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Brian Barrett starts as new principal of St. Andrew School in Helena

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Dr. Brian Barrett

Dr. Brian Barrett, the new principal of St. Andrew School, talks with students outside the school.

“Ad Meliora” is Latin for “towards better things.”

This is the direction Dr. Brian Barrett, who taught Latin last school year at St. Andrew School in Helena, hopes to guide the private Catholic school to as its new principal.

“For me personally, this year the quote I keep coming back to in my mind is Hebrews 4 because I’m taking on something new here,” said Barrett. “I hope that I’m doing it in a way that is at the service of this particular school community ... I know how much forbearance is required of others' to work with me in this role, and I hope that I can reflect that forbearance that I see in the community and everyone else I am coming into contact with.”

He will build off the work of GG Grotbo, who was the previous principal and now serves as the advancement director at St. Andrew.

Barrett is standing outside to see students off at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday. There’s traffic, hellos, goodbyes and a few hugs as the high school students gather their bags and head toward a bus waiting to take them to the school's annual Salt and Light Retreat at Legendary Lodge, a camp owned by the Diocese of Helena on Salmon Lake.

Barrett stepped into his role as principal on July 1. St. Andrew has been an independent Catholic school for 26 years, since it opened its doors in 1996. The school was accredited in 2014, and it now serves grades K-12. Their mission on the school's website reads: “Trust in God, listen to His Word, and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance.” 

Each school year, the school picks a theme, and the theme for this year is First Corinthians 13:7.

“Love bears all things - Omnia suffert caritas..." said Barrett. "I think the work of renewal is hard, and it requires a great deal of forbearance on everyone’s part. That’s the theme I hope we continually come back to as we try to understand what it is we’re trying to 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 the assistant professor of Catholic studies at Carroll College and a scholar of Saint Thomas Aquinas, whose teachings she wrote her dissertation on.

Dr. Brian Barrett

Dr. Brian Barrett, who taught Latin last school year at St. Andrew School in Helena, is the school's new principal.

Barrett’s doctorate is in theology as well, with a specialty in patristic theology, the study of the early Christian writers who are designated Church Fathers.

One of Barrett’s favorite Church Fathers is Origen, who was an early Christian scholar, ascetic and theologian from Alexandria. His favorite Saint is Catherine of Sienna because, in short, of the beauty of her thoughts, writings, advice and accountability.

“Early on, in my own education, I knew I wanted to study theology,” said Barrett. “I went through Catholic school, and ... (theology) was the only thing I was good at and enjoyed. I loved thinking about everything else I was studying in relation to what I was learning in my theology classes.”

Barrett and Hemphill initiated and directed Notre Dame’s study abroad programs in Jerusalem from 2011-2014. This included organizing and conducting pilgrimages in the Holy Land as well. After this, they moved to Helena.

“(We) love the Helena community. It’s a great place to raise a family," said Barrett. "It’s a wonderfully tight-knit Catholic community. It’s beautiful here ... I love the mountains.”

Hemphill and Barrett currently have three daughters. Two attend St. Andrew in third grade and first grade, and the other is 9 months old. In his free time, Barrett enjoys spending time with his family and doing outdoor activities.

Barrett will also be the academic director for the Diocese of Helena’s permanent diaconate formation program that is being reanimated on top of his busy schedule this fall.

“That’s what makes a Catholic community precisely what it is, right? That we identify with one another in love and not because we just like each other or because we’re related to each other,” said Barrett. “I’m really just impressed with the dedication and devotion of families to this particular school. It’s been very moving to work with them and get to know them in this way.”

Megan Michelotti can be reached at megan.michelotti@helenair.com.

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