Local News

Meet our new Catholic school leaders

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Four schools in the Diocese of Crookston recently hired familiar faces as principals, and the part-time position of Director of the Office of Catholic Schools was filled this fall by a diocesan principal. They shared the following with Our Northland Diocese:

Andrew Hilliker /// Diocese of Crookston /// Director, Office of Catholic Schools

In October, Andrew Hilliker was named Director of the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools. In addition to this part-time position, he serves as principal of St. Joseph School, Moorhead, a position he has held since 2014.

Hilliker has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Minnesota State University, Moorhead. He is also Vice President of the Minnesota Nonpublic Schools Accrediting Association’s Board of Directors.

Hilliker said as Director of the Office of Catholic Schools he is steering the ship, but it would not be possible without the expertise and support of his fellow principals. He hopes to continue momentum that has been gained in the last few years. He said with nearly 1,500 students enrolled in Catholic education throughout the diocese, schools overall are experiencing growth. He considers this growth a testament to schools’ pursuit of excellence.

He has been married to Rose since 2014 and has two daughters, Lily and Adalyn.

What is the role of the Office of Catholic Schools?

“It’s important that our schools, mine included, know that we have support from the diocese, but also every one of our schools is unique in their own way, and so not to diminish their autonomy and their identity, but for all the schools to know that we are in this together. Catholic education, while it can look different in all of our schools, the ultimate goal is the same, so if we can do more together, we’ll be better off.”

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Cathy Larson /// Holy Rosary Catholic School, Detroit Lakes /// Principal

This is Cathy Larson’s 14th year at Holy Rosary. Before transitioning to the role of principal, she taught middle school language arts, art for first through eighth grade, some middle school level religion and portions of the middle school family and consumer science program.

Two years ago, Larson began work on a master’s degree in elementary administration through the University of Mary, Bismarck and will graduate in December.

She and her husband Troy have four children – Noah, 7th grade; Ella, 3rd grade, Johanna, Kindergarten and Zachariah, 4 years old. She looks forward to having all of them at Holy Rosary School with her next year before her oldest graduates.

Why are you passionate about Catholic education?

I am passionate about Catholic education because I believe in the importance of nurturing the development of the whole child: cognitively, morally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Through our small class sizes, faith-based & rigorous curriculum, the support of our Christian values, and with Jesus as our ultimate role model, Catholic school teachers and administrators are able and privileged to reinforce every aspect of a child’s development.

As a parent who enrolls her children in Catholic education, I appreciate that the values we work to instill at home are reinforced at school, along with an appreciation and love for Jesus and our Catholic faith.

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Laura Brickson /// St. Bernard’s Catholic School, Thief River Falls /// Principal

Laura Brickson is from East Grand Forks and graduated from Sacred Heart School. She earned a Bachelor of Science in education and Master of Science in elementary education from the University of North Dakota (UND). She taught at St. Bernard’s for 20 years before pursuing a doctoral degree in teaching and learning at UND. She was excited to return to the school and has shifted her educational journey to work on a Master of Science in education administration at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Brickson has enjoyed seeing her students grow through the years – some first grade students from the beginning of her career have graduated college, gotten married and started families of their own. She said she has enjoyed seeing them become wonderful young adults.

Why are you passionate about Catholic education?

“I truly believe that Catholic Education and St. Bernard’s School is on the cusp of something great! Our building plans are coming along nicely and will be able to facilitate future growth. Our passionate teachers are dedicated to creating a loving, faith-filled experience for the children. I know that we will all be able to join together to ‘Go Make a Difference!’ In fact, ‘Go Make a Difference’ has been our theme this year. Our goal is to empower our students with the skills to identify, plan, execute, and reflect on plans to address problems around us.”

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Joanne Wilson /// Sacred Heart School, East Grand Forks /// Principal grades K-6

Joanne Wilson is in her 19th year of ministry at Sacred Heart School. She is currently Sacred Heart School’s Dean of Academics and Principal for kindergarten-sixth grade.

She grew up in Grand Forks and attended St. Mary’s Elementary School. She earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education and physical education from University of North Dakota and taught in Lakota, North Dakota; and Seattle, Washington; before returning to the Red River Valley. During her years at Sacred Heart School, Wilson was the standardized testing coordinator and served on or chaired the committees for accreditation and strategic planning, faculty and staff hiring, and curriculum.

She recently completed a master’s degree in elementary administration through the University of Mary, Bismarck.

What is your favorite part of being principal?

The relationships built with students, families, and the faculty/staff. As a servant leader, it gives me the opportunity to partner with all in creating an educational environment grounded by faith and focused on empowering and supporting others to be their best.

Why are you passionate about Catholic education?

I am passionate about people being who God created them to be and using their gifts and talents to answer his call. Catholic education allows us to develop, nurture, and sustain a relationship with Christ while providing and furthering the skills and knowledge young people need to carry out his work within the school, parish, community, and throughout the world.

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Blake Karas /// Sacred Heart School, East Grand Forks /// Principal grades 7-12

Karas is the Sacred Heart School Activities Director in addition to serving as Principal for grades 7-12.

He grew up as a parishioner of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Braham, Minnesota. After graduating from University of Wisconsin, Fall River, with a degree in elementary education, he taught in St. Paul, Minnesota, for two years. He taught sixth grade for five years in Plainview, Minnesota. While there, he also served as the Head Varsity Boys Basketball Coach for three years and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Concordia University, St. Paul. He also enrolled in a program to gain administrative licensure. Karas was hired as Athletic Director and Physical Education Teacher at Sacred Heart School in 2017 and transitioned into the role of principal in 2018.

He is married to Hailey, a special education teacher at New Heights Elementary in East Grand Forks. Their son, Hudson, was born in May 2018.

What is your favorite part of being a principal?

“The favorite part of my job will always be my interactions with students. Helping students see the vision and reach their potential to be successful and Christ-like is my mission.

The last two years have been my first as a Catholic Educator but, without hesitation, they’ve been my best. It’s only in a Catholic school where students and staff can truly create a common goal and work together to fulfill God’s plans.”

Official Statements