Meet Our Alumni

Amy Reger

Amy Reger

Class of 1992

“At Billings Central Catholic High School, I learned how to live my faith and found joy in serving others through the volunteering programs that I joined.” – Amy Reger, Alumna

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Amy Reger, Class of 1992
Alumna and Parent

When it came time for Amy Reger to attend high school, her parents gave her the choice between public school or Billings Central Catholic High School.

“I am so grateful that I chose Billings Central,” she said. “At Central, I was no longer just a face in the crowd or a number. I received an excellent education, had defining life experiences, and developed my faith.”

Life at Billings Central Catholic High School

Reger remembers feeling like someone was always watching out for her and supporting her during her time at Central – whether a peer, educator, or parent.

“The small classroom sizes and positive environment allowed me to feel comfortable to ask questions, make mistakes, and be vulnerable,” she said.

The education was also top-notch. She credits Mrs. Maddox for developing her strong writing skills, which prepared her for success in college. She also strengthened her faith in school.

“I learned so much from my religion teacher, Ms. Smith, and I will never forget how she encouraged us to be curious in our faith formation,” she said. “I learned how to live my faith and found joy in serving others through the volunteer programs that I joined.”

Reger graduated from Billings Central Catholic High School in 1992. She went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in Communication Disorders and Audiology, as well as a master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology. Since then, she has worked as a speech language pathologist in public schools and clinical settings. And the values of the Billings Catholic Schools have stayed by her side through this journey.

Giving Back

Two of Reger’s four children are currently attending Billings Catholic Schools – one in eighth grade and the other in third grade. Her oldest daughter graduated from BCCHS in 2021 and is now attending Gonzaga University. They are third generation – as Reger’s parents and mother-in-law are also products of Billings Catholic Schools.

As a parent, Reger has found opportunities to be involved with the school system and support her children and their teachers. She has assisted in classrooms, worked as a lunchroom aide, and chaperoned field trips. She also helped to plan Ram Jam, an all-night alcohol-free graduation party.

Billings Catholic Schools have additionally created service opportunities for her family. Together, the Reger family has picked up trash in the athletic field as a part of her son’s sacramental prep service project. Her dad has even helped the middle school science teacher, Mr. Dale Rumph, in the greenhouse. These activities have strengthened her children’s faith and life skills preparedness.

“I believe that Billings Catholic Schools focus on the whole child,” she said.

Reger has also found a calling to donate to Billings Catholic Schools Foundation.

“I believe in ensuring a seat at the table for all families,” Reger said. “Every parent who wants a Catholic education for their child should have that opportunity. That’s why the Billings Catholic Schools Foundation provides scholarships and assistance to countless families who need a hand up.”

She remains inspired by loved ones who have served the Foundation before her, as well as by those who contribute their gifts of time, prayer, and financial support to the security and development of Billings Catholic Schools.

Fr John Pankratz

Fr. John Pankratz

Class of 2010

“In a world of darkness, BCS has a fantastic opportunity to be a great light to our students, our families, our Church, and the wider community, and that light can be nothing less than the Light of Christ.” – Father John Pankratz, Alumnus

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Fr. John Pankratz, Class of 2010
Diocesan priest of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings
Parochial Vicar of St. Patrick Co-Cathedral in downtown Billings

Father John Pankratz grew up in a household that placed God first. Attending Mass on Sunday wasn’t the only expectation; their family lived the Catholic faith every day. John, his parents, and his seven siblings prayed every night before bed as a family. His parents taught the faith at home, and the entire family was involved in their local parish.

When he first stepped foot into St. Francis Upper as an eighth grader in the fall of 2005, he wasn’t totally surprised by the experience.

“Before this I was homeschooled, so St. Francis was my first experience of conventional school,” he said.

His family has had at least one child in the system for 17 consecutive years and counting. All of them have graduated from BCCHS except for one brother who will graduate in 2025.

It has been a financial sacrifice for his parents to put their eight children through Billings Catholic Schools. However, it was a decision that would be life changing – especially for John.

Billings Catholic Schools Experience

John became involved in every activity at Billings Catholic Schools that he could fit into his schedule. He played soccer and tennis, was on the debate team and academic team, participated in honor choir, and was in the musicals all four years of high school. During the fall of his senior year, he was on the soccer team that won the first state championship in Boys Soccer for BCCHS in 2009. He graduated as salutatorian of the Billings Central Class of 2010.

“To be a part of a local community centered on Christ has been a blessing for me personally both as a student and now as a priest,” he said.

As a priest, he has served as an assistant coach for the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams at Central High School. Father Pankratz has also been a substitute teacher in religion and math, as well as saying Masses at both schools, hearing confessions, serving on retreats, and leading a faculty Bible study. In the fall, he will teach religion half-time at Billings Central.

“As an alumnus and member of the community, I feel like not only do I belong to BCS, but that BCS belongs to me, in the sense that it is my community, my school, my teachers, my students, my sports teams, and my community’s future,” he said. “It has been a joy to reconnect with BCS and give back in my unique role as a priest.”

A Calling to the Priesthood

After graduating from Billings Central, Father Pankratz attended Montana State University in Bozeman to pursue bachelor’s degrees in Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

“During my final year of college, I felt a strong tug on my heart to go to the seminary and see if priesthood is what God wanted for my life,” he said.

After graduation in 2015, he applied and was accepted to the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. He then enrolled at the Saint Paul Seminary in St. Paul, MN, where he studied philosophy for two years. He went to Rome for major seminary at the Pontifical North American College for four years. While in residence there, he studied theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) in 2020 and a Diploma in Pastoral Theology in 2021. While in seminary, he was ordained a transitional deacon in St. Peter’s Basilica. He was ordained a priest in St. Patrick Co-Cathedral in Billings by Bishop Michael Warfel.

A Brighter Future

Father Pankratz believes Billings is fortunate to have a robust Catholic education system.

“In a world of darkness, BCS has a fantastic opportunity to be a great light to our students, our families, our Church, and the wider community, and that light can be nothing less than the Light of Christ,” he said. “We must strive to educate the whole person in each and every individual child, which means not only preparing them for life on this earth, but always looking ahead to the eternal destiny that God has planned for each one of them.”

From bedtime prayers to serving the community as a priest – Father Pankratz’s journey in the Catholic faith has become an opportunity for him to help others know, love, and serve God.

Ryan Toner

Ryan Toner

Class of 2010

I enjoyed my experience in the Catholic schools and was able to develop long and meaningful relationships with people that are still present and have made a positive impact on my life.” – Ryan Toner, Alumnus

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Ryan Toner, Class of 2010

Ryan Toner and his older sister, Ashley, attended Billings Catholic Schools from kindergarten through graduation. Their family chose BCS because their mom, Sally, was a special education and physical education teacher there for more than 30 years.

“She kept an eye on my sister and me,” Ryan Toner said. “While we didn’t have her as a teacher, she did occasionally substitute in some of our classes.”

Life as a Ram

During his time in school, Toner shared in a greater family community created by the Billings Catholic Schools system.

“Jesus’ life is a great example on how to treat others by his kindness, service, and forgiveness and those actions are at the forefront of the Billings Catholic Schools,” he said. “I love the smaller community and the values the Catholic Schools embrace.”

Toner played Ram football and participated in the math club during his time at Billings Central. He was also on the tennis team, and they won the state championship during his junior year in 2009.

“Our team was very close and we were all good friends,” Toner said.

He and his tennis partner also placed fourth in the state that year.

“We didn’t have any expectations on placing, but we were playing our best tennis at the right time and we were having a lot of fun doing it,” he said.

Preparations for Life

After graduating in 2010, Toner went on to attend Rocky Mountain College for business management. Now, he is a banker at Yellowstone Bank in Billings. While he is not Catholic, Toner credits Billings Catholic Schools with helping to shape him as a person and prepare him for the rest of his life.

“The teachers I had at BCS were so helpful,” he said. “They prepared me for life by sustaining a relationship with me through college and even after. They were truly an invaluable resource.”

Toner serves on the Billings Catholic Schools Foundation board, where he is on the financial committee and the young adult subcommittee.

“Donating to the Billings Catholic Schools Foundation is important to me because it provides students across Yellowstone County the opportunity to obtain a great education,” he said.

Looking forward, Toner said he will continue to support the school that gave him a solid start.

Nolan Trafton

Nolan Trafton

Class of 2014

“I truly believe in the Catholic community of Billings and what Billings Catholic Schools does.” – Nolan Trafton, Alumnus and Teacher

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Nolan Trafton, Class of 2014
Alumnus and Teacher

Billings Catholic Schools has been a major influence in Nolan Trafton’s life since he was three years old.

“My mom started working as a preschool teacher and wanted to put all of us through Billings Catholic Schools,” Trafton said. “I’m grateful for that.”

Since then, he and his three brothers have all graduated from Billings Catholic Schools.

Billings Catholic Schools Experience

Trafton grew up watching his older brothers be active in school activities and bring friends over after school. He wanted that for himself, too – and that’s what happened.

“It’s such a close-knit community,” Trafton said. “We can share in the one big thing we have in common, which is our faith, and living in that faith community.”

Trafton played on the Central Rams soccer team for four years and was on the tennis team two years. After graduation in 2014, he stayed involved as a soccer coach for Billings Central, becoming the head coach in 2019. He also worked for the afterschool program at St. Francis Primary School.

“In some ways, I never really left,” he said.

Looking back on his time as a student, Billings Catholic Schools impacted many areas of his life.

“Not just academics or athletics, but also in my faith, academics, athletics, learning how to be a community member, and learning how to communicate with people.”

He has seen this growth in his BCS peers, as well.

“Their success is rooted in BCS, too,” he said. “They’ve learned attributes that have led them to be successful outside of the Billings community, as well.”

Teaching at his Alma Mater

Trafton graduated from Montana State University Billings with degrees in elementary and special education in 2018. In the fall of 2018, he landed his first teaching job at Billings Catholic Schools, where he also student taught.

“In many ways I didn’t realize how important it was or how critical it was to my life until I left,” he said. “In college, the simple things that are woven into the everyday life of being at BCS were missing, like starting the day with prayer in the classroom. That was when I realized how special and unique the Catholic education system is.”

As a fourth-grade teacher, he would often hear parents of his students say, “They just loving going to school,” which reinforced that he was in the right place.

“I love that I’ve been able to create that atmosphere for them to feel that way about school and being comfortable in my classroom and safe in that environment,” he said. “It’s not just me, but it’s the whole school. I’m really blessed to have the opportunity and privilege to do so.”

Now, Trafton is teaching high school theology at Billings Central.

Continuing to Serve

Trafton is completing his master’s degree in school administration through the University of Mary online. He expects to graduate in 2023 – and has high hopes to continue to serve the Billings Catholic Schools community.

“I hope to make a career out of BCS,” he said. “I truly believe in the Catholic community of Billings and what Billings Catholic Schools does.”

Christine Harris

Christine Harris

“We feel that our association with Billings Catholic Schools has blessed our entire family and we are profoundly grateful.” – Christine Harris, Parent

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Christine Harris
Parent, Volunteer, Donor

On an average school day at Billings Catholic Schools, you can find Christine Harris reading to children in classrooms, helping them with art projects, and even opening juice boxes in the cafeteria.

“I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve spent doing these things for anything in the world,” said Harris, a parent. “Volunteering has helped me find a deeper appreciation for the teachers and staff at Billings Catholic

Schools. They love our children dearly, as I see evidence of this every time I am at the school.”

A Family Connection

Harris was raised Catholic, so when it came time to choose a school for her children, Billings Catholic Schools was a natural choice. She and her husband also liked the idea of their children going to a school with smaller class sizes and a sense of community.

“Once we began our journey there, we knew we had made the right decision,” she said.

The Harris family’s four children have been enrolled in Billings Catholic Schools almost continuously since 1998.

“We have had a wonderful experience across classrooms, from preschool through to 12th

grade,” she said. “We value and appreciate the dedication of the administration, faculty, and staff who consistently strive to offer the best combination of religious and academic education for our children.”

Their oldest son is a graduate from the Class of 2012 and has obtained his law degree. Their oldest daughter from the Class of 2014 is a CPA. Their two youngest are in the Billings Catholic Schools system now.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the quality of the education they are receiving,” Harris said. “Intellectually, our children are given the tools they need to succeed in their scholarly pursuits.”

Billings Catholic Schools Experience

Harris said she appreciates the school-wide Thursday Masses, sports teams, and traditions that encourage students to grow in their faith. She has also witnessed her children learn the importance of love for God, prayer, and service.

“We have been so pleased with the experiences that each of our children has had, and which our

two youngest continue to have at Billings Catholic Schools,” Harris said. “We feel that our association with Billings Catholic Schools has blessed our entire family and we are profoundly grateful.”

The positive experiences she and her children have had led Christine and her husband to get involved at a deeper level. In 2022, they served as the chairs of Mayfair. They were involved with planning, fundraising, securing sponsorships and auction items, as well as decorating for the event itself.

“We were honored to be asked to step into this role and we found the experience to be challenging, but deeply rewarding,” she said. “We are pleased to donate to the Billings Catholic Schools Foundation because we believe strongly in the value of a Catholic school education and we believe that it should be an opportunity that is open to everyone, regardless of income or financial means.”

Worth the Sacrifice

Paying tuition in support of four children at Billings Catholic Schools means making some financial sacrifices in their family.

“We believe that a Catholic School education is the best investment we can make for our children’s faith formation, academics, and overall happiness,” she said. “It’s a worthwhile sacrifice for us.”

And it’s the little things throughout the day that Harris has noticed about her children that reinforces the impact Billings Catholic Schools is having on their family.

“If I am in a hurry and forget to say our morning prayers, my youngest son will remind me,” she said. “If someone we know is sick or hurting, he asks to include them in our prayers. These are values they’re being taught at school.”

Michele Mattix

Michele Mattix

“The Billings Catholic Schools have blessed me in so many ways. I truly love my students like they are my own children.” – Michelle Mattix, Teacher

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Michele Mattix

Michele Mattix is the product of Catholic schools. In fact, Catholic education runs deep in her family – throughout four generations.

Generations of Catholic School

While Mattix was growing up in Great Falls, her mother served as the principal of Our Lady of Lourdes for 15 years. Mattix and her five siblings attended school there. However, by the time she finished ninth grade, the Catholic high school had closed, which forced her to attend a public high school.

“There, I felt lost and invisible,” she said.

She made her way back to a Catholic education when she attended Carroll College in Helena, graduating with degrees in English, Communications, and Secondary Education. There, she also met her husband, who had graduated from the Catholic school system in Butte, as well. They’ve been married 41 years.

Fast forward to the 1990s, and the Mattix’s three children attended Billings Catholic Schools from pre-school through graduation. Alison was in the Class of 2003, Christopher was in the Class of 2004, and Beth was in the Class of 2008. Each went on to attend Catholic colleges, as well. Now, her two grandsons attend Catholic school.

“Catholic schools have been the greatest part of my life’s journey,” Mattix said.

Dedication to Teaching

While Mattix’s first teaching job was at Loyola Sacred Heart High School in Missoula, she started her journey with Billings Catholic Schools in 1984. At the start of the 2022 school year, Mattix will begin her 43rd year of teaching, where she serves as the Senior English and AP Literature and Composition teacher at Billings Central.

“I know this is where God wants me to be,” she said. “I work with students who are also disciples of God. This is both a tremendous responsibility as well as a great opportunity. I love sharing my faith with my students and incorporating the gospels in class discussions.”

Mattix said she feels blessed to be a part of a dedicated, professional staff, as well as to serve God and others through her role.

“I truly love my students like they are my own children,” she said. “I share their highs and lows, watch their growth over an entire year, and then agonize because I have to say good-bye to them at the end of the year.”

Serving beyond the Classroom

Mattix and her husband believe in Catholic education – and do all they can to ensure others have the same opportunities they and their family have had. For instance, her husband has served two terms on the Foundation board. Together, they also donate to the Foundation, as well as to Mayfair each year.

In her spare time, Mattix also serves on the Religious Activities team known as Lumen Christi – a role she has treasured since 1995. They plan all masses, liturgical events, and retreats. She also trains students to fulfill the various ministry positions.

“Besides teaching serving on the Religious Activities team has been one of my greatest honors,” she said.

Mattix and her husband attend St. Thomas the Apostle Parish Catholic Church in Billings.

Suzanne Vaira

Suzanne Vaira

Every single one of my students is grateful to attend Billings Catholic Schools and recognizes the sacrifices their families have made for them to attend.” – Suzanne Vaira, Teacher

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Suzanne Vaira
Parent and Teacher

Suzanne Vaira’s decision to send her children to Billings Catholic Schools came from a student’s recommendation. That student happened to be her daughter, Teaghan.

“My daughter started attending sixth grade there while the three boys were in public school,” Vaira said. “She told us, ‘This is such a great place! All my brothers need to go here!’ Following her suggestion, the next school year, my husband and I enrolled the other three kids at St. Francis, as well.”

A Family Connection

Now, three generations of Suzanne Vaira’s family are a part of Billings Catholic Schools. She teaches fourth grade at St. Francis. Her four children span first through ninth grades. And her father, Mr. Dale Rumph, has taught seventh and eighth grade science for the last eight years after retiring from a 35-year career with the public schools.

“He was beyond excited for us to all join him at St. Francis,” Vaira said. “I have learned so much from him professionally, which is neat to see him in that capacity. I had him as a teacher and coach growing up, but as a colleague, it has truly been a blessing.”

Her children are fortunate to have Mr. Rumph in their lives at school, as well.

“My dad had my daughter in class for two years,” Vaira said. “I know this special relationship with her grandpa will be something she looks back on fondly.”

Vaira and her father also enjoy the extra family time at school.

“It is such a blessing to see them every day at school,” she said. “I still get some hugs from them at recess!”

Sharing Her Faith

Teaching fourth grade at St. Francis is unlike other experiences she has had in her profession.

“I love being able to share my faith with my students,” she said. “They teach me more about life and how to live life with Christ, like love and forgiveness, than I could ever teach them!”

As a parent and teacher, she witnesses grace every day.

“Every single one of my students is grateful to attend Billings Catholic Schools and recognizes the sacrifices their families have made for them to attend,” she said. “There is so much love and support, and I love that my own children are surrounded by families that love and care for them, too.”

Fr. Curtis Seidel

Class of 2005

Attending Central was significant for me. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be a priest without Central, but God would have had to do something completely different!” – Fr. Curtis Seidel, Alumnus, Priest

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Fr. Curtis Seidel
Alumnus and Priest

Fr. Curtis Seidel, a 2005 alumni, never expected his life to go the way it has. “I was marginally Catholic when I started at Billings Central my freshman year,“ he states matter-of-factly. As he goes on, “Attending Central was significant for me. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be a priest without Central, but God would have had to do something completely different!”

Like many before him, Fr. Curtis made the transition to Billings Central Catholic High School after completing 8th grade, “Even then, I knew I wanted something different than what I was getting up to that point. I chose Central for soccer and academics!”
What he found Billings Central was different.

Teachers’ expectations were much higher, he explained, “My teachers expected a higher level of learning from everyone. It was a culture there of high expectations. What I thought were good grades before was not considered good enough, especially when teachers believed you could do better.”
After dropping soccer, Fr. Curtis joined speech and drama, theater, and the pep band. “I only played soccer for one year. I wasn’t that good. But I loved being involved in music and the arts!”

A Community of Faith

Beyond academics and activities, the close relationships built with his fellow students transformed Fr. Curtis into who he is today. “I fell in with a group of guys who were active in the faith. We became great friends with shared experiences while at Central and we were involved in our church youth group.” When he had time, Fr. Curtis took moments of prayer and silence in Central’s chapel to be in the presence of Jesus, participated in Search, and made retreats that continually deepened his Catholic faith.

Upon graduation, Fr. Curtis continued his Catholic education and formation at Gonzaga University. Just as he did at Central, he found a fellowship of students to pray, discuss, and live the faith. He joined Gonzaga’s College Seminary – Bishop White Seminary – his sophomore year. To complete his major seminary (i.e. graduate studies before being ordained), the Diocese of Spokane sent him to Washington D.C. at the Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2014.

Coming Full Circle

After 4 years as parochial vicar in parishes around Spokane, Fr. Curtis was assigned to Walla Walla Catholic Schools. “It was with great excitement to receive the appointment, first as chaplain, teacher, and board member, and then as president of the school system! I get to lead Catholic schools that were so formative for me in who I am.” Soon thereafter, Fr. Curtis enrolled in the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program through the University of Notre Dame receiving his master’s in educational leadership. COVID-19 struck in his first year as president, navigating unprecedented times that challenged the most veteran of school administrators.

In everything, Fr. Curtis maintains his passion for Catholic Schools. “Catholic Schools are different, forming the entire student in body, mind, and soul! We talk about that a lot at Walla Walla.” When asked about his experiences at Billings Central informing his work now, he stated, “It gives me a perspective and reference in my work. De Sales High School feels similar to Billings Central. Faith is present, academic excellence is a culture here, and students participate in the extracurriculars. In my experience, those three things are the secret to a great Catholic high school!”