“Ad Meliora” is the Latin word for “towards better things”.
It is in this direction that Dr. Brian Barrett, who taught Latin last year at St. Andrew’s School in Helena, hopes to guide the private Catholic school as its new principal.
“For me personally, this year the quote I keep coming back to is Hebrews 4 because I’m picking up something new here,” Barrett said. “I hope I do this in a way that serves this special school community…I know how much patience others have to have to work with me in this role, and I hope I can reflect this tolerance that I see in the community and everyone else I come in contact with.
It will build on the work of GG Grotbo, who was the former director and is now Director of Advancement at St. Andrew.
Barrett stands outside to watch the students leave at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday. There’s traffic, hellos, goodbyes and a few hugs as high school students gather their bags and walk to a waiting bus to take them to the school’s annual salt and light retreat at the Legendary Lodge , a camp belonging to the Diocese of Helena on Salmon Lake.
Barrett took over as director on July 1. St. Andrew’s has been an independent Catholic school for 26 years, since opening in 1996. The school was accredited in 2014 and now serves grades K-12. Their mission statement on the school’s website reads, “Trust God, listen to His Word, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Each school year the school chooses a theme, and the theme for that year is 1 Corinthians 13:7.
“Love endures all – Omnia suffert caritas…” Barrett said. “I think the work of renewal is difficult and requires a lot of patience on everyone’s part. This is the theme that I hope we will continually return to as we try to figure out what we are trying to achieve. accomplish as a school community.
Barrett met his wife, Dr. Hannah Hemphill, on their first day at Notre Dame, where they both studied theology. Hemphill’s doctorate is in theology, and she is an assistant professor of Catholic studies at Carroll College and a scholar of Saint Thomas Aquinas, whose teachings she wrote her thesis on.
Barrett’s doctorate is also in theology, with a specialty in patristic theology, the study of early Christian writers who are referred to as Church Fathers.
One of Barrett’s favorite Church Fathers is Origen, who was a Christian scholar, ascetic and theologian from Alexandria. His favorite saint is Catherine of Siena because, in short, of the beauty of her thoughts, her writings, her advice and her responsibility.
“Early on, in my own upbringing, I knew I wanted to study theology,” Barrett said. “I went to Catholic school, and… (theology) was the only thing I was good at and liked. I loved thinking about everything I was studying versus what I was learning in my theology classes.
Barrett and Hemphill initiated and led Our Lady’s study abroad programs in Jerusalem from 2011 to 2014. This also included organizing and conducting pilgrimages to the Holy Land. After that they moved to Helena.
“(We) love the Helena community. It’s a great place to raise a family,” Barrett said. “It’s a wonderfully close-knit Catholic community. It’s beautiful here… I love the mountains.
Hemphill and Barrett currently have three daughters. Two are attending St. Andrew in third and first grade, and the other is 9 months old. In her free time, Barrett enjoys spending time with her family and doing outdoor activities.
Barrett will also serve as the academic director of the Diocese of Helena Diaconate Continuing Education Program which will be revived in addition to his busy schedule this fall.
“That is precisely what makes a Catholic community what it is, isn’t it? That we identify with each other in love and not because we love each other or because we are related to each other,” Barrett said. “I am truly impressed with the dedication and dedication of the families to this particular school. It’s very moving to work with them and to get to know them in this way.