Kathie Brown Announces Retirement at End of 2019-20

Dear Holy Family Families and Friends,

The 2019-2020 school year will be infused with both subtle and enthusiastic celebrations of Holy Family Catholic High School’s 20th anniversary. The years have flowed quickly and confidently one into another, filled with stories of growth and accomplishment.

It is with joy that I announce my retirement at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Because we remind ourselves several times a day we are all in the holy presence of God, every one of us is developing the understanding there is more to our individual callings than we are presently living. Consequently, I am looking forward to another year of Holy Family experiences, replete with initiatives to accomplish, teachers to encourage, families to serve, and the gift of daily gratitude for the lives that have touched mine.

I remember moving from Wisconsin to Minnesota in July 1999. I was a city person; my introduction to the school was walking the farmland on which this beautiful building was to be erected. Immediately, I knew starting a Catholic high school wasn’t just a rare opportunity. It was a pristine sketchbook available to many creative and loving minds, hearts, and hands who were excited about transforming lives!

The sketchbook is pretty full now but there are plenty of pages for future artists. Holy Family has developed in many ways in these first nineteen years and it is easy to take for granted how our faculty, coaches, and staff have gone above and beyond to create an environment that is safe, relational, and grounded in Gospel values. I cherish the many traditions that are firmly entrenched in our culture:  Thanksgiving dinner served by teachers and staff, visits from St. Nicholas, Coffee House, and Convocation. These and other special aspects of this sacred space have come from people who realize trusting and caring relationships build strong communities. An effective school is, at its core, a community.

I have great confidence in the processes mentioned below by President Brennan and Board Chair Tom Furlong to seek the next principal of Holy Family Catholic High School. I know great care will be taken to fill this role. In the meantime, prepare to celebrate our 20th anniversary with me. If ever there is an occasion that calls for a party (or several!), this is it!

 

Living Jesus in our hearts,

Kathie Brown, Principal


A Message from the President and Board Chair

Dear Holy Family Families and Friends,

It is hard to imagine our high school with a different principal. Kathie Brown has been the one and only person to hold this office since Holy Family’s inception 20 years ago. We are indebted to Mrs. Brown for her pioneer spirit and the life of selfless service she has led in the name of Catholic education. In so many ways, we simply would not be here today if it were not for Kathie Brown and her relentless pursuit to see Holy Family succeed and thrive. Much like the way she has viewed every student who has walked through our front doors, Kathie Brown saw the limitless potential of 72 acres of Minnesota farmland and cultivated a once lofty dream into the beautiful reality that is Holy Family Catholic High School today – a place, a home, a family where both students and Savior are known, loved and served. Please join us in our gratitude for the legacy we are honored to inherit and the gift of one final year with someone so instrumental in our trajectory as a school and the beacon of hope we aspire to be. Thank you, Kathie Brown!

As you can imagine, the search for a new principal – one whose sense of vocation is both formed by the Catholic faith and inspired by an understanding of mission — is no small undertaking. Once more we are grateful for the timing of Mrs. Brown’s announcement and the year-long runway it provides to conduct a thorough search for the ideal candidate. It is a task that school leadership views as both a great responsibility and a tremendous privilege knowing full well the impact this position has on school culture, student learning outcomes and day-to-day operational effectiveness.

As such, the Office of School President and the Holy Family Board of Directors will collaboratively engage in a search process for this position with a goal of having new leadership in place for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. To ensure fidelity to our responsibility of providing the very best for Holy Family, a national search will be conducted aimed at sourcing high quality, effective and talented candidates from both near and far.

In the meantime, we again ask that you join us throughout the upcoming year in our gratitude for Mrs. Brown’s faithful service to Holy Family and humbly request the support of your prayers as we navigate the journey of transition that lies before us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…Forever,

Michael Brennan, President                                       Tom Furlong, Board Chair

Carlton and Phillips named Ambassadors of Christ

Holy Family Catholic High School proudly announces Chris Carlton as a 2019 Ambassador of Christ Award co-recipient. Chris is the son of Mary and the late Roy Carlton of Chanhassen. He attended middle school at St. Hubert  Catholic School in Chanhassen. This award is chosen by votes from classmates, faculty, and staff and awarded to a senior who consistently act in a dignified manner, and, by doing so, influence others to strive for goodness and holiness. This year the voting was tied and Chris was the co-recipient with Allie Phillips.

Chris graduated Suma Cum Laude with honors from Holy Family Catholic High School on Wednesday, May 22. He leaves high school with a very full resume of involvement in school activities. He played tennis for four years and was a varsity captain his senior year. He served on the school’s student council for four years, finishing his term as an executive board member and the public relations external officer. He is a four year member of the Honor Society, Health Club, Eco-Freako Club, Lasallian Youth Club, the Knowledge Bowl Team, and Youth in Government, where he was invited to represent the State of Minnesota’s Delegation at the National Judicial Competition. As an underclassman, he also dipped his toes in football, lacrosse, and the Equality Club.  Outside of school he has volunteered with Feed My Starving Children, Furnishare at Love Inc., the American Red Cross, The Langdon, and Summerwood Senior Living Community.

Chris Carlton
Chris walks up to receive his award.

Next fall, Chris will attend the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities where he plans to major in finance and physics. We caught up to Chris after graduation to learn more about his faith journey.

What role does your faith play in your life?

My faith leads my action. I have been absorbing Catholic values my whole life, thanks to my wonderful mother, and I keep them close to my heart so I may affect others positively. Additionally, my faith serves as a valuable foundation to lean on when I struggle.

How has your faith developed/changed in your years at HFCHS?

My faith has blossomed during my high school years, in part, due to my excellent teachers at Holy Family. Theology, Social Studies, and English classes at Holy Family have proven invaluable due to the free exchange of ideas which have strengthened my faith.

Who has influenced you and your faith?  How?

My mother has been my primary faith teacher throughout my life, with great support from my uncle C.J. Schoenwetter and aunt Robin Schoenwetter. By taking me to mass, teaching wisdom from the Bible, and emailing me on contemporary Catholic issues, my family builds my faith life. I could not discuss my faith, however, without my theology teachers Mr. Bosch, Mrs. Bosch, and Mr. Schlepp, all of whom have been instrumental in my faith formation.

What do you find most rewarding about your faith?

The results of manifesting the Catholic faith in the world: mostly, smiles.

 What are your feelings about receiving the Ambassador of Christ Award?

I feel very blessed to have so many people in my life to model my actions after. Even though I have grown up without my father, I have found many role models in the St. Hubert and Holy Family community, many of whom are reading this right now. Parents, teachers, coaches, and friends: thank you!

 Favorite HFCHS memory:

There are too many to choose from, but I’ll try to narrow it down: Haiti, tennis, football, knowledge bowl, each and every learning moment with my teachers, lunch table discussions, convocation, and the time I have cherished with Holy Family’s Class of 2019.

 How did you make the most of your years at HFCHS?

As an underclassman, I did my best to give everything a shot. Then, I focused on what I was passionate about. Open-mindedness has gifted me new joys, new beliefs, and new experiences which I otherwise would not have had the pleasure of knowing.

 Other comments:

Best of luck to all of my friends graduating this year and thank you to the parents, teachers, faculty, and staff who have supported us along the way! Go Fire!

2019 Senior Athletes of the Year

Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria recognized its 2019 Senior Athletes of the Year, Leigh Steiner and Sawyer Schugel, at its annual Recognition Ceremony.  The Senior Athlete of the Year Award recognizes a senior male and female athlete who exemplify leadership, character, and excellence; on the field of play, in the classroom, and in their communities. Before presenting the award, activities director Nick Tibesar stated: “The Class of 2019 is a tremendously talented and highly impressive group of individuals. The selection of just two seniors for the Athlete of the Year was incredibly challenging, and a testament to the depth of talent we are blessed to have at HF. This class leaves behind a huge legacy of leadership, and for that we are extremely grateful.”

Leigh Steiner holding her plaque
Leigh Steiner will play D1 lacrosse for Marquette University.

Both students have impressive athletic resumes, excelling in multiple sports, as well as in the classroom. 2019 HFCHS Senior Female Athlete of the Year Leigh Steiner (Eden Prairie resident) is three-year honor society member, academic cord recipient for seven semesters with a 3.5 GPA or higher, a member of the President’s Honor Roll, and an Academic All-State recipient.  She holds nine athletic letters for basketball and lacrosse and is a three-time MVP and two-time team captain.  Steiner contributed as a member of a conference championship basketball team, two section champions, and the 2019 MSHSL Class A Consolation Championship Team. She was a 2019 Ms. Basketball finalist and a member of the 2019 MSHSL All-Tournament team!  Steiner is also a highly decorated lacrosse player, who has accepted an athletic scholarship to play D1 Lacrosse at Marquette University next fall.

Sawyer Schugel
Sawyer is also the winner of the MSHSL Triple A Award for arts, academics, and athletics.

Holy Family’s 2019 Male Athlete of the Year is soccer and hockey player Sawyer Schugel. Schugel (Victoria resident) is a seven-time letter winner, two-sport captain, and two-time MVP winner.  He was a member of four conference championship teams and two section championship teams, serving as an integral leader on the Holy Family Boys Soccer team that made its first state appearance in school history this past fall! As a junior, Schugel initiated the Holy Family Fishing Club, a competitive fishing club that competes in local competitions over the summer months, and qualified for the state tournament at Lake Pokegama in 2018. In addition to his athletic prowess, Schugel is also a talented musician and member of the percussion section of the school band. In recognition of his wide-ranging talents, Sawyer was awarded the MSHSL Triple A Award for Excellence in Arts, Academics, and Athletics. Schugel is also a recipient of a music scholarship to St. John’s University, where he will continue his music and soccer careers next fall.

To see additional recipients of academic awards, click on the link to our Recognition Day story: 2019 Recognition Day

Holy Family Students Love the Great Outdoors

Behind the Scenes: Holy Family Students Love the Great Outdoors

If you think the closest today’s kids get to the great outdoors is through Fortnite, Apex Legends, or other games exploring a virtual world, think again. Students at Holy Family Catholic High School, as well as schools across the state and nation, are itching to participate in the two fastest-growing, real-world outdoor sports—clay target and fishing.

In just 10 years, nearly 12,000 high school students across Minnesota, both boys and girls, have participated in clay target, otherwise known as trap. And fishing? One of the newest high school club sports seems to be following a similar trajectory. Only 56 kids participated on organized high school fishing teams in 2015. That number grew to 600 in 2017, giving you an idea of its skyrocketing growth.

Both outdoor sports were added to the Holy Family extracurricular list because individual students saw an opportunity to do something they love, while encouraging other students to give it a try.

Coach Maus with clay team members in the background
Coach Patrick Maus has been with the team since it started.

In 2012, Holy Family graduate Joe Yetzer, then in 11th grade, approached social studies teacher Patrick Maus in the hallway with the idea of starting a trap team. Four years later, Sawyer Schugel took the lead in getting students, teachers, and parents on board to launch the fishing team.

“These activities seem like a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively,” says Holy Family Activities Director Nick Tibesar. “There are plenty of other sports and pressure year-round. These outdoor sports open students up to competing in something they’ve done for a long time or just want to try in a non-intimidating way.”

So far, Holy Family students have given the outdoor activities a huge thumbs-up. This spring trap team will field its largest team with 37 athletes, and 10 are girls, the fastest-growing segment in the sport. Fishing started with a group of 10 anglers last summer and is anticipating more students joining this summer.

“There are a few activities that are co-educational, like cross-country, track and field and fencing,” Tibesar says. “These outdoor sports are the same. Whether it is sighting in on clay targets or pulling a bass from the water, both are activities where girls and boys compete together.”

A Community Effort

The reality is it took the efforts of many to get both fishing and clay target off the ground. While Schugel led with passion, organizing from a student-participation standpoint, it was the help of many parents that got the fishing team in the water.

Picture of HF's first fishing team
Holy Family’s Fishing Team competed in its first season in the summer of 2018.

“So many people helped to get it going” credits team coach Jim O’Donnell, parent of sophomore angler Aidan. “There was good cross-class interaction, from seniors to incoming students still in seventh and eighth grades. And the parents divided and conquered to help out.”

Jon Blood, parent of 9th grade angler Nick, helped get the team going in year one by taking care of the administrative details, navigating registration and outfitting the team with jerseys and sponsors. Becky Lund, parent of 10th grade angler Owen, helped in coordinating team communication and O’Donnell volunteered to fill the coach role.

The biggest obstacle, however, is finding volunteers willing to captain and provide a boat for the fishing teams. Some two-person teams have access to boats and someone over 18 to shuttle the anglers to fishing hot spots. Others, like Schugel, have been resourceful.

“I have a neighbor with a really nice boat,” he says. “You sometimes just have to find people willing to volunteer their time, and even a boat if you need it.”

Likewise, the clay target team wouldn’t exist today without parents, teachers and volunteers. Coach Maus, who remembers shooting trap recreationally as a kid, has led the team since 2012. Yetzer’s dad, Steve, helped form the team and has volunteered as an assistant coach from day one. With the need for one coach for every 10 shooters, Holy Family counselor Josh Rutz joined in 2014. Assistant coach John Kunze oversees range safety and more parents take on volunteer roles, including scoring at the shooting stations.

Watertown Gun Club Manager Gary Kubasch and Assistant Manager Gene Lack also deserve a bit of credit. They opened their range to Holy Family and other metro high schools, including Chaska/Chanhassen, Watertown, Waconia and Mayer Lutheran, providing a place for students to compete.

“One of the biggest draws to the sport is that you don’t have to be the big, tall guy or the strongest person to make the team,” Kubasch says.

That resonates with team members like senior Ava Kunze, who joined the Holy Family clay target team when she was in eighth grade.

“It’s nice that anyone can do this,” she says. “It’s more of a mind game than a physical type of sport. It attracts more diversity than you get in typical high school sports, and we have a number of girls that have joined since I started.”

Taking Your Best Shot

The first spring season, Maus coached 10 students. Some were introduced to the sport through hunting or shooting with family. For others, it was their first time shooting a shotgun.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids who are interested but haven’t had a chance to shoot,” Maus says. “There’s only one thing kids need to compete—they must complete Minnesota’s Firearms Safety Certification.”

“Probably 50 percent of the kids have never done it before, but if they express interest and if they have their Minnesota Firearms Safety Certificate, they can come give it a try,” Rutz adds. “Some have to wait until they complete the safety class, but they can get in the following season (spring or fall).”

Safety is the number-one priority for the clay target team. There is a huge amount of pride across the state that it is the only sport that has never had an injury. To keep it that way, here is a sample of the rules all high school clay target athletes must follow:

  • Shotguns are never allowed at school. Students go home to get their equipment before heading to the gun club.
  • Team members are only allowed to handle their own shotgun.
  • All shotguns must be made safe during travel and when being handled. That means actions are open and visible to the safety ranger.
  • All guns stay in cars, safely stored and secure until all team members arrive, including those coming from middle schools.
  • When handling shotguns, team members must have two hands on the gun at all times and muzzles must be pointed in a safe direction.
  • No one is allowed on the range without eye or ear protection.

“Our fourth coach is the range safety officer to make sure everything is safe,” Maus says, standing behind the shooters, who line up in groups on five, equally spaced behind each “trap.”

The trap is where the action is. A single clay target is launched into the air when the shooter commands, “Pull.” Seconds later, “POP!” If the target breaks, it’s recorded as a hit. If the target flies straight and is unscathed, it’s a miss. The next shooter steadies, “Pull!” Again, followed by “POP!” The rhythm goes on and on until all shooters have completed their rounds.

Ava Kunze shooting with Will Swanson watching.
Seniors Will Swanson and Ava Kunze have been with the team since middle school.

Team members must provide their own shotgun. It could be theirs, or one borrowed from a family or friend. A one-time, $200 fee paid by each team member covers all shotgun shells and clay targets.

The team meets five consecutive Tuesdays in spring after school. It’s a virtual competition. Each shooter gets 50 clay targets, 25 in each round. Hits and misses are recorded by a scorekeeper and entered into the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League database the next morning.

“We meet only one day a week, so many of our shooters can do another sport while also competing in trap,” Maus says. The team also competes in a fall league.

Will Swanson, a senior, has been competing for Holy Family since seventh grade and has qualified for the state tournament each year since 2014.

“It just keeps getting tougher and tougher,” Swanson says. “Throughout the league, only 100 kids qualify for the state tournament based on the spring season. With more than 11,000 kids competing, it gets more difficult and they all keep getting better and better.”

Maus says there is a special satisfaction in watching kids grow with the sport, and seeing many Holy Family shooters go from beginner to state qualifier.

“They start out by averaging single digits and they improve pretty quickly,” Maus says. “Last spring, Will made state with an average of 23.8 targets per round. That’s only 12 missed targets out of 250.

“It’s even more fun to see our past middle school kids, like Will and Ava, now running the show and helping younger kids in the sport.”

Community of Anglers 

Like clay target, fishing is a sport in which anyone, any size, can excel. And for Schugel, who helped the Holy Family soccer team to the state tournament this year and also competes in hockey, fishing offers a different type of competitive satisfaction.

“It’s not like a sport where you need a team,” he explains. “You need a great partner. You fish against everyone else in the tournament, including kids from your school. The highest combined weight from a five-bass limit determines the winner.”

Schugel adds that fishing offers a different pace from other sports, and because it takes place over the summer months, it allows time to enjoy something refreshingly different.

“It’s pretty calm,” he says. “You’re on the water, tossing lures. And when you get a fish, there is an adrenalin rush that comes with it. It’s something everyone can do, even if you don’t have a lot of experience.”

To get involved, students need their own equipment, a partner, and one boat and volunteer captain per team (two anglers). To help offset costs, the team secures sponsors and receives discounts on fishing equipment.

And the rules?

  • Anglers fish in three conference tournaments against 40-50 teams from other schools.
  • Five fish limit per team, maximum weight, 12-inch minimum.
  • Boat captains can discuss strategy and provide advice, but cannot handle or assist in netting fish.
  • Anglers qualify for the state tournament based on a point system, awarded on team finishes.

According to O’Donnell, the greatest reward during the first season was seeing Holy Family anglers support each other. The result—every angler improved tournament-to-tournament, with three Holy Family teams qualifying for the two-day state tournament in Grand Rapids on Pokegama Lake.

Fishing offers a differently paced competition.

“Like clay target, there is a camaraderie on the fishing team,” O’Donnell says. “There is a team component, competition and a social piece that make the overall experience rewarding.”

“The kids are very digitally connected,” he says. “Between competition, they learn new techniques online, give each other tips, and post pictures on what’s working.” A group of anglers also volunteered at the Minnesota Bass Adult state tournament and the Classic Bass Championship.  Their reward for doing so was insights from fishing pros and two anglers earned a wildcard spot for the state tournament.

For Schugel, the reward isn’t having the chance to participate in a sport he obsesses about. In fact, as a senior, he cannot compete this summer once he graduates from Holy Family in May.

“I want to see our team do well this summer, and leave Holy Family with a stable group of kids who love to fish and will continue the program,” he says.

Judging by the overwhelming interest in high school outdoor sports, both fishing and clay trap have good shots at growth for many years to come.

Chaplain Appointed to Holy Family

Archbishop Hebda appoints chaplain to Holy Family

Holy Family Catholic High School is excited to announce Archbishop Hebda’s appointment of Fr. Nels Gjengdahl as Holy Family Catholic High School’s full-time chaplain beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. Fr. Gjengdahl is the current pastor of Nativity of Mary Catholic Church in Bloomington, MN, and has previously served as the school chaplain at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights. This appointment comes in response to a formal request submitted  by Holy Family in March 2018.

Fr. Nels Gjengdahl
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl

Fr. Gjengdahl grew up in North St. Paul, MN, graduating from North St. Paul High School in 1999.  He then attended North Dakota State University to study engineering.  While he has been a lifelong Catholic, it was at college where his faith came alive. After two years of studying engineering, Fr. Gjengdahl entered Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo, ND, and graduated with a degree in Philosophy in May of 2003. In the fall, he entered the St. Paul Seminary at the University of St. Thomas. He was ordained a priest in 2007 and was appointed parochial vicar at St. Odilia in Shoreview, MN.

Following St. Odilia, Fr. Gjengdahl was assigned as parochial vicar of St. John Neumann in Eagan as well as part-time chaplain at Saint Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights.  After one year, his chaplain assignment became full-time. This change allowed him to be both a full-time teacher and a sacramental minister for the school.  He taught several subjects including morality, sacraments, Church history, world religions and Catholic social teaching and even coached ultimate frisbee. After a seven-year term as school chaplain, he was assigned as pastor to Nativity of Mary Catholic Church in Bloomington, MN in 2017.

Beginning July 1, Fr. Gjengdahl will transition from his position at Nativity of Mary Catholic Church to providing the Holy Family community with full-time sacramental leadership and spiritual guidance. He will teach within theology department, support ongoing campus ministry efforts, and enhance formation opportunities for our students and their families.

When announcing the move to his congregation, Fr. Gjengdahl shared these thoughts, “I am very grateful to Archbishop Hebda and to Holy Family Catholic High School for this opportunity. I have enjoyed serving as a high school chaplain in the past and look forward to returning to this ministry.  It is a rare opportunity to engage high school students in our Catholic faith on a daily basis, and it is a precious gift that I take seriously. I am excited to share Jesus Christ with the community at Holy Family through the sacraments, and in the entire life of the school.”

When asked what the addition of a full-time chaplain to the Holy Family staff means for the school, President Brennan responded, “As a school, we are blessed to have wonderful relationships with our local priests and are incredibly grateful for their time and leadership over the past 20 years.”  He added, “However, the addition of Fr. Nels to our community, our theology department, and campus ministry programs creates opportunities for daily sacraments and allows us to more deeply live out our Catholic mission. I am grateful for the wisdom, open hearts, and leadership of Archbishop Hebda and Bishop Cozzens in providing a shepherd for our school with an extensive background in secondary Catholic education.”