By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
Gretchen Montgomery’s strong, vibrant love of the Catholic Church, her dedication to educating children and her affinity for music have combined to define Mount St. Michael Catholic School for 32 years.
Montgomery, who has served as Mount St. Michael’s principal for the last 18 years, will retire at the end of the school year, leaving a legacy of a faith-filled school devoted to academic excellence, classical education and spiritual formation.
Mount St. Michael first-grade teacher Judy Munchrath will succeed Montgomery as principal at the end of this school year.
Since she started teaching at the school in 1986, Montgomery has embraced all aspects of the community of Mount St. Michael, which is an apostolate of the Christian Community of God’s Delight.
“I’ve been married to the school for 32 years,” she said with a smile as she looked out her office windows at the peaceful grounds on a recent May morning. “Now, I’m going to be Bob’s wife.”
She and Bob, her husband of 34 years, plan to travel and do some hiking, said Montgomery, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy and master’s degrees in Catholic School Leadership and Theological Studies.
But she never will be far in spirit from the Mount St. Michael campus, which is home to 130 students from 40 zip codes.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” she said. “Taking our children to the Lord and providing opportunities for them to have personal encounters with Christ is the ultimate reason for this school to exist.
“We’re intentional about teaching our children in the way God created them to learn.”
The Montessori method and daily Mass are among Mount St. Michael’s offerings that appeal to parents, Montgomery said.
Montgomery, a member of the Christian Community of God’s Delight since she was 12, plays guitar with the students at Mass and plans to take guitar lessons in retirement.
“Music is the language of my soul,” said Montgomery, who sang with the Texas Girls’ Choir. “I was always drawn toward using music in education.”
Mount St. Michael teacher and former student Virginia Dueñas said that Montgomery’s faith, consistency and demeanor set an exemplary tone.
“I have known her in many capacities,” Dueñas said. “She was my first-grade teacher, my daughter’s principal and now my principal or boss. Many things remain the same: Gretchen is a great model of sophistication and class.
“She exudes confidence in all she does and has been a great example of what it means to be a steward of Christ to all.”
Montgomery counts the opportunity to help children encounter the Lord in a personal way as a great blessing.
“They’re going to be able to go out into the world and transform the world for Christ,” she said.
Melissa Castro, who has taught at Mount St. Michael for 23 years, said that Montgomery served as an inspiring mentor who helped teachers grow in their faith.
“She has had such a large impact on the school from the beginning,” Castro said. “She has been a stable rock over all these years. The children of this school are her children. This is her vocation.”