At St. John’s Prep School in Collegeville for most of the last 18 years, David Fremo has been able to use many of his gifts and talents — from teaching and administration to sharing his love for his faith and for nature as well as his musical abilities.
These capacities will serve him well as he begins as the new director of Catholic Education Ministries for the Diocese of St. Cloud. Fremo succeeds Linda Kaiser, who has held the position for 26 years. He starts his new position Jan. 6.
“It’s in my heart and it’s really been in my prayers for a long time to explore the kind of contributions I think I can make in the ministry of Catholic education,” Fremo said. “I feel like this is the work I’ve been called to do. This is my vocation — to work with others who are serving in ministry, to learn from them and to really empower them to live fully into it.”
Fremo, who grew up in Sartell, graduated from St. John’s University in 2001 — but not before pursuing work in the Christian music industry, interning in Nashville his senior year of college.
“It was an incredible experience, working among artists and producers who I idolized,” Fremo said. “I was a bit of a super-fan. But what was so incredible was being able to experience it firsthand and, at the same time, seeing that it really wasn’t what I felt called to. … I really had other things that I was interested in pursuing even more strongly than that. And one of them was more study in theology.”
After returning and finishing his undergraduate degree in music performance and composition, he accepted a teaching position at the prep school while also pursuing graduate studies at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary, earning a master’s degree in Scripture and systematics.
“St. John’s was the first time that I had really encountered the Catholic faith in a way that was personal,” he said. “I had the privilege of being able to work on campus in between each of my years as a student and met so many monks and met so many sisters. I wasn’t raised Catholic so I had nothing but questions for them — and curiosities. I just found them to be so open to sharing with me about how the environment they lived in provided them this amazing ability to pursue their faith, most importantly, with other people. It wasn’t just an isolated thing with me and God, but all of us and God. It was just so captivating.”
In 2002, Fremo went through RCIA and officially became Catholic in 2003. It was because of the witness of all the people he encountered through his work and education that helped him fall in love with the Catholic faith and the purpose of Catholic education.
“It really is something unique, and I think, in this time, in this day and age, it is so critical to the overall ministry of our Church,” he said. “Not just working with and reaching young people, but testifying to the world and bringing the Gospel into the world in a really powerful way.”
In addition to teaching at the prep school, Fremo also served for two years as assistant principal during which time he also attained a master’s degree in educational leadership from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He also further pursued graduate certification in Catholic school leadership with a focus on “forming yourself and helping to form others as leaders who become architects of Catholic culture.”
“Our schools and parishes are where we can provide the kind of environment where people experience everything that we teach, and everything that we believe, just by participating in their own lives,” he said.
“Any Catholic school structure or system is really grounded in teaching and learning. And I think that’s where my heart is and what I feel I can bring to the
needs of the diocese right now. We have an opportunity to unabashedly lead in defining what teaching and learning is all about. Like public schools, Catholic schools serve the public good and the common good. And we do it in a very unique way, but we don’t simply do it for the sake of our faith. And we don’t simply do it for the sake of whatever population of our schools happen to be Catholic. We do it for the sake of all humanity. … We are walking hand in hand with all of the people of the world.”
KEEPING THE VISION
Linda Kaiser has been walking hand in hand with people since coming to Catholic Education Ministries as the school consultant in 1993, after teaching and serving as principal in Catholic schools for 17 years.
“Sometimes I had crazy ideas,” Kaiser said, “And one thing I feel is that I was respected and trusted for my crazy ideas. I didn’t see challenges, I saw opportunities. If we could make a difference, I wanted to try it. Did we fail sometimes? Yes. But we chalked it up and learned and tried another way. That’s what I’m proud of — we kept on going, we kept the vision.”
Kaiser’s broad vision for CEM was to be a ministry of calling people to vocation.
“We called forth people, saying, ‘You have a gift.’ We called forth leaders. We saw the potential in them and gave them the tools to move ahead. We saw and are seeing them thrive and succeed in their roles,” she said.
During Kaiser’s tenure, she felt the mission of the CEM office was to practice lifelong faith formation. Some of the key resources for educators she helped bring to local Catholic schools were Ten Sigma, Marzano Research and the Barton System for students with dyslexia. Kaiser also represented the diocese in the creation of the regional school system, Catholic Community Schools.
She also headed up the safe environment team for the diocese, a role she will continue to hold once a new safe environment office is formed in 2020.
Additionally, under her leadership, a new program, Emmaus Institute, was developed to train lay leaders for ministry in parishes and Catholic organizations.
Her greatest reward, she said, has been watching students of all ages grow and succeed.
“Whether I had a little hand in it or not, I can’t help being proud of them,” she said. “They saw the potential in themselves, we saw it in them and we walked with them and guided them to reach their goals, even to reach beyond their goals to their dreams.”
Kaiser said in her retirement, which she calls “refirement,” she will “refire” herself to see where she wants to focus her energy.
“There was always a lot of life, a lot of fire, in the CEM office, and a lot of new ideas,” she said. “I think David will bring in a new perspective. Just as I built on the vision and mission that was here long before me, David will continue to build it and to build the Body of Christ.”
Like Kaiser, Fremo is a “people person.” He said his primary goal as the new CEM director is getting to know the people — the principals, teachers, catechists, volunteers, students and families.
“I am just so moved and humbled by the countless number of people we have engaged in our ministries who really have a hunger for journeying with people in their faith,” he said. “I want to know the people who are a part of Catholic education in parish life and school life. And I think that’s really the only way for all of us to move forward is to know one another and to be able to look at how we can go about what we’re doing — through forming relationships. What we are doing, we’re doing together.”