Catholic Memorial among nation’s best

20101119_14170065 Fr. Sean O’Connell, team chaplain and associate pastor at St. Dominic Parish, Brookfield, addresses members of the Catholic Memorial High School football team Friday, Nov. 18 during a Mass celebrated prior to the team boarding buses to Madisonfor the WIAA Division III state championship game the following day. (Submitted photo courtesy Seidel Creative Group)Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha is one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the country, according to the National Catholic High School Honor Roll.

Schools are chosen based on their commitment to academic excellence, Catholic identity and civic education.

Two Wisconsin Catholic high schools made the list, including Xavier High School in Appleton.

According to Kara Eagle, spokesperson for the National Catholic High School Honor Roll, Catholic Memorial is “a shining example” of overall high achievement while maintaining a strong Catholic identity.

“Based on the Catholic Memorial High School’s responses to three surveys relating to academic excellence, Catholic identity and civic education, (it is) among the top 50 in the nation,” she said. “Catholic Memorial has made great strides in the past few years to achieve this distinction, and we at the Honor Roll congratulate them on this achievement.”

As president of Catholic Memorial, Fr. Paul Hartmann credits principal Robert Hall and the school staff for immersing students in Catholicism, providing an outstanding community service program, and presenting the opportunity for young people to graduate and change the world.

“I have been president for three years, and graduated from Catholic Memorial in 1984, and while so many things, especially technologically, have changed since I attended, there is still the sense of community and family that are very much the same,” he said. “A lot of the faculty is still here, and I think that, above all, the Catholic identity is the most important. We have an obvious sense of our faith with the use of imagery, statues, crucifixes and overall prayer life at Catholic Memorial.”

In addition to daily Mass attended by at least 50 students, there are monthly all-school liturgies for the 757-member student body, weekly opportunities to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, rosary club and Eucharistic adoration for students wishing to deepen their faith.

“Our entire curriculum and class syllabus contains benchmarks for the teachers to help students integrate faith into their subjects, as well as to connect with parishes and encourage parish participation,” said Fr. Hartmann. “Most of our staff and teachers are Catholic and this encourages some sort of interdisciplinary work theology into all of our subjects.”20101119_21460097 Fr. Sean O’Connell, team chaplain, leads the Crusaders onto the field as they prepare to play in the WIAA Division III state championship game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2010 at Camp Randall Field in Madison. The Crusaders lost 35-0 to West De Pere. (Submitted photo courtesy Seidel Creative Group)

Caitlin Dolan, communications coordinator at Catholic Memorial, said that Honor Roll’s criteria for a top school developed after years of extensive research concerning the nature and condition of secondary Catholic education. A strong sense of Catholic identity tops the list of key traits.

“The best schools are unapologetically Catholic,” she explained. “This aligns them with the mission of Catholic education overall. Without a sound religious education program grounded in a strong and accurate grasp of the Catholic faith as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the reason for being a Catholic high school disappears.”

Immersed within those traits are clear mission and vision statements for the school to define their purpose, goals, focus and direction. Defining the school’s direction leads to localized responsibility.

“Schools that are responsible for themselves tend to be more productive and can make necessary changes more quickly,” said Dolan.

In addition to quality personnel, utilizing successful teaching philosophies provides a framework for educating and forming students.

“It goes without saying that Catholic schools working to incorporate the Catholic faith into (their) daily way of life will include Catholic practice, prayer and tradition,” said Dolan. “This is more than a mere edifice of Catholic cultural practices, but includes the richness of the full truth about God and humanity as revealed by Jesus Christ in his Catholic Church.”

With 97 percent of Catholic Memorial graduates going on to higher education, the school places a high emphasis on preparing its students for vocations.

“It is of great importance for Catholics to be involved in every facet of our culture, both to provide examples of holiness and to bring the truth taught by the Catholic Church to bear on one’s area of civic, professional, scientific or social expertise,” said Dolan.

The criteria emphasized by Honor Roll are what brought Peter Lange to Catholic Memorial, not only as the parent of two high school students, but also as the music director.

“My wife and I have two sons currently in the school at CMH. Sam, 16, our first child, is a junior and Charlie, 15, is a freshman,” he said. “Both could not imagine being anywhere else. We also have a third son, Joe, who is currently in seventh grade at St. Joseph Middle School in Waukesha. He’s already talking about, ‘when I’m at CMH….’”

After 20 years working in home construction, Lange finished his music education degree, and just 90 days after beginning the program, the job at Catholic Memorial opened up.

“I applied and a new plan for my life began unfolding and I cannot imagine being anywhere else,” he said. “As a second-year teacher, I feel like I am continually becoming aware of more areas in which our students, faculty and staff are involved in projects which address the needs of others, from Thanksgiving food baskets for the members of our local community to collecting funds for reforestation on Haiti. Our school is dedicated to living our motto: Caritas in Omnibus: Charity in all things.”

When Lange and his wife, Roseann, attended the school’s open house in October 2007, the care and commitment displayed by faculty, staff, parents and student volunteers impressed them.

“My immediate impression was: ‘Here is a place where everyone wants to be excellent,’” he said. “I also have a vivid recollection of attending Sam’s freshman orientation Mass in August 2008 and not wanting to leave campus afterwards. In fact, I joked to another parent: ‘Maybe if I just hang around, they’ll put me to work.’ I knew at that moment I was called to put my energy and skills to work at Catholic Memorial.”

Lange’s comments are typical of the feedback Fr. Hartmann receives on a regular basis. The dedication to the school is exemplified in the number of parent volunteers, and support in the academic and extracurricular offerings at Catholic Memorial.

“I would say as we look ahead, there is nothing in my mind but optimism for the future for Catholic schools in Waukesha County and Catholic Memorial in particular,” he said. “It’s a great year and right now this fall we had three state championship sports teams and the most recognized drama program in the state. We have seven reigning state champions including last year when the ski team won. The kids do a lot of great things while maintaining the highest academic standards and grades.”

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