PROVIDENCE — On Monday, Nov. 21, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin signed a canonical decree approving the establishment of the Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Hope, a new Catholic high school for the Diocese of Providence.
Chesterton Academy schools are a network of alternative Catholic high schools whose curriculum is rooted in a strong emphasis on the study of the Classics and the traditional sources of Catholic theology. Chesterton Academy schools are known for their strong emphasis on the study of history and the classics of Western literature, as well as the study of Socratic method of debate, the history of philosophy, Church history, Scripture, the Catechism, official Papal documents, and the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Hope is the first Chesterton Academy both in the Diocese of Providence and in New England. The school, which will be located on Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick, was founded by Michael Casey and Ed Walsh, who serve as the president and vice-president respectively.
Casey said he was introduced to the Chesterton Academy several years ago while traveling to Chicago. While attending Daily Mass, Casey saw a group of students from a local Chesterton Academy at the Mass, and was impressed with the sense of joy, reverence, and enthusiasm for the faith which the students embodied.
Much later, in early 2021, Casey was introduced to Ed Walsh via one of his fellow parishioners who was a mutual friend. Over the course of their discussions, Walsh, the father of six, expressed to Casey certain concerns he had for his children’s education in the public school system. After learning about the Chesterton Academies through the Catholic radio personality and CEO of Relevant Radio Father Rocky, Walsh expressed his interest in learning more about this particular educational network, and together Casey and Walsh attended the Discovery Days, a series of events organized to raise awareness of the Chesterton Academies. This then inspired them to establish a Chesterton Academy of their own.
In February of this year, Casey and Walsh obtained approval from the Chesterton Schools Network, the main governing body for the Chesterton Academies, to establish a Chesterton Academy in Rhode Island. Shortly thereafter, the two reached out to Bishop Tobin, who granted permission to organize a Board of Directors, gather a curriculum, and do research on what was needed to start the school.
“We’re really excited to have this opportunity,” said Casey. “The bishop’s been incredibly supportive of this.”
Bishop Tobin signed the decree in the chancery in the presence of the school’s board of directors. During the signing, Bishop Tobin noted that the approval of the school, which is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, took place on the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“We come together on the Memorial of the Presentation of Our Blessed Mother, and so it is a beautiful day on which to formalize the recognition of the school as a Catholic school,” Bishop Tobin said.
Bishop Tobin went on to thank all of those involved in the process of founding the school, and those in the diocese who have worked and those directly involved with the school.
“Thanks to [Vice Chancellor] Father Nathan Ricci in particular, [Vicar General/Moderator of the Curia] Monsignor Albert Kenney, and everybody who has shepherded this project through our diocesan process, but [also] to all of you who have been involved in this from the very beginning,” Bishop Tobin said.
After the bishop spoke with the members of the Board of Directors, Father Ricci read aloud to those present the canonical decree, after which it was officially signed by Bishop Tobin.
The model for Chesterton Academy schools traces its roots to an initiative started by Dale Alqhuist, the president of The Chesterton Society, an organization that promotes the thought of the 19th century British Catholic journalist, social critic, philosopher and apologist G.K. Chesterton, after whom the Chesterton Academy models their educational philosophy.
The first Chesterton Academy school was established by Alqhuist in 2008, just outside of Minneapolis. As word of the school started to spread, other individuals and families were inspired to create schools with a similar curriculum and educational philosophy. Over time, an organization formed to help people in dioceses throughout the country found their own Chesterton Academies. Chesterton Academies currently exist throughout the United States, as well as in parts of Canada.
The general philosophy of the Chesterton Academy is the belief that there is a close relationship between one’s academic growth and one’s spiritual journey. “Chesterton Schools come from parents who want their children to pursue a certain kind of classical, liberal arts education illumined by the truths of the Catholic faith,” Casey noted.
“A Chesterton school’s primary aim is the student’s growth in the intellectual, moral and theological virtues,” he said.
Each Chesterton Academy school offers what Casey described as “a classic, liberal arts education centered on the great texts and learning methods of the classical and Catholic tradition.” The curriculum is arranged so that each subject is “intentionally, systematically put into conversation” with every other subject, all with the aim of “deepening one’s relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Together with classes, students also take part in Daily Mass, weekly Eucharistic Adoration, and service programs. Every year, Chesterton Academies also arrange pilgrimages to the March for Life and to Assisi.
“A Chesterton model is very transformational,” said Walsh, going on to explain how every element of the school is specifically designed to bring about spiritual and moral growth. He noted as an example the strong emphasis on service projects, such as visiting the elderly or helping the poor, which are meant to instill a sense of selflessness and service to the larger community, as well the fact that the school is organized using the housing system, which instills a sense of community or comradery within the school. Just as important, Walsh noted, was the strong emphasis on debate and on teaching the Socratic method.
“One of the things they taught us when we went out to Chicago to learn about the school was, it’s really focused on not what to think but how to think. Really, that critical reasoning is a big element of the education,” Walsh continued.
Jamie Quattrini, a member of the Board of Directors of the Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Hope, echoes similar sentiments, describing the mission of the school as “teaching kids how to think and not what to think and to be Christ-centered.”
Quattrini, a parishioner of St. Philip’s parish in Greenville, went on to note the social and moral importance of having strong Catholic schools.
“I just feel like in this world right now we need to have solid places for our children to go to school,” Quattrini said.
Chesterton Academy will hold an open house on December 10, from noon to 3 p.m.
To learn more about Chesterton Academy, or to apply, visit https://www.chestertonri.org/admissions, or contact the school at 401-287-2280, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here