Without hesitating, third-grader Ben Ogram boldly describes his school as “outstanding.”
The “outstanding” quality of St. Timothy’s School has been fostered through a vibrant faith community for more than 60 years.
First opening its doors on Sept. 4, 1951, St. Timothy’s School has been tirelessly committed to providing faithful Catholic education. Starting with just 80 students in six grades, enrollment is now at 128 with preschool through eighth grade.
Situated west of the Twin Cities in Maple Lake, the school draws students near and far to the town of just over 2,000 people. The small-town atmosphere and close-knit school and parish community were part of what captured the interest of Dawn Kincs, principal of St. Timothy.
Kincs initially came to the school as an interim principal. She assumed it would be a temporary position in between jobs. But, three years later, she is happy in her role as principal.
“There is a spirit about this place that is hard to describe, but everyone feels it,” Kincs said.
Having previously taught in both Catholic and public schools, Kincs deeply appreciates the working and learning environment at St. Timothy. We have a strong faith element, committed teachers, and everyone loves the school,” she said.
Individual attention, family feel
The family atmosphere and strong spirituality of St. Timothy is part of what attracts many parents, including Rachel Pribyl, mother of four students.
“I like the togetherness and family aspect of St. Timothy’s,” Pribyl said. “We couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
The Carriveau family also made the choice to send their son to St. Timothy.
“We wanted the faith-based education,” Scott Carriveau said.
The “family feel” is fostered through the staff’s commitment to individual attention and a passion for learning.
“We have three paraprofessionals on staff and an ‘SOS’ room for students who need extra help,” Kincs said. “We are committed to working one-on-one with the kids.”
The students are instilled with a passion for knowledge from day one. Project-based learning means many exciting activities for the young scholars, including a trip to the local flower shop for the preschool class.
Father John Meyer, pastor of St. Timothy Catholic Church, has witnessed this attention and support. “Once you send your children to the school, you become part of a larger community of caring, supportive teachers, staff and parents,” Father Meyer said. “St. Timothy’s has a strong, close-knit community and has a family feel to it.”
Expansion in progress
Kincs’ background in early childhood education meant she was thrilled to meet a growing demand by adding a preschool program to the St. Timothy community this year. The growth in enrollment meant shifting students around, though, especially after another recent addition of seven and eighth grades.
“The school was built for first through sixth grade. We have grown, and we need the room,” Kincs said.
With the seventh- and eighth-graders in the teachers’ lounge, the music class on a traveling cart, and the computer lab in a hallway, it is clear to staff and students alike that the school has outgrown its current walls. The parish began the expansion process by launching a capital campaign and asking for feedback about the priority of school and church projects.
“The addition of classrooms was among the top three priorities for the parish,” Father Meyer said. “People were very generous, and we were able to exceed the main goal for the campaign.”
Parishioners of St. Timothy have expressed their gratitude for the gift of Catholic education offered to their community.
“Many of our most active parishioners currently send their children to our school or have sent their children to our school in the past,” Father Meyer said. “The school is a great blessing to the parish. It brings a breath of fresh air, vitality and activity to the parish.”
The new addition, connected by a short hallway, will provide the school three classrooms and a resource room. The excitement is palpable as students and teachers discuss all the new ways they will be able to cultivate the spirit of St. Timothy’s.
With each change, though, the Catholic intellectual tradition is carefully preserved. “We add new technology, but we hang on to and focus on the rich Catholic tradition,” Kincs said. “We strive to have the best school academically, but we make sure we don’t lose those traditional pieces.”
Passing on the faith
The school’s spiritual practices perhaps best capture that reverence for tradition. A weekly school Mass, daily prayer, prayer services, Gospel reflections and saint plays are treasured additions to the students’ routines.
Students mark the liturgical seasons with additional spiritual practices. An extra weekly Mass is added to the schedule during Lent and Advent. Lent also means silent Friday lunches and live Stations of the Cross.
Father Meyer processes through the school with a monstrance every quarter, a tradition that started even before his arrival four years ago.
“It is a great reminder for all of us that the real leader of our school is Jesus,” Father Meyer said. “It helps the children to grow in their faith in Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist.”
Seventh-grader Audrey Madrid enjoys uniting her faith and education.
“I like that we can talk about God here,” Madrid said, adding that she appreciates the family bond their shared faith creates. “The school is small, and everyone knows everyone, so you’re friends with a lot of people.”
Love of God is what motivates the teachers, and they embrace their mission of catechesis. “We adhere strongly to the Catholic faith, and we treasure it,” said religion teacher Heather Quinlan.
“We recognize that passing on the faith, while providing a great education, is the most important reason for our mission,” Father Meyer said. “If we’re not passing on the faith by our teaching, prayer, works of charity and service, and more, then we might as well close our doors.”
With more space, growing enrollment and ardent support, St. Timothy is equipped to form many more generations of Catholic leaders and lifelong learners.
The Holy Spirit is made visible in the loving patience and dedication of the staff, in the warm kindness of the families and in the unshakable joy of the students.
“It’s that spirit that draws you in,” Kincs said. “The Holy Spirit is here.”