Celebrating 20 years of Catholic Education

St. Andrew the Apostle students bring the Offertory gifts to Bishop James Johnson, Jr. during the school’s 20th anniversary Mass Aug. 18. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

GLADSTONE, Mo. — The 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish Aug. 18 celebrated the 20th Sunday in Ordinary time, but it certainly wasn’t ordinary. It was the first all-school Mass of the 2019-20 school year, with current students and alumni participating. The principal celebrant was Bishop James Johnston Jr., with Father Vince Rogers, pastor of St. Andrew’s, and Fr. Nathan Rueb, parochial vicar, concelebrating.

As Mass began, Bishop Johnston told the packed church that it was “a great joy to be with you for the celebration of the 20th year of Catholic education here at St. Andrews!”

In his homily, he reiterated his gratitude and pleasure at being invited by Fr. Rogers to celebrate a regular Sunday Mass with St. Andrew’s parishioners, especially this year as the parish celebrates the 20th anniversary of the founding of the school, and all those impacted by the two decades of Catholic education. The school was established under the pastorate of Msgr. Joseph Mancuso in 1999 and opened with grades K – 5, the first new Catholic school in the diocese in a decade. The library and grades 6 – 8 were added later.

“You know,” the bishop quipped, “20 years is a significant accomplishment, yet you’re not really that far removed from the school’s beginnings. Fr. Rogers told me the school is the most recent one founded in our diocese, so you’re still the youngest baby in the family!” He thanked all those involved with Msgr. Mancuso in establishing the ministry of Catholic education in the parish, the pioneers, figuring that many of them were probably at the Mass. He offered congratulations to the parish that supports the school for all those impacted over these 20 years of faith and learning that occurred at the school.

“Catholic education is one of the most important ministries of the Church today,” he continued. “A Catholic school is a community that embraces the holistic education of a child, which embraces the spiritual life, embraces service, the arts and serious academics from a Catholic worldview. What we do in Catholic education is unique, it’s special, it’s different. But it’s all because we have higher goals as educators.

“I once saw a photograph of a little girl, … a student at a Catholic school. She was holding up a sign that read, ‘My goals: College and Heaven.’ I thought. ‘that’s a very simple, succinct way of describing what Catholic schools are all about!’ Catholic schools … get our children ready for life in this world and prepare them for eternity. While there are other schools that do very good things, we, as Catholic schools, are especially suited for the education and formation of the entire child.”

The bishop summed up his remarks, saying, “With Catholic schools, we not only want our children to be smart and successful, … we want our children to be wise and good. Wise and good. That’s what we’re all about. We can’t be wise and good without ever referencing or encountering Jesus Christ and what he has handed on to us: His Church and his saints. That is the distinction Catholic schools make. Thank you, St. Andrew’s teachers, thank you for loving your children and being partners with their parents in preparing them for life now, and eternal life later.”

After the Mass, a Knights of Columbus breakfast in the cafeteria attracted much of the congregation, with many students, alums and families enjoying breakfast, greeting the Bishop, chatting and talking with friends and neighbors.

Tony Calcara is beginning his third year full year as principal of St. Andrew the Apostle School. During his tenure, he is proud that there has been a continued strengthening of faith formation with expanded Catechesis at all levels through fifth grade. Middle school students have daily religion classes. Formerly Fr. Eric Schneider taught 8th grade religion, now Fr. Nathan Rueb teaches it.

Academically, he said, K – 5 reading and Math is strong. Beginning this year, middle schoolers will read Classic Literature, including Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain and other authors. Calcara said the Classics expand thinking processes and critical thinking.

Calcara, whose background is in Social Studies, will be teaching an upper grade Social Studies class for one semester, with students studying the Cold War in the Reagan era. His course planning includes high school type teaching and testing, which will help prepare 8th graders for high school. He hopes the class will be eye-opening.

He said the centerpiece of St. Andrew’s academics is heaven. “When I interviewed for this position,” he said, “Fr. Rogers told me my main job would be to help the students get to heaven. Here we have a high level of instruction from very good teachers. We strive to prepare our kids for high school and beyond, all the way to heaven someday.”


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