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Colin Conces

ignite the faith


Technology, building improvements help students thrive Ignite the Faith key to CUES Schools’ investment in education BY MIKE MAY CATHOLIC VOICE

ew technology is helping Miles Williams, an eighth-grader at Holy Name School, understand his math lessons in a new way. Now, with his own Chromebook computer, he uses the ALEKS web-based learning system to supplement in-class lessons and monitor his own progress. That’s just one of the improvements students at the Omaha school are enjoying thanks to funds from the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Ignite the Faith Capital Campaign. Without those funds, the school would have been hard-pressed to make any investments in educational resources, given the condition of its nearly 100-year-old school building. But thanks to Ignite the Faith, Holy Name students have a new roof over their heads, a new boiler and new carpeting in classrooms, and the school has the financial flexibility to pursue educational excellence. “We got money for the school for a lot of things,” Williams said, “but the Chromebooks and technology are my favorite because they make learning easier.”

Mike May

Miles Williams, Holy Name eighth-grader, works on his Chromebook.

“Because of Ignite the Faith, we were able to purchase the items so that they (students) could have one-to-one technology in every classroom,” said Principal Tanya Murray. All students in kindergarten through third grade now have their own iPads, and students in fourth through eighth have their own Chromebooks for use at school, she said.

Invest in Our Catholic Schools $19.5 MILLION DISTRIBUTED Excellence Grants Awarded 73 RURAL $2,440,687

93 URBAN $4,931,117

Teacher Scholarships 55 RURAL 116 URBAN Mike May

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Holy Name Principal Tanya Murray takes a moment to talk with her students.


FINANCIAL HIT Without Ignite the Faith funds, the school would have needed to make infrastructure repairs through the school’s operating budget, which might have cost $65,000 last year alone, Murray said. “It could have been like losing two teachers and increasing class sizes. It could have been missing out on some of the professional development and buying some of the materials, like our new Journeys curriculum. “It could have played out in a number of ways,” she said, “but ultimately, it would have hurt the kids.” Instead, Holy Name was able to invest in Journeys, a K-6th English language arts program that helps students develop reading, speaking, listening and writing skills, along with Wilson Phonics, a multisensory program for K-3rd students. “It’s so awesome to see the growth as compared to last year with just that little extra support,” Murray said. Wilson Phonics “supplements the Journeys curriculum as an extra resource that we would not have been able to have if we had to focus on some of those other (infrastructure) areas.” And Holy Name was also able to obtain an Excellence Grant through Ignite the Faith, Murray said.

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Broad Impact IGNITE THE FAITH FUNDS HAVE MADE A GREAT IMPACT IN PARISHES AND SCHOOLS ALL AROUND THE ARCHDIOCESE. Launched in 2012 with a goal of $40 million, the campaign exceeded that target with more than $53 million pledged and more than $50 million received. The generosity shown by Catholics throughout the archdiocese is yielding tremendous fruit, as highlighted in this special section of the Catholic Voice. For example, a Guided Reading program is improving reading skills for students at St. Mary School in Wayne; a formation program is helping teachers at St. Bernadette School in Bellevue grow spiritually and more effectively impart the faith to their students; young people at St. Ludger Parish in Creighton are deepening their faith through small, faithsharing groups; and seminarians are being helped along in their discernment through the archdiocese’s Seminarian Fund – all supported, in one form or another, through the Ignite the Faith campaign.

The school successfully applied for a $15,000 grant to purchase new furniture and hands-on activities for its early childhood program.

A LIFELINE Ignite the Faith funds are a lifeline for innercity schools like Holy Name, along with its membership in the CUES School System. CUES, formerly Christian Urban Education Services, provides funding for Holy Name, Sacred Heart and All Saints Schools to enable low-income students to benefit from a Catholic education. Founded by Redemptorist priests and Servants of Mary sisters in 1918, Holy Name has faced challenges to its survival in recent decades due to demographic changes and declining incomes in northeast Omaha. Holy Name’s high school closed in 1989, and the grade school was also in danger of closing 20 years later. Through it all, Holy Name has continued to be an anchor in the community, serving a diverse student body, Murray said. Of the 284 students, 40% are African American, 17% are Hispanic, 16% are from African countries, and the rest are Asian, Caucasian or multi-racial.

“It’s not a typical school setting … because the relationships are so tight here, and have been so strong for many years,” she said. “Everyone just becomes part of a great big family, and it’s evident in everything we do.”

Mike May

“Community and family.” That’s how Murray describes Holy Name School.

Kelly Kula quizzes her first-grade students at Holy Name School in Omaha.


Catholic school students soar in individualized reading New curriculum, school’s facelift fueled by Ignite the Faith

any recent improvements at St. Mary School in Wayne are clearly visible: freshly painted walls and new floor coverings and window blinds; Chromebooks and iPads for each student; new computers for teachers; and projectors, speakers and other equipment for classrooms. What is not so visible, but even more important, is what’s going on in the minds of students, who are improving in reading through a new curriculum that focuses on each student individually, parents and educators say. The program is called Guided Reading, and donations to Ignite the Faith have helped put it in place – along with all the physical improvements at the school. St. Mary began Guided Reading in 2017. The school had purchased the program’s assessment materials that helped determine the reading level of each student along with 648 books tailored to multiple reading levels in each classroom. So instead of one classroom of students reading the same textbook, students could pick out books at their own level. “We look at where (the students) are and what they need most,” Principal Stacy Uttecht said. With 42 students and four teachers, the school prides itself on the small, combinedgrade classrooms and the individual attention students receive. The new Guided Reading program furthers that aim, Uttecht said.

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Stacy Uttecht, principal of St. Mary School in Wayne.

In some cases, the school has seen assessment scores go up for students who had been struggling in reading, she said. But the improvements can be seen less formally, too. As both a teacher and parent, Jilliane Alleman has seen the results. At home, she’s noticed her children taking more interest in books.

For those in the highest levels of reading, “there’s no glass ceiling for them,” Alleman said. “They can just keep going.”

For those in the highest levels of reading, “there’s no glass ceiling for them,” Alleman said. “They can just keep going.” Those who struggle get more individual attention, partly because the students at higher levels tend to be more independent, she said. Volunteers help by listening to students as they read and give them more one-on-one time. Student achievement is assessed every six weeks or so, Alleman said, and the results show Guided Reading is helping improve comprehension and fluency. Karissa Hays, a parent and school board member, said she has two boys who don’t particularly enjoy reading and a daughter who can’t get enough of it. And all of them

“They’ve been little sponges lately, just reading more at home,” Alleman said. In her combined fifth- and sixth-grade classroom, she said, students are reading more novels and full-length books and not just short stories. Guided Reading helps struggling readers, high-achieving students and those in between, she said.

Dundee Digital

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Colin Conces

Colin Conces


St. Mary student Lilly Brummond works independently on a Chromebook at school.

are improving under the Guided Reading program, she said.

even better because it integrates faith into all parts of the school day.

Her sons are becoming more fluent and feel more comfortable reading, Hays said, while her daughter is reading a year ahead of her grade.

“It’s just a wonderful school, a faith-based option for parents in Wayne.”

Her daughter is competitive by nature, she said, and Guided Reading “definitely encourages her to still do better.” Uttecht said St. Mary is a small school that provides “a big education,” which is made

All the upgrades at the school have been “a big project” that wouldn’t have been possible without Ignite the Faith donations. “We have great school families and parishioners (at St. Mary Parish in Wayne) but we don’t have extra funds for projects like that.”

The upgrades, including Guided Reading, make St. Mary a good choice for families who want a Catholic education for their children, Uttecht said. “I think our kids … deserve to have every learning opportunity, every positive opportunity. Because their parents want the best for them. And we want the best for them as well. They matter. … We don’t want to give them second best.” The Ignite the Faith funding, Uttecht said, has “helped immensely.”


YDisciple takes youth ministry to ‘next level’ Ignite the Faith-funded effort a boon to teens, leaders BY SUSAN SZALEWSKI CATHOLIC VOICE With the larger, co-ed groups, “the content was good, but no real change was happening,” said Zuhlke, whose husband, Dillan, also has been involved in youth ministry at St. Ludger. “It wasn’t possible to make deep relationships,” Michelle Zuhlke said. “So that’s why we switched to the small-group youth ministry.” And that brought about a “total change.”

Colleen Johnson

YDisicple leader Michelle Zuhlke, left, with student Ashtyn Fritz.

hat happens when you take a half-dozen teenage girls and have them meet weekly throughout high school to pray, study, chat and bond?

About five years ago, the parish switched from large youth group gatherings of 20 to 25 students of both sexes to the more intimate YDisciple groups, which are all male or all female and meet in leaders’ homes.

“We really get to invest in them,” Zuhlke said of the students. “And they’ve really grown. We’ve seen a lot of fruit, which is what you want to happen.” Fanta, now a freshman at Wayne State College, said she learned to pray not just when she wanted something, but to thank God in good times and bad. She’s joined a Catholic Bible study group at Wayne State and has formed friendships and made choices based on values that were formed during YDisciple, she said. YDisciple prepared her to answer questions about the Catholic faith, and if she didn’t

Makayla Brockhaus said it gave her enduring friendships and a deeper faith. Brienne Fanta said it gave her a growing prayer life and stronger values. And adult leader Michelle Zuhlke said it gave her a second family and a lot of joy. All three said they are grateful for the lifechanging formation of YDisciple, a program that helps form teens into Christ’s disciples. St. Ludger Parish in Creighton provides the training, but donations to the archdiocese’s Ignite the Faith campaign fund the YDisciple program.

Colleen Johnson

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YDisciple students Grace Vanmetre and Brienne Fanta.


Strengthen Our Faith $2.5 MILLION DISTRIBUTED


Colleen Johnson


Members of St. Ludger’s YDisciple group, left to right: Michelle Zuhlke, Ashtyn Fritz, Grace Vanmetre, Bryna Fanta, Brienne Fanta, Christa Eggers, Colleen Fanta and Bev Nelson.

have the answer, Fanta said, that was OK, she could offer to look into the subject.

Through YDisciple, the teens encouraged each other and shared struggles, “becoming more of a family,” Zuhlke said.

YDisciple strengthened her values, she said, making it easier to ignore some of the temptations that come with college life.

“The end goal” of YDisciple, she said, is for the teens to “take ownership of their faith and live in a relationship with Jesus.”

In the more individualized setting I learned a lot about my faith.

Brockhaus had been part of the former, large youth ministry gatherings at St. Ludger. They were helpful, she said, but it was easy to “get drowned out.”

“In the more individualized setting I learned a lot about my faith.”

At first, opening up to everyone was an adjustment, said Brockhaus, now a junior at Wayne State. “But our leaders made it easy.” The teen group would meet for about an hour and a half on Wednesday evenings. Typically the girls and their leaders would start with snacks and conversation in the kitchen of Colleen Fanta’s home. They would then study, using videos from

Colleen Johnson

Growing closer to the members and leaders of her YDisciple group was one of the best results, Fanta said, and she considers the young women and their adult leaders – Zuhlke, Bev Nelson and her aunt, Colleen Fanta – her close friends. YDisciple, the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the Bible. Prayer was also key at the meetings. But the girls went even further, deciding to meet for Mass on Friday mornings before school. “We had a lot of energy from church,” Fanta said. “It really strengthened us.”

While at college, Brockhaus said, she continues to talk with Zuhlke at least once a week and often turns to her for advice. Brockhaus even became a godparent for one of the Zuhlkes’ four children. Brockhaus also joined a Catholic Bible study group at Wayne State College. And like YDisciple, the group is small and all female. “It’s not as great as YDisciple, but it’s similar,” she said. In YDisciple, “we dove really deep and looked at a lot of aspects of our lives,” Brockhaus said. “It opened my eyes. I learned a lot about the church and my life. We took it to the next level.”

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Teachers from St. Bernadette School share their faith experiences guided by curriculum provided by the Evangelium Institute. Left to right: Becky McIntyre, Larry Andersen, Lynn Schultz, Tracey Strehle and Stacey Fanciullo.

Colleen Johnson

Teacher faith formation impacts students, whole schools Confidence, joy about the faith are fruits of Ignite the Faith BY ELIZABETH WELLS FOR THE CATHOLIC VOICE

ix years ago, Stacey Fanciullo wondered why she and other Catholic school teachers were being given “classes” for spiritual formation and personal faith development. “We thought it would be something we teach to students, but they kept saying, ‘It’s for you, to help you be stronger,’” said the K-8th-grade music and art teacher at St. Bernadette School in Bellevue about the formation formerly offered through the School of Faith – and now the Evangelium Institute – to Catholic school teachers and staff in the Archdiocese of Omaha. Today she sees the benefits. “If our relationship with Christ is strong, we show it through how we live. It makes us better wives and husbands, daughters and sons, better teachers.” The Evangelium Institute is an Omahabased, Catholic nonprofit organization, which, according to its website, “provides dynamic formation to adults in the Archdiocese of Omaha with the intention


St. Bernadette is one of 65 urban and rural archdiocesan schools receiving this formation and catechesis, which was underwritten by the Ignite the Faith campaign. One of the goals of the campaign, conducted between 2012 and 2014, was to improve faith formation and Catholic education.

It’s changed the environment at St. Bernadette so parents, guests and especially students can feel it when they walk in.

The institute and its predecessor, School of Faith, a nonprofit based in Overland Park, Kansas, achieved these goals through study of Scripture and the catechism, prayer and small-group discussions. The instruction provides teachers with information to share, said Fanciullo, adding it would be much harder “to pour into our kids’ buckets … to help shape their faith … without someone to help us.”

Presenters share their knowledge and faith journey, while teachers share their thoughts and faith experiences. “We are trying to be role models for the students. It’s beneficial to have someone like Deacon Gutiérrez and other teachers as role models,” Fanciullo said. “We get strength from each other.” The education and faith sharing builds confidence as well, said Lynn Schultz, principal at St. Bernadette. She believes this leads to joy and excitement about the faith that is genuine and contagious. “It’s given us a vehicle to share what once was private. What we’ve learned in the Bible and catechism all starts to make sense,” she said. “And when you plug your life into those areas, it becomes joyful to talk about … that’s when you are living your faith out loud.” “It’s changed the environment at St. Bernadette so parents, guests and especially students can feel it when they walk in.” Wil Kirwan is a seventh-grader who is new to St. Bernadette this year. He said he noticed right away that “the kids were more reverent at Mass and in the classroom.” In addition to being reverent, Becky McIntyre, who teaches K-8th Spanish at St. Bernadette, said it’s “a very welcoming, positive safe place to explore my faith.” “I feel I’m stronger in my faith … and a much better teacher and model for the kids now than when I first arrived three years ago.”

Elizabeth Wells

Each presenter has been a good fit, she said. “Especially Deacon Omar Gutiérrez … he knows so much about these topics, but he’s

down to earth, and it’s easy to understand what he’s talking about.”

Spanish teacher Becky McIntyre with St. Bernadette School seventh-grade students.

Colleen Johnson

of bringing those we serve closer to a lasting experience of Jesus Christ and His Church.” Adults then share their deepened commitment to the faith with children.

That’s important, she added, because “kids are so insightful and … can tell if you’re being real with them,” especially when it comes to living and practicing your faith. Students also benefit by seeing the teachers working on their relationships with Jesus, said both McIntyre and Fanciullo. Joshua Jansen, another seventh-grader at the school, has noticed the effort and sees the Evangelium Institute as “a way for teachers to learn how to teach kids how to be more Christian.” “It’s important because the primary goal of sending us here (to a Catholic school) is so when we get older, we can say our prayers, pray, and do it on our own,” he said. “They (the teachers) can’t show us how to do it, if they don’t do it themselves.”


Seminarian drawn to priesthood from early age Ignite the Faith funds facilitate his formation BY JOE FOREMAN FOR THE CATHOLIC VOICE

achary Eischeid first had thoughts of becoming a Catholic priest at a very young age – before he could comprehend the meaning of the Mass or the significance of the Holy Eucharist. “As a toddler, I didn’t fully understand what was going on at Mass, but I knew it was something that was supernatural. It was so mysterious,” Eischeid said. “Just seeing the other worldliness, I was drawn into it.”

Archdiocese of Omaha

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Eischeid, now in his first year of theology studies at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, was raised in a devout Catholic family on a farm outside Elgin. He attended St. Boniface School and Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School, both in Elgin.

Seminarian Zachary Eischeid of Elgin.

His interest as a toddler deepened during his early grade-school years.

forgive people for their sins – what the priests could do.”

“Growing up, in the second and third grade – getting into server training, being able to go to confession and receive the Eucharist, I wanted to be able to do that sort of thing,” he said. “I wanted to bring Christ to others,

As Eischeid grew older, his faith never wavered, but he began suppressing thoughts of becoming a priest in his early teen years. He took part in numerous Catholic youth activities – JC Camp, Quest, the March for


Support Our Priests $8.4 MILLION DISTRIBUTED Seminarians 23






Retired Priests 60





Seminarian Zachary Eischeid is grateful for the financial support of the Ignite the Faith campaign.

Life – but he didn’t want to be labeled by his peers as “that super religious guy.” “Subconsciously, I just kept pushing it (the priesthood) away,” Eischeid said. Looking back, Eischeid said the priests who were a part of his life growing up were not only role models, but also influential in a way he didn’t fully appreciate as a teenager. One who had a particularly strong influence on him was Father John Broheimer, now pastor of St. Peter Parish in Omaha, who taught theology at Pope John XXIII. “Every time he walked into the classroom, he just had this joy about him, like he was excited to teach,” Eischeid recalled. “He was so excited to bring the faith to us – just a beautiful witness.” “He had an answer for everything. All the questions I had and all the answers I didn’t have.” Eischeid wasn’t ready to commit to a vocation when he graduated from high school, but he did enroll at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where he began pursuing a degree in theology. It was near the end of his first year at Benedictine that Eischeid started giving serious thought to entering the seminary. While attending a priest ordination, he was overcome with emotion – a sign his future should be placed in God’s hands.

He prayed and sought guidance from priests and family members as he contemplated his decision.

I’m able to focus more on just the discernment aspect. It’s kind of crazy to think in four or five years, I’ll be ordained.

Father Andrew Roza, the Archdiocese of Omaha’s director of vocations, said finances shouldn’t be an impediment to the priesthood for young men like Eischeid. “We need to continue to support our seminarians,” Father Roza said. “We don’t know exactly what the demands of the future are going to be, whether it’s in terms of expenses or in terms of things that they’re going to need formatively to minister to future generations.”

“The sacraments were huge because it’s easier to discern with a clean soul, a very directed soul,” he said. “Confession was beautiful. With it, I even had conversations about it with a few priests in the confessionals. Talking with parish priests and talking with my family was very helpful.” Eischeid, 22, spent two years at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, before beginning his theology studies at Kenrick-Glennon. There, thanks to financial support from the Omaha archdiocese’s Seminarian Fund and the additional monies it has received through the Ignite the Faith campaign, his education is being funded.

Bridget McQuillan

Kenrick-Glennon Seminary


Father Andrew Roza, the Archdiocese of Omaha’s director of vocations.

Eischeid is grateful for the financial support. “It’s been incredibly helpful,” he said. “Not having that burden, I’m able to focus more on just the discernment aspect. It’s kind of crazy to think in four or five years, I’ll be ordained.”







Total Committed: $53,356,862 Million

Gifts Received to Date: $50,130,645



Goal: $40,000,000 $40




Parish Share:

$8,571,990 Distributed Back to the Parishes

URBAN: $2,749,185 RURAL*: $5,822,804 * Includes $1,164,560 for rural parishes and $4,658,243 for rural Catholic schools Distributions as of 10-10-19


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Ignite the Faith - Dec. 6, 2019  

Ignite the Faith - Dec. 6, 2019  

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