“It just feels right,” Skerjanec reflected. “I spent 15 years in public education, and it just always felt like there was something else, something more; and when I finally realized that getting back to the Catholic intellectual tradition was where it was at, it was like a light bulb going off for me.”
Abbey Daly, a new teacher at the school who received a classical education at Wyoming Catholic College, said she has “discovered the importance of memorization” for her middle school classes at St. Anthony's, where she teaches literature, history, logic, Latin and grammar.
“That's been the most enjoyable thing for me: helping the kids in class memorize poetry, Latin forms, presidents, states,” she told CNA. Memorization is an important part of classical education, particularly for younger students, helping to develop intellectual virtues.
Daly explained the importance of classical education “not as a means of getting ahead in life, but as simply a way of being happy no matter what you do in life – farming, or driving a truck, or being a lawyer, whatever God is calling you to be. Latin, learning history this way, learning philosophy and logic, are helpful no matter what God is calling you to do.”
Skerjanec said the school has been explaining its new classical curriculum to parents and parishioners, and hopes to boost enrollment in future years, especially by reaching out to communities around Sterling.
St. Anthony's is the only Catholic school on Colorado's eastern plains among the three dioceses serving the area. The nearest Catholic school is in Greeley, more than 90 miles away.
“No matter where you live, you should have the opportunity to send your kids to a Catholic school, whether it's in a busy place like the Front Range, or out here on the plains with a rural setting,” the principal said.
St. Anthony's “doesn't turn anyone away,” he noted, adding that this is what makes the school's financial planning so important: “we don't want to turn anyone away. Anyone who wants a Catholic education should get one.”
He called it a “blessing” that “while we see so many Catholic schools closing, we're still here, and our community still supports us.”
To stay open for the 2014-15 academic year, St. Anthony's set a goal of raising $600,000 last year. The school ended up raising $1.1 million.
“It truly solidifies the point that our community supports us,” Skerjanec said. “They think it's important that we're here, and we just need to get the word out to regenerate that support; but we cannot thank our benefactors enough for what they've done for us.”
“People from all over have supported us … we're very, very blessed and very thankful, and very humbled by it.”