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Rocket Theology Blog

Archbishop McNicholas High School Theology Department faculty discuss how McNicholas students are understanding, building, and living the Catholic faith in our classrooms and communities. 

Oct. 8, 2018--Heritage Week instills understanding, appreciation of foundation
Oct. 8, 2018--Heritage Week instills understanding, appreciation of foundation

Heritage Week instills understanding, appreciation of foundation
By Sam Roflow, Chair, Theology Department

JTM.JPGHeritage Week was established seven years ago with the goal to instill a sense of pride in our rich tradition at Archbishop McNicholas High School. Catholic schools are built on the foundation of the order of sisters, brothers, or priests who started the school and the mission of the school’s namesake. We felt it was important for our students and staff to have a proud understanding of this heritage. This connection to our founding became extremely important when the Sisters of St. Joseph, because of diminishing numbers, left our campus around the turn of the century.

As a result, the Theology Department designed a program for all new members of the McNicholas Community. Teachers in the Theology Department dug deep and researched what made up the foundation of Archbishop McNicholas High School. The first year, the entire staff and students experienced the resulting program.  The next year, and from that point forward, all new members of the community (freshmen and new staff) go through the program during Heritage Week in the month of October. Theology breaks the program into four instructional days with a test on the final day.

Monday - During freshmen Theology classes, students and new staff learn about the history, mission, and charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph, our foundresses.

Tuesday - The subject is the person of Archbishop John Timothy McNicholas. They learn about his roots as an Irish immigrant, his quick rise to bishop, and his legacy as Archbishop of Cincinnati.

Wednesday - A slide show and commentary illustrating the history and growth of McNicholas High School is explored.

Thursday - All of the foundational parts are put together to point to our future.  

Friday - The freshmen are tested on the information they learned so they understand the importance of knowing our heritage. (The staff gets to forgo this part of the program.)

We feel really good about the success of this program. Since it began, we have noticed that there is a much better understanding of who we are as a community. The staff has been very appreciative as this program has been part of the welcoming process. The improved understanding and appreciation of our heritage has brought students and staff together and helped to make our foundation vibrant and strong. It keeps our mission grounded in the spirit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and Archbishop John T McNicholas. And lastly, it is much easier for all of us to have a sense of pride in who we are as members of the Archbishop McNicholas Community.

Sept. 10, 2018--Kairos 115
Sept. 10, 2018--Kairos 115

Kairos 115
By Mary Beth Sandmann

K115.jpgForty-three students in the Class of 2018 took in the experience of the Kairos retreat in early August.  Over 4 days, they set aside the distractions and busyness of everyday life and spent time focusing on who they are, their relationships with family and friends, and who God is calling them to be.  Our hope is that these seniors returned with more awareness of the goodness within them, a better sense of the sacred in their lives, and that they are each loved deeply by their parents, family, and friends.

The summer retreat, held August 7-10 at the Jesuit Spiritual Center in Milford, was directed by Mrs. Val Combs and Mrs. Mary Beth Sandmann.  The student team gave much time over the summer break, and thoughtful effort into preparations for this experience for their classmates.  This team included Bryce Kellerman, Georgia Cheek, Carly Suttles, Carly Fehr, Liz Huber, Lillie Zimmerman, Shea Dugan, and Mark Dill.  They were supported by the adult team ,who with the directors, also gave their time and insights  to the retreat; Mrs. Julie Dill, Ms. Hannah Schwab, Mr. John Chadwell, & Mr. Trey Aultman.  Fr. David Doseck, along with Fr. Chris Geiger and Fr. Ed Smith led the group in Sacramental celebrations. 

Participants in this retreat were Christina Brunner, Jasmine Burkhardt, Jessica Cranes, McKenna Collins, Audrey Estes, Rylie Higgins, Madisen Imbus, Skylar Maushart, Katie McCort,  McKenzie Miller, Ellie Moss, Kate Murray, Christina Poole, Maggie Schoolfield, Julia Smith, Sally Smith, Sarah Snyder, Sophia Sponsler, Kelly Strotman, Brenna Threet, Olivia Tore, Ellie White, Myles Bailey, Cooper Billies, Chase Beuerlein, Anthony Brandt, Ben  Bravard, Josh Burkhardt, Garrett Estes, Bryan Fehr, Patrick Johnson, Aaron Lynd, Grant Murray, Jack Potter, Noah Robb, Nick Russo, Andrew Sarge, Josh Scales, Caleb Tenkman, Thomas Ton That, and Sam Witter.

We look forward to our next senior Kairos retreat that will be held October 30 – November 2, 2018.

Aug. 27, 2018--The BIG Read
Aug. 27, 2018--The BIG Read

The BIG Read
By Teresa Davis

Big_Read.JPGThis summer, my time was spent cleaning out my house of 15 years of accumulation.   Day after day, I made many runs to St. Vincent de Paul to donate, stuff the recycle bin to the top every week, and even placed furniture on the lawn with FREE! signs.  The furniture disappeared within hours each day, and the house is now lighter of things not needed. It was not easy deciding what was worthy of keeping at times, and sentimentality had to be kept at bay.  Throughout 15 years, I gathered stuff that was tossed aside this summer.  We live in a disposable society.  Sometimes “stuff” and human beings are lumped in the same category of disposable.   As Catholic Christians, we know that not one of God’s children is disposable.

The English and Theology Departments came together this past winter to brainstorm a collaborative read for students.   Books were brought to the table at each meeting to find ones for freshmen/sophomores and juniors/seniors that expressed a common theme. In May, we came to the realization that the 2018 Big Read for our students would be steeped in Jesus’s example and ministry that ALL people are worthy of life and dignity.   It is the cornerstone of Catholic Teaching:  All are made in the image and likeness of God and the dignity of all is inviolable; never can it be taken away.  Throughout the Gospels[1], we see Jesus shoulder-to-shoulder with those who had no voice in society, the forgotten and the outcast.   In Palestine 30 A.D., those who were discarded (neglected) were the poor, orphans, widows, and the sick (POWs as Mr. Norman teaches).  Jesus found them worthy and restored them to new life. Catholic living means loving and caring for all of God’s people from conception to natural death.

 In An Uncomplicated Life, Paul Daugherty introduces us to his extraordinary daughter, Jillian.  She has Down Syndrome but that doesn’t make her extraordinary; she is Paul Daugherty’s daughter and that’s what makes her extraordinary.  Jillian shines in the pages as we read that she becomes exactly who God meant her to be.  She is a resilient, smart, funny (sassy!) young woman who is capable of much, and full of love to spread.  Mr. Daugherty weaves Jillian’s growth through his own struggles, tears, joy and love of (for) his daughter.   Jillian teaches us lessons of inclusion, unconditional love, and the consequences on young people who are excluded.    As Catholics, we know we swim against a “culture-of-death” that wants to determine worthiness by standards of production, beauty, and perfection.  Jillian is someone we now know and can point to when speaking to the foundation of our faith.[2]

In his book Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson tells us a heart-breaking story that underscores that all people are worthy of life and dignity.   Mr. Stevenson takes us into spaces we would not often choose to go—jail, prison, and Death Row.  It is in the darkest of places that Mr. Stevenson shines the light of truth for those unjustly accused and the system-in-need-of-reform that put them there, as well as gives us the reality of the sin of racism.[3]  With the help of statistics, history and first-person accounts, we learn we have folks in society that have been put in dark places with no hope.   Mr. Stevenson speaks of a woman who chooses to be a ‘stone catcher,’ referencing, of course, the woman caught in adultery.[4]    Mr. Stevenson urges us all to be stone catchers, rather than stone throwers.   Why?  Because we have all sinned and we are each called to respond to one another with mercy and compassion, just as Jesus did throughout his encounters.  Justice cannot truly be, as defined in the Gospels, without mercy and compassion.[5]  Just Mercy is a compelling, hard read that is necessary.  Our Sister of St. Joseph, Sr. Helen Prejean, champions Mr. Stevenson’s writings and works as she has often stated, “All human beings are worth more than the worst thing (they have) done in their lives. Is that not the message of Jesus to all of us?” 

Our faith must be in our minds, our hearts and our feet (cognitive, personal, and active.)   These books identify the truth that all are worthy and give us reason to see that intrinsic value in ourselves and others, and then go out into the world and be the example of Christ.  English and Theology will unpack both books in various activities and assignments throughout 2018.  

My house is clean and lighter now.  There’s a plaque by the front door—“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” [6]   The Big Read of 2018 will certainly help me do that.



[1] Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37; Man born blind John 9:1-12; Centurion’s servant healing Luke 7:1-10; Woman at the Well John 4:1-42 ; Faith of the Caananite Woman Matthew 15:21-28  ; Raising of Widow’s Son at Nain Luke 7:11-17  (just a few of many examples)

[2]  Additional reading:  Evangelium Vitae      

“A Perfect Gift”;  

[3] Responding to the Sin of Racism

[4] John 8:1-11

[5] Works of Mercy

   Beatitudes  Matthew 5:1-12

[6] Joshua 24:15


Aug. 20, 2018--Theology curriculum at Archbishop McNicholas (Roflow)
Aug. 20, 2018--Theology curriculum at Archbishop McNicholas (Roflow)

Theology curriculum at Archbishop McNicholas
By Sam Roflow, Department Chair

Archbishop McNicholas High School has a rich and multi-faceted approach to a Catholic education for young men and women. The Theology Department follows the “Bishop’s Framework” for Catholic high schools teaching the students current Catholic teachings in the basics of their faith. This learning takes place in the classroom and is the academic portion of a student’s education. The Campus Ministry Department offers each student the opportunity to learn through various religious experiences and to apply what they learn in the classroom.  This takes place outside of the classroom and sometimes outside of school.

The Theology curriculum follows the “Bishop’s Framework.” When this was mandated a couple of years ago in Archdiocesan Catholic high schools, Archbishop McNicholas did not have to make many adjustments. It turns out that we were already teaching a solid Catholic curriculum, what the Bishops were trying to do in their mandate. This made sense to us because our students always do well on the ACRE Test, the national Catholic standardized test measuring students’ knowledge of their faith. The Archdiocesan office had some of the other schools contact us for various recommendations on how they could improve their alignment with the new system. All Archdiocesan high schools, including Archbishop McNicholas, did have to buy the new “Framework” textbooks for their courses. All Theology courses are semester classes. The curriculum is as follows:

9th Grade          
– This course explores the preparation for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, in the Old Testament.

Christology – This course studies the life, ministry and message of Jesus Christ as the center of our lives.

10th Grade        
Catholic Morality – This course explores Catholic moral principles, human sexuality, life issues and basic decision-making skills for Catholics.

Church – This course looks at the Church over the centuries, Church leadership and Church involvement in the world.

11th Grade        
Sacraments – This course studies the rich tradition of sacramental theology and practice. It also looks at living sacramentally.

Vocations – This course explores how we are called by Christ for a purpose, whether it be to the ordained priesthood, consecrated religious life, married life or committed single life.

12th Grade        
Social Justice – This course studies the social teachings of the Catholic Church through encyclicals and pastoral letters over the years. The Service Practicum is presented during this class.

World Religions – Vatican II called for a mutual understanding and respect between Catholics and those of other religious traditions. This course helps students have at least a minimal understanding of other mainline religious traditions.

The Campus Ministry Department plans and implements liturgies, retreats and service opportunities for the entire Archbishop McNicholas Community.  Look for more information on these opportunities in future posts!

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