Kenya Fuemmeler is committed to keeping the “Catholic” in Helias Catholic High School.
“You should be able to tell from the moment you walk in the door that this place is Catholic,” said Ms. Fuemmeler, the school’s principal and newly appointed president.
That refers to much more than having a crucifix on the wall.
“It means being the hands and feet of the Church,” she said. “Our goal is for you to be able to recognize in every interaction with us that we are Catholic.”
Beginning this summer, Ms. Fuemmeler will be taking both the short and long view of that objective.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight has appointed her president of Helias Catholic in addition to her current role as principal, effective July 1.
She will continue serving as part-time interim diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools until a new one is appointed, which is expected before the end of the current school year.
She has been principal of Helias Catholic since 2015.
As president, she will succeed Father Stephen Jones, whom the bishop has appointed to the newly created role of diocesan director of stewardship.
The school is in the process of hiring a new assistant principal to collaborate with Ms. Fuemmeler.
The principal’s primary role is to lead day-to-day operations at the school.
The president is charged with building-up and solidifying relationships between the school and the larger community, “in order to keep Catholic secondary education viable in this area for future generations,” said Ms. Fuemmeler.
“The best version”
Bishop McKnight said Ms. Fuemmeler’s and Fr. Jones’s new roles reflect the success they’ve both had at Helias Catholic.
Fr. Jones has been the school’s president since 2015.
“His appointment comes from a position of strength because of the work that he, Ms. Fuemmeler and the whole leadership team have done to strengthen the position of Helias,” the bishop told the Helias Board of Directors and the Helias Advisory Council at a special meeting he called on Feb. 13.
“So now,” said Ms. Fuemmeler, “Fr. Jones can use his talents to promote stewardship, and I can help ensure the blue and gold vision of Helias continues to thrive and serve the community of Jefferson City for years to come.”
In just the past five years, the school’s enrollment has grown from 630 to 750 and is projected to reach 800 by 2022.
“That is a result of a concerted, team effort to continually promote our school,” said Ms. Fuemmeler. “It has also included some gracious donors out in the community who have helped us lower the tuition. We’re very grateful for that.”
She noted that Helias Catholic students consistently outpace the national average on standardized tests and other measures of academic success.
At the same time, a broad range of extracurricular activities helps them discover passions and talents beyond the classroom.
“We want to provide every student with the opportunity to succeed,” said Ms. Fuemmeler.
She said continuing to build-up the school’s endowment fund will be a key to keeping tuition affordable and advancing the school’s mission in the long term.
She pointed to the success of the school’s most recent capital campaign and the resulting growth and improvement of the facilities, including new science and art classrooms, a much larger chapel, more-functional administrative offices and the impressive Crusader Athletic Complex.
“There are signs everywhere that our community loves Helias,” said Ms. Fuemmeler. “But we can take none of that for granted. It’s essential that we continue to build-up those positive relationships.
“To do that, we have to be able to continually show that we are working to be the best school we can be for the sake of the Kingdom of God,” she said.
As principal, she spearheaded the creation of an accommodations program and an intervention team to help students of all learning abilities achieve success.
She also championed an expanded role for campus ministry at the school and the establishment of a school-wide “house system” to build-up community among students in all four grade levels.
“These are all part of what we’re doing to make sure students become the best version of themselves,” she said.
The school’s administration has been in ongoing discussions with Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri about how the Helias community can help with the transformation of the former Shikles Auditorium, located near the school, into a center of mercy and charity for people in need.
“Helias is excited to partner in the future with Catholic Charities regarding the community ministry of the renovated Shikles building,” said Ms. Fuemmeler. “This center of mercy and charity will create an opportunity for Helias students and staff to truly become the hands and feet of Christ in their local neighborhood.”
Ms. Fuemmeler noted that Helias Catholic was founded on the charisms of the de La Salle Christian Brothers and the School Sisters of Notre Dame “and their mission to educate boys and girls in an authentically-Catholic setting.”
That means maintaining excellence in a wide variety of academic and extracurricular offerings, as well as “infusing our entire curriculum with Gospel values” so that “our students graduate with a well-rounded education that is deeply rooted in faith,” she said.
“Building-up a community of faith is really, really important,” she stated. “We’re focused on getting our kids to heaven.”
She pointed to the steady presence of priests on campus and the availability of Mass and the sacraments.
“That’s something we plan on continuing,” she said.
“In greater measure”
As she prepares to take on more responsibility, Ms. Fuemmeler asks for prayers for “wisdom and guidance in all things” for her and the entire Helias Catholic community.
She’s grateful to all the teachers and staff who have helped maintain high standards of excellence while she and Fr. Jones have been carrying-out additional duties in the diocese.
“They are the ones moving the mission forward every day, regardless of who’s in charge,” said Ms. Fuemmeler.
She believes this is an exciting time to be part of the Church in this diocese.
“Bishop McKnight’s vision of a stewardship mindset will wind up permeating every fiber of our local Church, from parish life, to life in the classroom,” she said.
“We’re all being called to carry out our mission and calling in greater measure.”