The Rarest of Opportunities

You can do more with the grace of God than you think.- St. John Baptist de La Salle

In July 1999, Kathie Brown and her husband Dennis packed their belongings and relocated their family to the west side of the Twin Cities, an area more populated by cornfields than houses. Kathie was embarking on what turned out to be both an entrepreneurial venture and a vocational call – the creation of a new Catholic high school, the first to be built in Minnesota in over thirty years.

Twenty-one years later, Kathie views the decision to leave Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin as a significant close-your-eyes-and-leap of faith experience. “Sometimes a question challenges us to say ‘Yes’ to change, to embrace the unknown. Reflection is valuable, but we will never have all the information we would like to make a perfect decision. Leaving CMHS, friends, and extended family was difficult, but working with a passionate group of people to grow a school created a new sense of what it means to be family,” Kathie believes. This responsiveness to the needs of young people is a legacy offered to each class of Holy Family students.

By the time Kathie reported for her first day of work in an office of then Klein Bank in Chanhassen, the architectural plans were drawn. The ceremonial shovels had been stuck in the soil of the farm that would support Holy Family Catholic High School. What was left? Everything.

President Paul Stauffacher asked Kathie Brown to be the first principal of Holy Family Catholic High School. When she arrived, the construction of the building was underway, but the curricula and the faculty who would teach it were not yet established.

Busing, food service, furniture, equipment, and supplies had to be acquired. These are essential components of a school that are so easy to take for granted in an established institution. Of great importance, however, was developing a vision for the curriculum and finding the educators who were knowledgeable, flexible, and creative to achieve that vision.

Kathie began by using her experience with a combined English and history course at her former school and imbuing it with theology. Integrated Studies (IS) was born. Seeking a theology teacher who could envision an interwoven approach to learning and deepen understanding of the Catholic faith, she found Doug Bosch, someone capable and willing to explore ways ninth grade students might see education as more than earning grades. Today, elements of this integration are found in the junior-level courses of American Literature, American History, and Catholic Social Teaching.

Eleven other teachers filled the available positions by the time the building was ready for limited occupancy. Four remain: Doug Bosch, Gary Kannel, Matt Thuli, and Jim Walker. Kathie credits the tireless efforts of these first twelve educators for setting a high standard of collegiality and innovation not only for each other but for the next teachers to join the professional community as the school grew.

The first students established many of the traditions we still celebrate today.

Kathie also recognized the importance of providing traditions and rituals for the first 147 students who walked through the doors in the fall of 2000. She established a weekly Convocation to pray, communicate information, and reinforce values. The classes of 2003 and 2004 established many other meaningful traditions. They suggested the Thanksgiving dinner and an honor society to acknowledge academic effort. These young people took ownership of their new school and led Holy Family quickly and decisively to a culture of excellence. Kathie recalls, “All they needed was someone to listen to their ideas and permission to use their energy to make them happen. I was in awe of their insights and eagerness to make Holy Family their school. They helped form me into the school leader they required.”

One of the most significant historical developments in the growth of Holy Family came in 2005 with the formal approval to join the Lasallian international network of schools. Former president Frank Miley initiated the discernment process and Kathie immediately identified with the Christian Brothers’ pedagogy that sees students as the center of the educational process. She loves the imagery of faculty and staff walking alongside youth as they teach minds, touch hearts, and transform lives – their own included.

In 2018, the Lasallian Region of North America recognized and honored Kathie Brown as a Distinguished Lasallian Educator from the Midwest District for 2018.

An essential aspect of our Lasallian charism is to “Live Jesus in our hearts . . . forever.” It is witnessed frequently in the way people say “Yes” to what will help students thrive. They are not concerned whether a task is in a job description. Over the last twenty years, faculty and staff have volunteered to moderate clubs, plan events, and suggest better ways to do things – and then do them. Kathie hopes the culture of doing “whatever it takes” is so well-established that such generosity continues to grow. She has tried to lead the way by serving whenever her skills are compatible. She remembers everyone in her family cleaning the school’s windows and bathrooms the weekend before Holy Family opened in fall 2000. Recognizing every job is an essential one, she has served as Holy Family’s first counselor, a substitute teacher, ticket-taker, concession stand coordinator, and, for eight years, as both president and principal.

These experiences explain why what comes next is not a question Kathie can answer. She could not have predicted what would be necessary to end this school year with as little loss of learning and relationships as possible. As the challenges increased, what became important was supporting students and teachers in their efforts to adjust and stay healthy in every way. Again, she had help. Teachers ensured the students were well-taught. The staff and parents supported the teachers. Family takes care of family.

All is well these days as Kathie packs up the many memories two decades can collect. And because all is well, she is not concerned about making plans for the immediate future. The question that needs her next “Yes” will come when it comes.

Additional Resources:

The Kathleen Brown Opportunity Scholarship Fund was established to honor Kathie’s legacy and commitment to our school. More information about her scholarship can be found at: http://www.hfchs.org/giving-opportunities/brown-scholarship/

Kathie shared Holy Family’s story during the 2020 Founders Week. Visit this Vimeo Showcase to view her videos: https://vimeo.com/showcase/7299211

A Renewed Commitment from Holy Family

En Español

The times are turbulent. The unrest is real. Our state, our nation, and our world are in pain. From the unconscionable death of George Floyd to the movement that his and so many others’ tragic fates have inspired, there exists a deep and essential need for healing and reform of both hearts and systems to address the plight of racism and the legacy of injustice in our society. Such an ideology and the oppressive actions it inspires, categorically opposes our fundamental belief as Catholic Christians and members of the Holy Family Catholic High School community that all humanity is made in the infinitely beautiful image and likeness of God.

Holy Family has been intensely engaged over the last weeks in meaningful dialogue to develop a message that communicates our response and reinforces our commitment to partnering with parents in the education of their children. While to some our timing may seem delayed, know that such comes from a place of intentional prudence and a desire to first both listen and understand, then to respond.

Without the revelation that there is the image of the divine found in all, we will be left with a void in our understanding of one another and doomed to repeat the sins of the past.  “Since something of the glory of God shines on the face of every person, the dignity of every person before God is the basis of the dignity of man before other men. Moreover, this is the ultimate foundation of the radical equality and brotherhood among all people, regardless of their race…” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church #144)

It is our further belief that as an educational community built upon a bedrock of faith we are called to uphold in both word and action the principles and values inherent in the mission of our school and that of the Catholic Church — and serve, genuinely and authentically, as the face, hands and feet of Jesus Christ. The call of the Gospel is not merely to “avoid evil” but it also calls us to “do good.” There is the expectation of action. We must respond to that command. It is not a suggestion. We must ask how we can love our neighbor, ensure the dignity of others is upheld, and that justice for all is exercised…and then respond with our answers.

Holy Family’s response to that call is evidenced by the lived reality that is manifested in a school culture guided by faith and animated by action. We take this seriously. We empower our students to be agents of change. We equip our students with Catholic Lasallian values and inspire in them a passion to address the injustices that face our world. We foster opportunities for actively seeking justice and equality for the marginalized and suffering. We create safe spaces to engage in meaningful dialogue that supports authentic listening and understanding.

As an institution of learning, while we believe the primacy of educational responsibility resides with the family, Holy Family not only accepts, but welcomes and embraces the incredible responsibility of setting the table each and every day, serving our students a comprehensive educational and spiritually formative experience that cultivates both their hearts and minds with the aim of bringing hope and goodness to the world in which we live.

Education is perhaps the most powerful force we can enlist in countering ignorance and destructive ideologies. The questions are then: What have we done with such a gift? What must we do moving forward?

As we work to reopen our doors for the fall of 2020, we will remain steadfast in carrying out the good and holy work already in progress relative to the Lasallian ideals of social justice and support of the marginalized. We will continue our ongoing pursuit of professional development aimed at deepening our understanding of the impact of unrecognized biases. We will likewise enter into an assessment and evaluation of what we teach and how it is taught…both implicitly and explicitly. And of equal importance, reveal what is not taught. This will require extensive, and possibly uncomfortable conversations, in an effort to inform change where and when it is needed. And the voices of all must be present.

The world that awaits us in September will not be the same as it was just six months ago. That said, among many things, it will be imperative to explore new ways to open dialogue and talk about race and racism with our students. To that end we believe that perhaps the most important gift that Holy Family can bring to this conversation is Jesus Christ. As a Catholic school, we know the illumination that Jesus can bring to any situation, especially those in times of darkness.  We pledge to renew our commitment to our Catholic Lasallian values and to all of our students – those of yesterday, today and tomorrow to ensure their hearts are prepared with the goodness that will help them transform the world that will receive them.

Let us pray for healing. Let us pray for hope. Let us pray for peace.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph…Pray for us.

St. John Baptiste De La Salle…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

So that in all things…God may be glorified.

 

Resources:

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html

Archbishop Harry J. Flynn’s In God’s Image: Pastoral Letter on Racism: https://www.archspm.org/in-gods-image-pastoral-letter-on-racism/

USCCB’s Pastoral Letter on Racism: “Open Wide our Hearts”: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/upload/open-wide-our-hearts.pdf

USCCB Educational Resources: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/educational-resources-on-racism.cfm

USCCB Responding to the Sin of Racism: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/cultural-diversity/african-american/resources/upload/Responding-to-the-Sin-of-Racism-USCCB-Resource.pdf

USCCB Statements and Letters: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/statements-letters-against-racism.cfm

USCCB Prayer to Address the Sin of Racism: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/prayer-to-address-the-sin-of-racism.cfm

2020-21 Plan to Return to Campus

Holy Family Plan

Last September, we gathered as a community at the Ignite the Fire All Family Mass to pray and celebrate as we ushered in Holy Family’s 20th school year. Not one of us could have imagined that implications of a global pandemic would force the final three months of school behind a computer screen as we transitioned to an online learning platform.

Much like the virus, this transition was indeed novel for a time; however, it soon revealed our inherent and fundamental need for community and a deep desire to learn in communion with one another – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

A virtual environment cannot fully support these elements. It falls short in contributing as effectively to the cultivation of a complete educational experience as when students and teachers gather in the physical classroom.

With this said, the leadership of Holy Family assumes a posture of complete conviction that we will reopen our doors and resume an on-site and in-person educational experience this fall. 

Our campus is wonderfully well-suited to the health and safety measures that may be needed:

  • Our class sizes mean we can achieve social distancing while still teaching and learning in person.
  • Our 72-acre campus, 176,000 square feet school building, and wide hallways and stairwells provide ample space as needed.
  • Our front entry security doors and check-in policies allow us to closely monitor those who come and go to and from our building.

I invite you to watch the video linked above with details describing our process and approach as we spend the coming weeks and months outlining Holy Family’s plan for a return to campus in the fall. While next year may not look exactly the way it has in the past, we remain 100% committed to pushing the limits of our creativity to engineer both an innovative and safe environment.

With each step forward, we ask for your patience and compliance as we create a safe environment for our summer activities. The protocols and behaviors of the summer, in turn, will help inform Holy Family plans for the fall. You can expect updates as appropriate over the coming months, including in, but not limited to, our back-to-school packet in mid-summer.

We look forward to seeing everyone in the fall.

Live Jesus in our Hearts,

Michael Brennan
President