School is back in session for private and public systems alike, and one Catholic school has kicked off the semester in a preliminary partnership with a Phoenix Catholic High School.

Over the summer, Seton High School in Chandler, Arizona, adopted Sacred Heart School in Gallup as a sort of “sister school”. Sarah Serrano and Rob Curtis, both teachers at Seton, are heading the new partnership. During a visit to Gallup and Sacred Heart School earlier in the summer, they presented Bishop Wall with a “chapel” – a model of a church which represents a unique way for Seton to fundraise.

(Featured photo, above: Sarah Serrano, left, and Rob Curtis, right, present Bishop Wall with the chapel model)

“We have a chapel program – we have a chapel at Seton, and then they have a chapel here now that we presented to Bishop Wall,” said Serrano. “Everybody that sees it can put in money, and so it’s a way to constantly raise funds for the school.”

Serrano, who has family and friends in Gallup, said that she was first made aware of the needs of Catholic schools in the Diocese as a freshman in high school, when her mission group volunteered to work in Gallup over the summer. She formed a friendship with Anna Biava, now the development director for Sacred Heart School. Over the last year Serrano learned about the financial struggles of Sacred Heart.

“I went to Rob [Curtis] the next day and said ‘Look, we’re raising money for them. I don’t care what we have to do.’”

Several other teachers from Seton joined in, and soon the idea for the chapel program was born. According to Curtis, the chapel is only the start of the relationship between the two schools.

“Now we’re expanding it to take on a mentoring program for the school, between Seton and Sacred Heart. One of the things I’ve come to realize in the years I’ve spent in ministry is that we don’t do enough for the people in our own backyard. We’re very quick to go overseas but not very quick to look in our own backyard to serve the people in the most need.”

Barbara Kozeliski, principal of Sacred Heart School, stressed to the Seton teachers that the needs of Sacred Heart were twofold.

“I asked Barbara what the greatest need was at Sacred Heart – obviously there’s the financial need – but above and beyond that what is the biggest?” said Curtis. “And she came right out and said that the school also has a great deal of spiritual need.”

Curtis and Serrano hope to eventually set up a retreat program where students of both schools would come to share their faith together.

“We’re very quick to build houses, rake leaves, fix walls, but we sometimes don’t serve the spiritual needs,” said Curtis. “Seton has become a place with a strong Catholic identity, and the students at Seton very much want to share that faith with others. So our hope and prayer is that through this effort, we can encourage young people to come together to be excited about their faith, to see other students just like them who are celebrating their Catholicism.”

Seton High School is a four-year private institution which was founded in the 1950s, and 93% of students who attend the school are Catholic. Now that they’ve become somewhat of a sponsor to Sacred Heart School, Serrano and Curtis stress that the partnership is still in the beginning stages, but they look forward to bigger projects in the future.

“My hope is that it will become a permanent relationship,” said Curtis. “The chapel that we presented to Bishop Wall has the phrasing ‘One Family in Christ’, and it’s my hope and prayer that we begin to see each other as one family.”

Serrano and Curtis said they hope to set an example to other schools in the Diocese of Phoenix which might someday be interested in forming relationships with schools throughout the Gallup Diocese. Although the partnership is still being formed, staff from both schools have already expressed interest in supporting the relationship for the foreseeable future.

“Who knows,” said Curtis, “when you open the door to Christ and just let Him lead you, there’s no telling where He’s going to take you.”

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