W. MI school replaces student government with house system

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Traditional student government no longer exists at Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids. In its place is a system that resembles what students at Hogwarts are a part of in the “Harry Potter” series, involving houses with head boys and head girls, competing for points and a house cup.

The purpose of the system at Catholic Central is very different than in the magical fantasy books.

“The intention of our house system is that we’re trying to take our mission, to know and love and serve God, to seek knowledge and truth, to serve our community, all those good things that our school has already done and give more intentionality to that,” explained Peter Dewitt, the dean of students who is in charge of the house system.

There are four houses, each representing a different saint or soon-to-be saint. Romero House, Casey House, Teresa House, and Kolbe House in honor of Oscar Romero, Solanus Casey, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Maximilian Kolbe.

The class of 2020 helped name each of the houses, giving students a role model to try to emulate throughout the year.

Brigita Felkers is the head girl of Kolbe House, similar to being class president, except each house has a head boy and a head girl.

“Our saint, Maximilian Kolbe, was in World War II at a concentration camp and sacrificed his life for another man who lived through Auschwitz. We really hone in on that sacrifice and what we can do for other people. That is what our house strives to achieve is sacrificing, being there for others and honoring each other,” Felkers said.

The house system all takes away the division between grades. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors are all mixed in each house. Students will stay in their respective houses all four years.

Siblings will always be in the same house, and eventually, years from now, the children of current students will be in the same house as well.

They meet in small groups within each house, known as Coram Deo — a Latin phrase translated “in the presence of God.”

Those groups are like a homeroom and create an automatic family for every student. 

“So, if you don’t play football, if you’re not in the band or musical, you’re just a freshman who is coming in, you’ve got a crew, you have a family,” Dewitt said.

The competitions help bring the students in each house together, hoping to earn points that will win them the house cup at the end of the year.

Cameron Beachler is the head boy of House Romero.

“I definitely think that there is so much more union within the whole student body. I remember freshman year, looking up to seniors like they’re big and intimidating. I didn’t know too many of them, but with this house system you feel as though you are part of a family,” Beachler explained.

Instead of seniors rigging homecoming activities in their favor, the students in different grades worked together this year to earn points for their houses. Freshmen were on top of the mattresses in the mattress races, cheered on by hundreds of their peers all chanting their house name.

Because the house system is new this year, the school is still working out some of the details.

School officials unveiled the crests for each house to the students this week, which will eventually decorate the spaces in the building that will be dedicated to each house.

For example, Romero House could end up using the student life center as its home base, while Casey House uses the gym, and so on. Each crest has imagery that reflects the house’s saint, such as the Kolbe House crest, which includes Maximilian Kolbe’s number from the concentration camp.


Oscar Romero

Saint Oscar Romero was canonized in 2018. He was murdered while celebrating Mass in El Salvador in 1980 after speaking on the radio about a military junta that had seized control of the national government.

His weekly radio sermons were regarded by many as the most trustworthy source of news available. In his homily, he appealed to the soldiers to disobey their orders, which became his death sentence. The next day, a small group of men drove a sniper to the chapel to kill him.

At the Vatican, tens of thousands of Catholics attended his canonization, including about 5,000 who traveled from El Salvador. Many cried, sang and prayed when Romero officially became a saint.

Solanus Casey

Blessed Solanus Casey is a priest from Detroit who is one step away from becoming the first American-born male Catholic saint. Blessed is the title given just before sainthood.

 Solanus died 60 years ago as a member of the Capuchin Franciscan Order of St. Joseph who helped found the popular Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit. He was known for taking the time to listen to people’s worries. He was born in 1870 to immigrants from Ireland who had 16 children.

The soup kitchen he helped start during the Great Depression was a haven for unemployed workers who would show up begging for food. It is now one of the most well-known in Detroit, serving 60,000 meals a month.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, now Saint Teresa, lived from 1910 to 1997. She was a Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world.

She spent many years in Calcutta, India where she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation devoted to helping those in great need. She became a symbol of charitable, selfless work and was canonized in 2016. 

“It is not how much we do,

but how much love we put in the doing.

It is not how much we give,

but how much love we put in the giving.”

Mother Teresa, “No Greater Love”

Maximilian Kolbe

Maximilian Kolbe OFM Conv. was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II.

In 1939, during WWII, at Niepokalanów he welcomed thousands of refugees, especially Jews. In 1941, Kolbe was arrested by the Nazis and taken to the Auschwitz.

Pope John Paul II canonized him as a saint and martyr of charity on Oct. 10, 1982. Kolbe is considered a patron of journalists, families, prisoners, the pro-life movement, the chemically addicted and those with eating disorders.