist said.

Jason Slattery, director of the archdiocesan Office for the Mission of Catholic Education, said the recognition goes beyond just the signature of the archbishop.

“First and foremost, it’s an expression of a relationship that exists between a school that desires to teach in the name of the Church, and the local ordinary [bishop],” Slattery said. “This is really a recognition now that there indeed is a relationship between those two parties.”

The official status means schools like Chesterton Academy and Seton Montessori can call themselves a Catholic school and use “Catholic” as part of their title. They also become part of a collaborative network of all the Catholic schools in the archdiocese. It also means school leaders may be consulted by archdiocesan leaders, including Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, the archdiocese’s vicar for Catholic education.

“Bishop Cozzens is very excited and encouraged that these schools would persevere and come forward to pursue this relationship,” Slattery said. “I think it’s a great sign of hope, that families are looking for Catholic education and they desire their schools to have unity and a relationship with the Church.”

“What we’re seeing here is this great fruit of Chesterton and Elizabeth Ann Seton coming into the Church in this formal way,” he added. “Taking the title is a validation of this great desire to be part of the exciting mission of Catholic education.”

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