St. Catherine’s new president seeks to highlight ‘feminine genius’

Jeff Barron Jeff Barron

I once read a profound quote that said: “God is the architect of the event. We are the interpreter of the moment.”

No one can argue that the culture in which we live is largely faulted. Yet in the midst of human fault, God always seems to find a way to fix things. And though we might not understand His ways, our openness to them helps us “interpret that moment.”

Such might be the case for the distinguished new president of St. Catherine of Siena Academy, Mr. Jeff Barron. I had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Barron recently. As the father of five daughters, Jeff has always tried to center his life — and the life of his family — on his Catholic faith. In fact, he saw fit to send his first four daughters to a Catholic high school before St. Catherine’s inception. His fifth is now a sophomore at St. Catherine of Siena Academy. And he’s delighted to share the trips to and from work with her when he can.

Mr. Barron’s resume is diverse. After years of work for his family’s foundry learning every aspect of the business, Jeff went to work at DINSE Corporation for a time. While there, he learned about market image. In short, he describes the experience God gave him as “comprehensive in nature,” something he says has prepared him to take the reins as president at St. Catherine.

After years of what he calls “God’s prep work,” Barron has now committed himself to a Catholic high school that he might describe as an answer to the crisis in our female culture. When asked what it is within our culture that drives the need for such a school, he is quite clear: “With the growing objectification of women, the ‘feminine genius’ is clearly God’s answer.”

He speaks, of course, about St. John Paul II’s 1995 “Letter to Women” that highlights the “feminine genius,” something foreign to our culture’s idea of true femininity.

“Our culture — in fact, our young women — are in need of an oasis. St. Catherine is that oasis,” Barron says. The personality of St. Catherine is distinct. Girls attend Mass there every day. The time alone with Christ offers them something our fast-paced culture fails to: the ability to slow down and discover who they are in God’s eyes. And although the feminine genius has become more foreign to our youth in recent years, it reminds them that the Eucharist — not Snapchat — is the “source and summit” of our Catholic and Christian faith.

Barron says he is a firm believer in servant leadership — the type that seeks to understand before being understood. He’s confident that it will help him to assist principal Karen Ervin in her mission to form young women’s entire person. Barron sees his job as multi-faceted — to support the daily workings of the school, and to engage benefactors who recognize the need to help form those same young women as leaders intellectually, spiritually and athletically.

One could say he practices what he preaches. Someone saw him holding doors open to greet students one day, then eating lunch with them the next. When asked about that, he chuckles, adding that while he was with them, he was encouraged by the sisterhood he witnessed in action, something at the forefront of St. Catherine’s mission: sisterhood, and inclusion.

When asked where he sees the school in five years, his answer is simple — and as the father of my own two daughters, I took it heart: to have served this Catholic community well enough that our culture is “set ablaze.” We concluded our interview and Mr. Barron walked me to the door, past the statue of St. Catherine. I smiled … because I think she would agree.

Paul Stuligross is director of campus ministry for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory and is a retired police officer.