In the educational landscape, and in society as a whole, the differences between men and women have been rejected. Few remain who see these important distinctions as indications of a Divine plan. Meanwhile academic progressives are waging war on the biological differences between men and women in the name of a false form of “equality.” Catholic schools have been fighting against this cultural trend for years, including Catholic men’s schools. However, fewer Catholic women’s schools exist with this same purpose. Christendom alumnae came together to change that last year, forming the St. Edith Stein School for Girls — a high school dedicated to the nurturing and flourishing of the feminine vocation.
Led by Dian Schmiedicke, a friend of Christendom and the founder of Divinum Auxilium Academy, a group of Christendom alumnae and other women came together last year to answer a need: providing an authentically feminine high school education which seeks to form young women in what is virtuous, real, and lovely. Their answer was St. Edith Stein School for Girls, which opened its doors for the first-time last fall.
“We saw a real poverty in contemporary education to respond to the needs of young women—both academically and personally,” says alumna Jessica Jansen ’00, who is a faculty member at the school. “High school is really a unique epoch in a young woman’s life: before she can answer larger career or vocational questions she must first encounter a place in which to discover who she is as a daughter of God the Father. Our focus at St. Edith Stein is on forming young women who know themselves and who are academically, practically, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for whatever they feel called to do.”
With a small inaugural student body and a faculty which featured alumnae Anna Hatke ‘03, Jessica Jansen, Anne Jansen ’04, and Christendom professor Dixie Lane, St. Edith Stein thrived in its first year, according to Jansen. Students dove into an academically challenging curriculum that consisted of classical subjects such as the humanities, natural history, mathematics, and language, but also participated in practical workshops in such areas as permaculture gardening, nutrition and health, etiquette, and classical barre.
This synthesis of the liberal arts with varied, practical applications is essential to the mission of St. Edith Stein School, which seeks to form young women who desire a true and meaningful Christian freedom in the practice of piety, service, creativity, and resourcefulness. The school may still be very young, but the fruits of it and its mission are already being seen in its students, according to Jansen.
“We are starting to witness the creation of a school culture in which these girls can become young women—peacefully. We older women want to invite the younger ones to step gracefully beyond childhood to take their place confidently in a community of adults,” concludes Jansen.
In forming the school, the Jansens and Hatke are joining a great tradition of Christendom alumni going into the educational field following graduation. Alumni John O’Herron and Denny Pregent started Cardinal Newman Academy in Richmond, Virginia, in 2017, while alumnus Dan Miller founded Holy Cross Academy in Oneida, New York, in 1997. Others have gone on to become headmasters, principals, deans, and teachers at a variety of schools across the nation at every level, from elementary to college.
Christendom’s educational mission — to “restore all things in Christ” — means many have taken on the noble duty of educating the next generation in the true, the good, and the beautiful, just as Christendom founder Dr. Warren H. Carroll did in the 1970s. The alumnae serving at St. Edith Stein School, along with the rest of the faculty, are the latest to take on this duty, making education better as a result.