G.K. Chesterton connects Minnesota and Italy

| Jennifer Janikula for The Catholic Spirit | September 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

Delegation visits local counterpart of school named after 20th century writer

Chesterton Academy student Adrian Ahlquist (left) gets an impromptu Italian language lesson from Marco Sermarini (second from right), president of the Italian Chesterton Society and co-founder of the Chesterton School of Italy. Also pictured are Cameron Thompson (second from left), Chesterton Academy teacher, and Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society and co-founder of Chesterton Academy in Edina. Jennifer Janikula/For The Catholic Spirit

Chesterton Academy student Adrian Ahlquist (left) gets an impromptu Italian language lesson from Marco Sermarini (second from right), president of the Italian Chesterton Society and co-founder of the Chesterton School of Italy. Also pictured are Cameron Thompson (second from left), Chesterton Academy teacher, and Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society and co-founder of Chesterton Academy in Edina. Jennifer Janikula/For The Catholic Spirit

For more than 20 years, Dale Ahlquist and Marco Sermarini, without knowledge of each other’s existence, had been walking identical paths, synchronized step-by-step on opposite sides of the globe: one in Edina, and the other on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy.

Unknowingly, they shared a vision that inspired them (with the help of their co-founders and many families) to establish two classical schools named after prolific English writer G.K. Chesterton, within the same year (2008), independently.

With Father Spencer Howe of St. John Neumann in Eagan as their bridge, the paths of these two men finally crossed in March 2013 at St. Peter’s Square just days after Pope Francis’ papal election.

During that first meeting in Rome, Ahlquist and Sermarini stood face to face and felt like they were looking in a mirror. Their identical paths and shared vision of life, faith and education reflected back.

“We are like twins separated at birth,” said Ahlquist, co-founder of Chesterton Academy in Edina and president of the American Chesterton Society.

From Italy to Edina

Almost immediately, Sermarini, co-founder of the Chesterton School of Italy and president of the Italian Chesterton Society, began planning a trip to visit his American sister school.

“It’s not every day you find your twin on the other side of the ocean,” Sermarini said. “We want to know what’s going on here and understand their [Chesterton Academy’s] relationship with their pupils. They are curious about us, too. It’s a necessity.”

A delegation of 35 Italian faculty members, parents and students arrived in the Twin Cities on Aug. 28 and spent nearly two weeks living with Chesterton families, observing classes at Chesterton Academy and visiting historic and cultural destinations in the Twin Cities and Chicago.

A picnic on Labor Day proved to be a highlight of the visit and provided an opportunity for a soccer rematch between the Americans and the Italians. The Italians won the first game in Rome back in March 2013, and the Americans hoped the home field advantage might tip the scales in their favor. But according to Ahlquist and Sermarini, the Italians were the repeat winners of the “Chesterton Cup.”

Global solidarity

John Niemann, Chesterton Academy headmaster, appreciates the global solidarity provided by the ongoing relationship with the Chesterton School of Italy.

“We know we are not alone,” Niemann said. “Our students are very conscious of the fact that their education is different — we take a different approach. It’s very interesting that this can bubble up on its own in another place. It gives a global perspective to what we are doing, with the same vision and the same goals.”

Father Howe, who was a student at the North American Pontifical College in Rome and just months away from ordination when he introduced Ahlquist and Sermarini in 2013, embraces the promising relationship between the founders, the faculty and the students.

“They have Chesterton as a common source for insight into creative ways to educate young people — a means to change lives and draw them closer to the Church,” Father Howe explained. “We can learn from them, and they can learn from us in solidarity that bridges the ocean.”

With their shared commitment to classical education rooted in the Catholic faith, Father Howe said the schools plan to “cooperate and collaborate in this very important area of education and spirituality.” The schools intend to build on their strong foundation with additional visits and exchange programs.

The first exchange begins this week when Hannah Wolney, a 2014 graduate of Chesterton Academy, accompanies the Italian delegation back to Italy, where she will spend a year teaching and serving the students of the Chesterton School of Italy.

For more information about Chesterton Academy and its global partnership, visit http://www.chestertonacademy.org.

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Category: Local News