Two Archdiocese of Detroit schools earn national recognition for commitment to Catholic identity

Students and administrators for Everest Collegiate High School and Academy in Clarkston (above) and Detroit Catholic Central High School in Novi show off their certificates proving their membership in the Catholic Education Honor Roll, a nationwide program that recognizes schools for their commitment to strong Catholic identity. Only 48 schools nationwide received the honor. (Courtesy photos) 

Catholic Central, Everest share rare honor from Cardinal Newman Society for proclaiming Catholic faith in and out of classroom

DETROIT — They may be 30 miles apart and differ significantly in size, but Detroit Catholic Central High School in Novi and Everest Collegiate High School & Academy in Clarkston share one similarity. 

Both are among 48 schools nationwide to be listed on the Catholic Education Honor Roll. The list, managed by The Cardinal Newman Society, honors schools that commit to and model strong Catholic identity.

“It’s a great distinction to have not one but two schools in the archdiocese receive this honor,” said Kevin Kijewski, J.D., superintendent for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit. “It is a compliment to the principals as well as the teachers, who, in addition to teaching subject material, share a responsibility for forming students in their faith. I’m extremely proud of them.”

Kijewski noted that the honor coincides with the archdiocese’s vision for Catholic education, “Unleashing Our Catholic Schools,” announced by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in January. The plan’s dimensions ensure schools are proudly Catholic, academically excellent, accessible to all and sustainable for the future. He hopes other schools can look to Catholic Central and Everest as “models whose excellence can be replicated.”

Catholic Central, a college-preparatory high school founded in 1928 by the Basilian Fathers, has more than 1,000 students. The school has been recognized nationally since 2011, when the Honor Roll was known as the Top 50 Catholic High Schools.

“As you walk into our school, you see the words ‘Jesus Christ is the reason for Catholic Central;’ and then straight forward you encounter the presence of the Blessed Sacrament,” said Fr. John Huber, CSB, Ed.D., president emeritus of Detroit Catholic Central High School and general councilor for the Congregation of Saint Basil.

Detroit Catholic Central students prepare to assist during Mass before the annual Boys Bowl football game at the Novi school. The school celebrates its Catholic heritage with prayer before every class, games and special events.

“It makes a statement that our Catholic faith in Jesus Christ is the primary reason for our school. To be recognized by an outside agency for this is both humbling and essential for us.”  

Prayer and service are at the heart of Catholic Central’s community. Prayer begins each day and every class; it’s also heard on the field and in the cafeteria. Students complete (on average) three times the amount of community service required through the Caleb White Foundation, the Dad's Club weekly commitment at St. Aloysius and the Capuchin ministries, and in partnership with Catholic Central’s brother school, Detroit Cristo Rey.

“We recognize, acknowledge and celebrate the fact that fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the Church is the best way to become men of goodness,” Fr. Huber said.

Everest, founded in 2008, has more than 415 students in preschool through 12th grade. It has consistently received national recognition as a top Catholic school since 2012.

“To be authentically Catholic means that we are loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” said Michael J. Nalepa, Everest's president. “A Catholic educational experience means that the school embodies the Catholic view of education. It is founded on the conviction that the educational process forms the whole child.”

Everest proudly embraces “the beauty of our Catholic tradition.” Prayer and the sacraments provide opportunities to encounter Christ. The school offers optional daily Mass (before and after school), weekly Mass for academy students and frequent Mass opportunities for high school students. Out of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the school celebrates monthly First Friday Mass. Students also participate in reconciliation, Eucharistic adoration and annual grade-specific retreats.

Everest second graders react to news of the school being named one of the Newman Society's “Honor Roll” schools during an assembly as teacher Michelle Wildrick looks on. 

“Being authentically Catholic extends far beyond the faith formation we offer,” Nalepa said. “Our Catholic identity shapes every area of formation. Committed to excellence in academic, character and spiritual formation through the Regnum Christi model of Integral Formation, our education is centered on the person of Jesus Christ, devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and is faithful to the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

“Religion is the most fundamental element of our formation as students, family members, and eventual workplace contributors. Without religion as the framework, knowledge can only be acquired but not fully realized.”

Beyond the formation of students, both schools offer catechesis and evangelization opportunities for parents and families.

“What was gratifying to see about both schools was how they reached out to provide spiritual renewal to not only their own students, but to parents,” said Denise Donohue, Ed.D., MCSL, associate director of K-12 education programs for The Cardinal Newman Society and manager of the Catholic Education Honor Roll. “Not many Catholic schools have the capacity, or capability, to do this.”

“Religion is the most fundamental element of our formation as students, family members, and eventual workplace contributors. Without religion as the framework, knowledge can only be acquired but not fully realized.”

Catholic Central evangelizes parents through the school’s parent clubs, Bible study, Marian devotions and regular spiritual activities at the nearby Marian Shrine. Everest provides formation in the areas of parenting, faith and marriage. Parents also have access to spiritual direction, which, Donohue notes, is “quite unique for a Catholic school.”

To be considered for the Catholic Education Honor Roll, schools complete an application in which they demonstrate commitment to the “Principles of Catholic Identity in Education.” This includes being inspired by divine mission; modeling Christian communion; offering encounters with Christ in prayer, Scripture and the sacraments; integrally forming the human person; and imparting a Christian understanding of the world.

“Catholic schools should exemplify all that is unique about their mission,” Donohue said. “They are not public schools with a fee. Theirs is a two-fold mission of ‘securing the Supreme Good, that is, God, for the souls who are being educated, and the maximum of well-being possible here below for society’ (Pope Pius XI, Divini Illius Magistri).

“This integrity of mission is also important in the area of religious freedom. Many a Catholic school has lost its legal advantage when it is not consistent in the promulgation and operation of policies based on the Catholic faith.”

The Cardinal Newman Society received the Honor Roll from the Acton Institute in 2010, when it was known as the Top 50 Catholic High Schools. In 2012, the list expanded eligibility for recognition, and, in 2018, opened the program to elementary schools. The application was redesigned between 2014 and 2018 to more closely reflect the Church’s expectations for her schools.