Archbishop blesses new Chesterton Academy of St. James in Menlo Park

By Mary Powers

The Chesterton Academy of St. James, the new classical high school in Menlo Park, held its inaugural Mass of the Holy Spirit and school blessing on Feb. 8. Archbishop Cordileone celebrated Mass in the main chapel at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University for students, parents, faculty, staff, board members and other supporters of the school.

With a goal to educate the whole person in a rich Catholic intellectual tradition, Chesterton Academy opened in Fall 2022. Young men and women are formed to be “joyful saints” by introducing them to great thinkers of Western Civilization such as Socrates, Thomas Aquinas and Dante.

Speaking about the Chesterton Academy model of classical education, Greg Billion, headmaster of Chesterton Academy of St. James, said, “It’s Catholic, but it also has the classical liberal elements that teach kids how to read, how to reason and then how to communicate effectively. It’s even higher than educating for virtuous citizenship. We get to sprinkle in the transcendent, which then transforms the world.”

In his homily, Archbishop Cordileone discussed the need for a childlike (not childish) view of the world—looking at creation and everything around us with wonder, which is the beginning of education. “Classical education cultivates within the soul the capacity to wonder, the ability to think, to explore and understand the mysteries of the universe,” he said. “As one ascends the levels of schooling…one preserves the childlike quality of wonder.”

Does classical education fit into 21st century high-tech life? Headmaster Greg Billion answers yes.

“The fundamental human elements found in classical education prepare one to go into a STEM field very well,” he said. “The problem is, if you take those formative years and just train students to perform activities but not to step outside and understand those activities, then they become malnourished and stunted in their formation. We’re seeing a lack of ability to figure out where’s my place in the world and a lack of ability to see the big picture.”

Following Mass, the Archbishop blessed the school located on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Seminary and University.

Powers is the Assistant Director of Communications and Media Relations for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Watch a video of the Mass and blessing at Chesterton Academy!