The Chesterton Academy of St. James, the new classical high school in Menlo Park, held its inaugural Mass of the Holy Spirit and school blessing on Feb. 8. Archbishop Cordileone celebrated Mass in the main chapel at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University for students, parents, faculty, staff, board members and other supporters of the school.
With a goal to educate the whole person in a rich Catholic intellectual tradition, Chesterton Academy opened in Fall 2022. Young men and women are formed to be “joyful saints” by introducing them to great thinkers of Western Civilization such as Socrates, Thomas Aquinas and Dante.
Speaking about the Chesterton Academy model of classical education, Greg Billion, headmaster of Chesterton Academy of St. James, said, “It’s Catholic, but it also has the classical liberal elements that teach kids how to read, how to reason and then how to communicate effectively. It’s even higher than educating for virtuous citizenship. We get to sprinkle in the transcendent, which then transforms the world.”
In his homily, Archbishop Cordileone discussed the need for a childlike (not childish) view of the world—looking at creation and everything around us with wonder, which is the beginning of education. “Classical education cultivates within the soul the capacity to wonder, the ability to think, to explore and understand the mysteries of the universe,” he said. “As one ascends the levels of schooling…one preserves the childlike quality of wonder.”
Does classical education fit into a 21st century high-tech life? Headmaster Greg Billion answers yes.
“The fundamental human elements found in classical education prepare one to go into a STEM field very well,” he said. “The problem is, if you take those formative years and just train them to perform activities but not to step outside and understand those activities, then they become malnourished and stunted in their formation. We’re seeing a lack of ability to figure out where’s my place in the world and a lack of ability to see the big picture.”
Following Mass, the Archbishop blessed the school located on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Seminary and University.
Editor’s note: Freshman curriculum includes Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, Chesterton, pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Catechism, Old Testament, Latin 1, Euclid, art history, music theory, choir, calligraphy, drawing.
Faculty/staff includes Greg Billion, headmaster, humanities; John Jolly, humanities; Paul Perez, Latin; Lisa Andrews, fine arts; Cameron Bick, student life, development.
Full story at San Francisco Archdiocese.
These schools are popping up in lots of places, but they are tiny. I think it’s a fad that won’t last ten years.
I don’t think so. The Church is fighting back in the culture wars and the effort will not succeed with a homily or two, but a thorough immersion in a counter culture environment, an alternative to the depraved environment presently offered us by the powers that be. Consider the influence of Thomas Aquinas College– it has been around now for some time and thrives. This school and those like it are a sign of hope and deserve our support.
fad, the Chesterton academies are now in their 16th year. Someone had faith the size of a mustard seed and prayed well. “Without the Holy, the good will not prevail.” Teaches Abraham Heschel
Fad, Who will fade more quickly, you or the Chesterton Academies? Jesus started with 12 and one of them was a dud. These schools are currently at 44.
Maybe Acts 5:38-39 applies. A fad is “an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities; a craze.” I think not. Let’s address this again at the ten year mark you propose.
It’s always good to see good news. Thank you for posting this.
An encouraging trend. Good to see Catholics reclaiming ‘Classical Education’ as our own. The protestant Hillsdale College is a popular model for classical K-12 education where I am and it’s getting more and more popular in the form of private and charter schools. Daresay it is giving homeschooling a run for its money. What’s interesting is the number of reformed minded protestants that are finding their way into the Church as a result of this classical education effort. A school where I am has historically had a ‘no Catholic instructor’ policy with kids and families quietly converting to Catholicism. One of the hi tier administrators is about ready to swim the Tiber and the policy is said to be teetering…..
This is a wonderful endeavor! A great hope for the future of our Church, our country, and Western Civilization! Just think of all the potential future priests, prelates, nuns, excellent professionals in every field, even an excellent Catholic governor, or future excellent Catholic U.S. President!– that this school might someday cultivate! A great light to shine, in the “Culture of Death”-blackened world of today!
There are a great many of these Catholic Classical Education schools starting all over the country. Some are based on the “Chesterton” model, others are based on similar Catholic models. In SF, we now have Stella Maris Academy, PK-8, and the Chesterton Academy, for high school students. SF Archbishop Cordileone is now offering Classical Education training to all Catholic teachers in the Archdiocese. Also, the outstanding, Protestant-based Hillsdale College, in Hillsdale, Michigan, has a wonderful program to prepare teachers for their outstanding K-12 Classical Education charter schools, which are being established all over the country. One of these fine schools is located in Orange County, CA. Hillsdale College is a wonderful, conservative Christian liberal arts college, which is based on the great works of classical Western Civilization, and includes all the great Catholic works and achievements, also. They also have an outstanding civics program, to teach Americans all about our authentic history, our form of government, the works of our great Founders, the Constitution, etc. — to make a better American constituency. You can take many of these classes free, and they are offered online, too. You can also buy books and video sets of all these classes. Millions of us have completed these fabulous free classes and programs! They also have an outstanding lecture series, and send out the texts of their great speakers’ lectures, in their free monthly newsletter– fabulous.
Well, I looked it up– and found out, that the U.S. Constitution is the oldest, active, codified Constitution in the world! God Bless America!
Regarding Hillsdale College– I highly recommend their wonderful, free, online Civics courses. I recall being very excited, taking Civics classes in the 8th grade, learning all about the history of our country, and of our state, and how our state and national governments were set up, and how they work. So many great men of history, helped form our government. I think our Constitution is the oldest one still in use today, highly successful for 200+ years, now. May God bless and guide America, and bring her people back to her blessed, original foundations. I recall being very excited, when I passed our final Civics exams, with a 100%. My grandparents also went and officially became proud American citizens, too, when I was a child– and joyfully passed all their exams.
If you Google “Hillsdale College,” you will see the college’s website. It will provide all information for you. Hillsdale has been fighting the evil, highly destructive leftist-liberals for decades, and so it has always refused to take a penny from the U.S. government. Hillsdale has always proudly and courageously stood on its own, with its excellent educational beliefs and standards.
Hillsdale College also has a very strong Pro Life organization, Hillsdale College for Life.
One opened near me. Not at my parish, but a friend’s, and they use the buildings of the parish school that are otherwise unused since the parish school’s attendance has declined. It’s a drain on the parish, and it relies on wealthy donors to keep going because enrollment and tuition are not sufficient to cover expenses. I don’t think it ever will be. It’s a money pit. The money and donations that support the school would be much better spent paying higher parish staff salaries so they can get some decent music and catechetical/youth ministry directors, which would benefit the whole parish and serve more people.
The future of the Church in the US is in parishes, not in Catholic schools. Even so, parishes are going to close and merge in great numbers over the next 15 years. Why are we trying to prop up Catholic schools and have new Catholic schools when the situation is so bleak?
This is an unfortunate yet valid assessment. The US Church has been sliding into this situation for some time. The answer some places have found to to integrate these classical education models into the charter system of public schools. It’s a trade off in that there is not an institution of some expression of the Christian faith, but the families that are attracted to such schools are very grounded in Christianity of some confession or another (or will be as a result of sending their kids there).That introduces another set of problems, not the least of which is inter-confessional rivalry, but the reality is, if cooler heads don’t prevail, the whole thing collapses. And the kind of families, hopefully, that send kids to these schools know that it’s there or nowhere, unless they want to homeschool.
I agree. The future of the Church is in parishes, not our schools. We haven’t had schools for most of our long history. That said, there is a need and place for Catholic, and other good, schools. But, Catholic schools should not be a drain on our parishes. I was once at a vibrant, growing parish that opened a school. After that, parish staff took pay cuts and positions were eliminated, while school faculty and staff got raises (at the order of the diocese). (And, frankly, the parish staff were more committed to Mass attendance and orthodoxy than many of the school employees.) Sometimes the tail wags the dog. Remember, most Catholic young people are in public schools. Evangelization and catechesis need to happen in families and parishes (and even beyond the parish “boundaries”).
I’d refine this sentiment by saying that the future of the Church is not at all in the parishes but in the kitchens and living rooms of our homes. This is not nit picking. Parish based education is only as good as the personnel there, and even if there is potent evangelical zeal that captures kids for some determinant time period, there’s no guarantee those personnel will be there in a year nor that the zeal of the transformed will be sustained into adulthood. No, what has to happen that does not happen to nearly the needed degree is that the faith must be woven into the very fabric of daily living, all day, everyday from morning tooth brushing to evening. And go to church.
After the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church, its clergy, nuns, religious orders, seminaries, universities, schools, etc.– all began to crumble and collapse. Next thing to go will be our parishes– unless we can save them. Catholics today are no longer educated in their religious faith and morals. Only a very few believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Our Church’s Mass, Divine Office, Sacramental rites, and all other liturgies were stripped of a great deal of age-old, sacred Catholic Traditions. There is no requirement any longer, from the Vatican, to operate by Canon Law– that is mostly left to individual discretion– no Church discipline. Our parish boundaries are also no longer in effect, Mass attendance is down, many confused, poorly-catechized Catholics are caught in the jaws of the Satanic, secular “Culture of Death” current society. Many parishes either merge or close. There are very few authentic, practicing Catholics left. These new Catholic Classical Education schools, with good catechesis and practice of the Faith, are a hope for our religion and for our country– and for Western Civilization. The Devil’s rule upon this world has increased to an extremely dangerous point, since the horrific, filthy 1960s. Next thing to go will probably be all our parishes, and then, all the clergy– Catholicism nay oneday only be known and practiced by a very few. But we can save our parishes, with good clergy leadership, good catechesis– and good, devout Catholic families, practicing the Faith and passing it down to their children. And good Catholic schools, with ONLY good, devout, practicing Catholic teachers, will help tremendously! Devout Catholic parents do not like to send their kids to public schools. Many of today’s Catholic parish schools, with non-Catholic, or “bad Catholic” teachers– are a horror, before God.
asdf, I agree with you. As the Church teaches, parents are the primary educators of their children (regardless of what options they may choose). The family is the first social organization, predating both church and state.
You can’t ask people who have had poor catechesis for 50 years (3 generations) to teach the Faith.
Some parishes are putting in family catechesis.
And so who was in charge of this failed Catholic parish school, guiding it for the children of parishioners? The priests? Where is the dedication of the Catholic clergy? All devout Catholic parishioners desire good, authentic Catholic schools for their children– not Godless public schools.
Authority over schools was taken from pastors and given to the diocese by the bishop. I am not for government schools, especially here in California. But, that is where most Catholic children are “educated.” That’s a fact. And, as you noted, Catholics deserve good, truly Catholic, schools. I’m not sure we are in much disagreement.
anonymous clergyman, it needs to be at diocese. When that started, it was usually to conform to state standards and get some consisitency in catechism.
There were non-Catholic teachers in our schools but they are not allowed to teach catechism.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, and later in the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church was the first to establish schools and universities, in Europe. All through history, up until the modern era– only the rich educated their children, and paid for both private home tutoring and small schools, of small groups of their children, to be educated. Public free education is relatively recent, in history. A few free public schools were established in the Northeast, after America was settled. But up through the early 20th century, it was common for many to only have a few years of grade school education, if any. President Abraham Lincoln only had a few years of grade-school-level education, and Ven. Fulton J. Sheen’s parents were not high school graduates– Sheen’s mother completed the 8th grade at a Catholic school, and his father only completed a few years of grade school. In 1918, all American children were required to attend at least grade school. The pre-Conciliar Catholic education system, operated by religious orders, was once recognized as outstanding, with many fine Catholic schools and universities, worldwide. Religious orders like the Jesuits were once recognized as outstanding– Jesuits were once very fine educators.
Education in Europe pre-dated the Catholic Church.
Of course, education in Europe pre-dated the Catholic Church. How about famous schools in ancient Greece? All societies, from antiquity, have had various ways to teach and transmit knowledge to their children. I was only referring to the beginnings of education in the Christian era, which started with the Catholic Church. And free public education is, historically, a relatively new concept– a great opportunity, offered in many countries, in the modern world. The Romans did not have free public education. The wealthy Romans hired tutors for their children, or else sent them to a small school of a group of children of wealthy families. Of course, when Rome fell, for a long time, just the Christian monks kept knowledge alive, in monasteries.
Pagan Romans and Greeks hired tutors. But, the Catholic Church started the first universities. Schools are not the same as education. Even our Lord Jesus was educated, but he didn’t go to school.
When were the first Catholic schools for children (primary and secondary) started?
I could find no evidence that they started shortly after the fall of the Roman Empire. Please enlighten me, if I’m missing something.
Oldest university was Muslim in Turkey. Turkey is intercontinental but Urfa is considered Asia, I believe. 200 years later the first Catholic university was started in Bologna.
Both ancient Greece and ancient Rome had public schools.
Again in Asia, fatherless boys in Israel attended a school in Jerusalem.
Here is a good source:
Turkey, are you referring to Istanbul University, founded by Mehmed II on May 30, 1453, a day after the conquest of Constantinople by the Muslims?
(This was at the end of the Roman/Byzantine Empire.)
The University of Bologna, the ‘Nourishing Mother of the Studies’ according to its Latin motto, was founded in 1088 and, having never been out of operation, holds the title of the oldest university in the world.
I was referring to Harran University in Sanliurfa Turkey. Not the current one but the one with the ancient ruins.
There are some other sources which claim that Muslims had universities in both Morocco and Italy in the 800s.
We had a small private high school (not Catholic) that was supported by wealthy donors as long as their kids were in it. Then it had to close.
Does anyone know what the enrollment at this school is?
I’ll answer my own question. I clicked on the link to the original story and watched the video at the end. The final picture shown in the video is of Archbishop Cordileone posing with seven high-school age children. I conclude the school has seven students.
I understand starting small, but seven students? As some have posted above, this seems to be a way for a few wealthy parents to arrange for a private homeschooling co-op for their own children.
This hardly qualifies as an academy. Let’s see if it can reach 200 students.
There aren’t that many kids that can do this kind of education.
Freshman curriculum includes Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, Chesterton, pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Catechism, Old Testament, Latin 1, Euclid, art history, music theory, choir, calligraphy, drawing.
Obviously, they have to meet state education standards and how much of this is included I do not know. It might just be one class not a class on each. Latin is probably a class by itself and art probably is too. Catechism and OT might be one class and the Greek writers another or just mixed in.
Please don’t underestimate our young people. I was a high school teacher and lay youth minister for a number of years. Many teens can grasp those materials, even if at a relatively elementary level. Our daughter read Plato’s Republic at a small academy high school and again at a Newman Guide Catholic college. She clearly got more out of it in her early 20’s than she did at 16 or 17. But, it was valuable each and every time. (And, she wasn’t intimated by reading such in college, since she’d already been exposed to it.) I was part of a Chesterton reading group. Many attending were re-reading works of Chesterton numerous times in the course of a lifetime. What one “gets” at 20, 40 or 60 varies, but good literature is worth reading, regardless of age or, to some degree, even ability.
All kids can be taught these same things. All kids. You can make a “C” and pass a course– and still learn something. In high school, Ven. Abp. Fulton J. Sheen was outstanding in math and science– trigonometry, chemistry. And he was good at all the rest, too– studying hard. You have to work hard, and try– with good teaching.
Many kids do not want to work hard.
Well, then, they waste the tremendous, golden opportunity of an education. And risk ending up as failures in life…
Many private schools have been small, or started small, including Catholic schools. When Ven. Abp. Fulton J. Sheen graduated from his all-boys Catholic high school, Spalding Institute, in 1913, he was the valedictorian– of a total of seven boys in his graduating class. The girls’ Catholic high school, Academy of Our Lady, was located across the street. Spalding Institute was named for Diocese of Peoria’s Bishop Spalding, and was located near the Cathedral, in downtown Peoria, Illinois. It opened in 1899, and was operated by the Brothers of Mary– whom Sheen thought to be very good.
Where do you get a “few wealthy parents” from?
Chesterton Academy of St. James charges something like $12,000 in tuition. With basic searching of the prices of other private/classical/catholic schools in the area one can easily see that the tuition of these Chesterton Academies is highly affordable. Look at other nearby Catholic schools. This year, tuition at St. Francis High School is $23,600. That’s almost twice as much as the Chesterton Academy of St. James. Bellarmine is $24,890, Mitty (with its abortion-promoting, gender-confused president) is $24,550 and Presentation is $24,750. All more than double the Chesterton Academy in the area.
And, these academies are typically small. Look at Live Oak Academy in Santa Clara, for one example. Yet, its graduates include physicians, attorneys, pro-life leaders and others who are changing the world for the better.
Harvard started with less than 60 students. Yale was founded by only 10 ministers who donated books. Even Plato’s Academy was small (and it did consist mostly of upper-class men.) Virtually all schools start small.
It would be better to encourage, rather than criticize, endeavors like this.
Starting this (2023) fall, there will be 57 Chesterton Academies. That’s a growth rate of nearly 30 percent in one year.
David had only five stones and look what he did.