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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School

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    On Saturday, April 29, the O'Connell community came together for an evening to let the Arts shine! The gym was transformed into an art gallery; the main stage featured individual and group dance, drama and musical performances. The courtyard became a magical "coffee house" showcasing acoustic performances and poetry readings.

    The theme for the 2017 Festival of the Arts was "Celebrating Women."

    Enjoy more images from the 2017 Festival of the Arts HERE.

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    The Week That Was (TWTW) sat down with Kevin Giblin, world history teacher and first-year O'Connell head boys varsity lacrosse coach, to learn more about him, the lacrosse team this year and the program's plans for the future.

    TWTW: This is your first year at O'Connell. Can you tell us a little more about your background as an educator and lacrosse coach?

    Coach Giblin: I have been in Catholic schools in Maryland as a teacher or administrator for 30 years. I have my master's in secondary education from Trinity College and a B.A. in American History Studies from Washington College. As a coach, I headed up the Georgetown Prep varsity lacrosse program for 27 years and have coached at St. Albans and Georgetown University among others.

    I consider myself an educator whether in the classroom or on the field. It is paramount to teach character as well as excellence. My faith life is central to me and though I am imperfect in doing it, I try to share that level of commitment with the young people in my life. The way we live, the choices we make - equals who we are.

    In the classroom, I undergird this by requesting each student write at the top of their classwork five pillars of life:

    1.Practice daily faith
    2.Respect for self and others
    3.An active concern for others
    4.Strive for excellence in all you do

    I do my best to give the students my best, and in return I expect them to do the same and support them in their efforts.

    This model applies to our lacrosse players as well. I have always liked the teacher/coach model and I strive to inspire them to have their priorities right - faith, family, academics, and lacrosse.

    TWTW: How does your faith guide you in coaching?

    Coach Giblin: It cannot be separate - living your faith is a full time thing. Not only something to do on Sundays. I try to attend daily Mass. This is who I am - I try to be a good role model but in that, self-awareness is important. I learned a long time ago, the difference between sinners and saints is - saints do not give up.

    We start every practice with a decade of the Rosary and offer intentions and prayers for our families. I try to have faith guide me in all my decisions. I want to be a good husband, father, teacher and coach. I do my best to practice it well, but often fail. I know I can be tough in both the classroom and on the field, but I have a soft spot for these kids.

    TWTW: So your first season coaching at O'Connell is almost complete, can you share some highlights?

    Coach Giblin: Well we really had a couple of big wins. Of course, the DeMatha win was tremendous. A first in OC lacrosse history; I am so proud of the team and staff. They really dug in to win that. The Heights was another good win and when we played Blue Ridge it was a soaking mess, but the team did not give up and overcame adversity to win.

    Though we lost to Collegiate, this was a turning point in the season. These kids could have easily thrown in the towel. Not so. They played their hearts out and showed they have become competitors. This will serve them well in life. "Many talk, few do," we often say. The team showed resolve during this game. The coaching staff and I saw all the hard work that these boys put into the season pay off in their competitive spirit.

    TWTW: What could the team have done different this season?

    Coach Giblin: I am little disappointed in my coaching. I have to do a better job. We left some wins on the table and this reflected on the staff. When I came here, I think I took some of the foundational things for granted. Going forward, we will continue to focus on the little things more. Sometimes I think they have that piece (of lacrosse I.Q.) and then I realize that they did not fully understand the concept. I need(ed) to revisit foundational concepts. This is a tenant of how I view my classes (good teachers teach and reteach the foundations). I will do my best to prevent this in the future. Each year is a new start, but we will continue to build this team into a strong entity with an exceptional I.Q. At some point, each of the players have that moment when they know that they get it. Then they understand the simplicity of the game.

    TWTW: What have you learned about yourself and the team?

    Coach Giblin: I think this team has answered every challenge this staff has asked of them and then some. There was a big learning curve for them. My coaching system is different from others as well as the terminology. New players, new coach, new system. It has been challenging - but this team has proven - they are all in. They have become competitors on a higher level than I think they even knew they could. They have all improved immensely.

    When I first came here, I was not sure what to expect from this community either. I was the new person and I have to say the lacrosse community - the parents - have all been supportive. The program will continue to need support from the families and parents because we hope to build a championship program. We will be very demanding of the players in the program. This staff will be fair, but we will expect every choice a player makes in the classroom, on the field, in practice, to represent the school and the community in a positive way. This staff will do anything for these kids. If they need recommendations/letters/phone calls, advocacy - I will be the first to do this.

    TWTW: What changes have you seen in the team?

    Coach Giblin: I think the guys are finally learning to separate who they are from what they are doing on the field. A good educator, indeed a good coach, judges performance based on skill sets and abilities. That judgement is not about players' character, but their skills. It is not personal. It is our expectation to make them the best they can be. They are starting to understand that concept. We do our best to put kids in positions to be successful.

    TWTW: Can you tell us about any of your top team members?

    Coach Giblin: Without question that would be my team captains, seniors Gabriel Turrisi (defense), Kadin Kightlinger (middie) and Jake Hahn (goalie). They are a special group of guys. They are excellent leaders and each of them has been able to reach into their teammates and inspire them as well. They have had three head coaches in a four-year span. These seniors have committed themselves to a cause with very little mentoring. In fact, I can say this about all of the seniors, including Thomas Natal, Danny Metzmaier and Brandon Ley. Each and every one of them has my utmost respect for their efforts. I am going to miss them all and appreciate their dedication to this team and season.

    TWTW: What are some of your short- and longer-term goals for this program?

    Coach Giblin: The first time I ever met with the lacrosse families last summer, I asked what other Catholic schools students go to in Northern Virginia. When I heard the answer, I wondered why? Why would anyone ever choose another Catholic high school for academics or lacrosse? Bishop O'Connell should be the destination of choice for an excellent education rooted in the life of Christ. It will be my personal goal to make this school the first choice for all quality student/lacrosse players.

    Talented student-athletes are already showing their interest in our program. We are going to continue to work at getting bigger, stronger and larger as a team. We want to build a program that can sustain a top level of success. As we develop the program, the top players of quality and character will want to come. In addition, I think it is important to field freshman, JV and varsity teams. It builds size and depth in the program. We will be starting Club Blue Lacrosse here in Northern Virginia for middle-schoolers to help young players get to know the mission, values and commitment to excellence of Bishop O'Connell and our lacrosse program.

    TWTW: Thanks for your time Coach Giblin. Is there anything else?

    Coach Giblin: I just wanted to say that my commitment to these kids and this program is sincere. It is an absolute privilege to coach this team. This season has reminded me why coaching is so rewarding. The wins and losses are what they are; it is the relationships that are formed between players and coaches during competition, which creates bonds for life. Few things are more rewarding for the players and coaches.

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  • 05/11/17--15:08: Softball Claims WCAC Title
  • Congratulations to the Bishop O'Connell softball team - 2017 WCAC champions!

    The Lady Knights defeated St. John's (27-1) in the WCAC tournament quarter-finals and Bishop McNamara (14-0) in the semi-finals before prevailing over St. Mary's Ryken in the WCAC championship game on Saturday, May 6 by a score of 9-0.

    See photos and read more below:

    O'Connell wins softball title (photos)
    Arlington Sun Gazette/Inside NOVA, May 9, 2017

    O'Connell shuts out St. Mary's Ryken 9-0 for championship win
    Arlington Catholic Herald, May 8, 2017

    O'Connell handles St. Mary's Ryken to capture WCAC softball title, 9-0
    Washington Post, May 6, 2017

    Find out more about O'Connell softball on the team webpage.

    Photos courtesy of Dave Facinoli, sports editor, Sun Gazette Newspapers.

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  • 05/12/17--17:40: The Gift of Prayer

    About a decade ago, the parish we belonged to in Connecticut began to offer perpetual adoration. My son, about 12 at the time, wanted to sign up for an hour each week and so we discussed it and allowed him to do that after looking at the timing and logistics. There were, of course, times when he couldn't do it because of activities. Frequently, either my wife or I would cover for him. This became the unexpected gift of an opportunity to pray in silence.

    When I began to work at Bishop O'Connell nine years ago, I was presented with so many more regular opportunities to pray as part of my daily routine than I had ever had before. Certainly, one can always pray, but it was as though O'Connell was providing me with a regular invitation to pray.

    Since the start-up a few years ago of the Knights Intercessors, an intercessory prayer group begun by Father Thompson and the Spirituality Committee of our PTO, I have received another gift in prayer. The weekly exercise of prayer through this outlet has also grown for me into opportunities to commit the cares, concerns, worries, pains, sufferings and mournings of the O'Connell community to prayer. There are so many times when we are at a loss for words, or our words seem so insufficient, when trying to comfort someone in need. But the sincere offer to pray for someone is powerful and meaningful and seems always to be genuinely appreciated.

    Last week, I read an interview that O'Connell Board Member Reverend Paul Scalia did with Washingtonian Magazine about his new book. The interviewer asked Father Scalia to elaborate on the idea expressed in the book that the passing of his father, Justice Antonin Scalia, gave him a new realization of the gift of his faith. Father Scalia responded: "Well, first of all, in the outpouring of prayers, Mass cards, and condolences that came from Catholics and Christians and people of other faiths from throughout the world, because they knew him to be a man of faith, and not necessarily their own faith..." When I read this, I was brought immediately back to the days after my mother's passing almost three years ago. I was completely overwhelmed by the support that my family and I received. And so often, the simple words, "you are in my prayers" had such an impact.

    One final thought on the power of prayer. For those who do not already know this, all who are connected to the Bishop O'Connell community are in the prayers of the community of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, including of course the prayers offered by retired Sisters at Camilla Hall in Immaculata, Pennsylvania in their chapel that is known as the "Powerhouse of Prayer." They sent me a card when I started working at O'Connell to tell me I was in their prayers...I am in their are in their prayers.

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  • 05/16/17--06:00: VFW Teacher of the Year
  • Congratulations to Mr. Greg Haas, who is the 2017 recipient of the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizen Ship Education Teacher Award from the John Lyon VFW Post 3150 in Arlington. Haas is the chair of the social studies department at Bishop O'Connell, where he has been teaching for 11 years.

    In addition to his work in the classroom, Mr. Haas has coordinated voter registration events for students of age in the school and is the moderator for the newly formed voter registration club. He takes his students on yearly field trips to the District of Columbia to expose them to the process of lawmaking in our country. Just this past year he has led the establishment of a Model General Assembly team for Bishop O'Connell. His department mission is to "transform students into faith-filled citizens able to navigate a new global community."

    Read more about the Model General Assembly team...

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    Five Bishop O'Connell students were part of a group of more than 200 high school students from across the Commonwealth participating in the 2017 Virginia Model General Assembly (MGA) in Richmond. This annual two-day conference takes place in the actual chambers in the state capital, with these high school students forming a model general assembly and taking on the roles of elected officials, lobbyists and media.

    Since last fall, this first-year team from O'Connell has been meeting with their advisor, Mr. Greg Haas to research and debate issues. They also attended a bill-writing workshop to help them prepare the bill that they eventually shepherded through committees before being passed by both houses and signed into MGA law.

    The O'Connell team included a senator - Nora Stechshulte '17, a delegate – Katie Bourque '17, a lobbyist – Martha Stevens '17, and two members of the media – Rosie Coolidge '18 and Thomas Dannenfelser '19.

    "I am impressed by the efforts of our students," said Haas. "Our students performed with confidence and poise and you would never have known this was their first year in this program."

    As an extra bonus, Dannenfelser was selected to participate in the YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs, which is a gathering of delegates from each state. The conference will be held this summer in Montgomery, Ala. "This is a phenomenal honor," added Haas. "Only ten students are chosen from each state and it's extremely rare for a first-year participant to be named."

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    For the second year in a row, the Math Honor Society at Bishop O'Connell organized a Saturday morning Jeopardy-style Algebra 1 tournament. This year nine teams from six area Catholic schools competed, with a total of 31 eighth graders and two seventh graders participating.

    Congratulations to St. Mark Team 1—Elizabeth B. (7th grade), Matthew M., Matthew M., and Cassielle S. (7th grade)—who finished in first place in the team competition. There was a tie for second place between the teams from St. Thomas Aquinas—Chris M., Regina N., Anish P., and Ashish P.—and Our Lady of Good Counsel Team 2—Maya H., James K., Quin L., and Josh M.

    In addition to the team competition, participants faced off in an individual competition, with the winners completing a 15-question exam with the most correct answers in the shortest amount of time. Congratulations to the two 7th grade St. Mark teammates, Elizabeth B. (1st place) and Cassielle S. (2nd place), who were the winners of this competition.

    During the award ceremony, senior Brooke Tran (Math Honor Society President) praised this year's participants and commended them for giving up part of their Saturday to solve math problems.

    Thank you to all of the teams who participated in the 2017 Algebra 1 Tournament: OLGC Team 1, OLGC Team 2, St. Ambrose, St. Ann, St. Luke Team 1, St. Luke Team 2, St. Mark Team 1, St. Mark Team 2, St. Thomas Aquinas.

    Pictured below: Brooke Tran (Math Honor Society President) and Mr. Michael Bernhard (Math Department Chair) congratulate the winning team from St. Mark (Elizabeth B., Cassielle S., Matthew M. and Matthew M.).

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    Catholic Athletes for Christ  Awardees

    Lucie Drahozal '17 and Chris St. George '18 were recognized at the 6th Annual Courage Award Reception of Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC), held at Marymount University in Arlington.

    Lucie is a parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Herndon. At O'Connell, she is a three-year member of the Lady Knights varsity volleyball team. She is a member of the FIAT club, served as a student leader on the Kairos retreat, and was a Superdance committee chairperson. She is also an SCA class counselor and is the president of the Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society and the English Honor Society.

    Chris is a parishioner at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Ashburn and is involved in the parish youth group—the Upper Room Squad—where he is one of the teen leaders who runs Gospel contemplations and discipleship meetings. At O'Connell, Chris is a member of the varsity soccer and wrestling teams. He has served as the public relations office for the Pro-Life Club for the past two years and is the co-leader of the Altar Society. In addition, he is a member of the National Honor Society and the National Spanish Honor Society.

    O'Connell chaplain, Rev. Gregory Thompson, was on hand at the awards ceremony as these students were honored along with student-athletes from other diocesan high schools.

    Catholic Athletes for Christ serves Catholic athletes in the practice of their faith and shares the Gospel in and through sports. The organization work with athletes at all levels of sport in an effort to promote a Catholic sports culture. CAC was formed in response to Pope John Paul II's call to evangelize the world of sports and his establishment of the Vatican's Office of Sports.

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  • 05/19/17--12:49: Endings...Beginnings

    As I write this, the Class of 2017 is celebrating the end of the last regular school day of their high school careers. There is smiling, crying, hugging, and always shirt signing. It's clear that there are mixed emotions -- perhaps relief and trepidation. Our prayers are in gratitude for all that this Class has been able to achieve individually and collectively over the past four years. We pray too in supplication that God will continue to watch over these young men and women through their challenges and doubts, but also their victories big and small.

    The visit yesterday of about 25 young alums to speak to the Class of 2017 about how to succeed in college was a great gift to the Class and the school. These alums, showing their love for their alma mater and the friendships and experiences gained here, were proud to return and share bits of wisdom with the soon to be grads regarding study habits, social life, wellness, and spiritual growth. Their presence was a kind of "Circle of Life" moment for our school and a reminder of the importance of legacy and tradition.

    Alumni Panel

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    Earlier this year, Bishop O'Connell High School religion teacher David Owens, organized a field trip to Washington to visit three historic African-American Catholic churches: Holy Comforter–St. Cyprian, St. Teresa of Avila and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. In all, 145 students participated.

    Student correspondent, Gabriel Turrisi '17, shared more information about this learning experience in the Arlington Catholic Herald. Read the complete story HERE...

    This past week, a second trip took a group of students to explore black Catholic history in Baltimore. Included in their visit were presentations at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Mary's Seminary and Our Lady of Mount Providence Convent.

    Pictured above: Msgr. Raymond Gerard East, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila in Washington D.C., shares the history of his church and congregation with O'Connell students.

    Pictured below: Students gathered for a photo at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore.

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  • 05/24/17--07:00: Baccalaureate Mass Homily
  • Father Thompson shares his 2017 Baccalaureate Mass Homily:

    One of the most powerful cinematic experiences that I have ever had was the 2013 film Lone Survivor which tells the story of Navy SEAL, Marcus Luttrell during Operation Red Wings in June of 2005. Marcus was part of SEAL Team 10 whose mission was to be dropped on to a mountain near a village where Taliban leader Mohammed Ismail was located in an attempt to capture or kill him. Luttrell and 3 other SEALs, Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson were deployed in this mission. During the operation, local goat herdsmen discovered their location and the SEALs debated whether they should kill them or let them go. They decided to let the herdsmen go who then alerted the Taliban to their presence which resulted in an intense firefight. The team was able to alert U.S. forces that they were under attack and sent a team of reinforcements by helicopter who where shot down and killed in the rescue attempt. Luttrell's team members Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson were also killed leaving Luttrell as the only one left. After regaining consciousness and somehow evading capture, he had a broken back, numerous fractures and shrapnel wounds. He walked and crawled seven miles to a friendly tribe of Pashtun villagers who were able to contact U.S. forces which enabled Luttrell to be rescued and able to tell his story.

    When we contemplate Marcus' Luttrell's story, what comes to mind is the contrast to what other people his age were doing here at home. Not far from here along the Metro Orange Line is the neighborhood of Clarendon in Arlington. If you go there on a Friday or Saturday night, it is a place filled with young adults from ages 22-30. Many of them live there in apartments and have jobs in D.C. or the surrounding area. They fill the bars and restaurants such as Whitlow's on Wilson, O'Sullivans, Silver Diner, The Cheesecake Factory and nightclubs like the Clarendon Ballroom. While these young adults are enjoying food and drink and the enjoyment of being with friends, there are young men and women like Marcus Luttrell who have forsaken that kind of life for a greater purpose to serve their country. Think about what it takes to be a Navy SEAL:

    8-week Naval Recruit Training
    8-week Naval Special Warfare Prep School
    24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S)[87]
    5-week Parachute Jump School
    26-week SEAL Qualification Training (SQT)

    To become a Navy SEAL takes 71 weeks of intense training involving extreme tests of physical fitness and endurance which stretches the human body and mind to the limit of its capacity.

    Marcus Luttrell's story illuminates some points for us to contemplate:

    1) We are created for a purpose that transcends ourselves
    2) That we are called to make a gift of ourselves for that purpose
    3) When we find that purpose, that we dedicate ourselves to it and strive to improve in our role to fulfill it.

    God created you and I and everyone in this room for a purpose that transcends ourselves. He created us to manifest His love. Marcus Luttrell entered the SEAL program to protect and defend the freedom that we are enjoying right now to worship in this school auditorium. He endured the suffering of His training and of his ordeal so that you and I can live in comfort and security. Your parents dedicated their lives to get you to his moment. Each of you has been given a vocation, a calling. There is a calling to dedicate yourself to a greater purpose, first to manifest the love that God has for you. Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead to share that Love with you. Each day, the Lord calls us to show mercy, kindness, and patience even in the smallest matters because He has already done so for us. He also has a plan for each of you in which you will bring that love and mercy in service to others. Your graduation is a starting point for this discernment. How will you bring the love of Jesus into a world which is consumed with selfish desires for power and pleasure?

    When you find that calling, will you be willing to dedicate yourself to it and to make it your daily responsibility to become better at fulfilling that purpose? When I prepare couples for Marriage Preparation, I remind them that once the wedding day happens, the work has just begun. Many of your parents understand this. In the armed services, if you are not deploying, you are training. Christ calls us each day to work to become better reflections of His Love for us. He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation to empower us. These gifts are renewed every time we attend Holy Mass and confess our sins. When you find the love of your life and dedicate your life to that person in marriage, that love has to grow and deepen. When you dedicate yourself to improving the world through your choice of career, that dedication, that desire to make the world better for others cannot become stagnant.

    Today begins a series of celebrations that includes this morning's breakfast, Prom, commencement, the All Night Grad party, and your individual family celebrations. But in the midst of all of that, take a time out to have a conversation with Our Lord. Place yourself in His presence whether in our chapel, a parish Church, or even at home in your room. Ask the Lord to help you know, what purpose have you crated me for? Can you give the capacity to dedicate myself to it? Can you give me all the gifts I need to become the best at it? To begin time of reflection, the Holy Spirit will give you all you need if only you will ask Him and when many years in the future, when your time to be called home arrives I hope you will hear these words: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord."

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    Sunday, May 21 was a beautiful day at Bishop O'Connell, as the class of 2017 gathered in the auditorium with their families and the school community to celebrate their Baccalaureate Mass. Father Thompson was joined on the altar by Deacon Edward Gliot from St. James Church, who also happens to be the parent of a soon-to-be graduate.

    Read Father Thompson's Homily for the Class of 2017...

    The Mass was followed by a PTO-organized celebratory parent-graduate breakfast which was held at the Waterford in Springfield. The special guest speaker for this event was Frank Fumich, a 1986 graduate of O'Connell. Fumich shared his personal journey as an ultra-marathon runner (and much more), and his path to finding true purpose and meaning once he began serving others. [You can read more about Frank Fumich at]

    View photos below or at this link...

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  • 05/23/17--18:00: Singers Back Up Eric Church
  • O'Connell Singers with Eric Church

    It has been a whirlwind week for a group of O'Connell choir members who capped last week off by providing background vocals for country singer Eric Church's opening number at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

    Choir Director Peter Kadeli received an email earlier in the week asking if he had a small group of students who could be available for an afternoon of rehearsals and a quick performance that evening. He reached out to the O'Connell Singers, the women's select chorus, which he felt had the right mix of voices for this assignment.

    "I was thrilled when I found out we were asked to sing with Eric Church!" said junior Dina Phipps. "It was such an amazing and unique experience and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity! "

    In all, sixteen members of the O'Connell Singers participated in the event, which included an afternoon bus ride into the city, a back-stage tour and rehearsal session, before their big moment to appear on-stage in front of a sold-out Eric Church concert.

    "This was truly an amazing opportunity for our students," said Kadeli. "Very few high school students can say they have performed with a Grammy winning musician for more than 18,000 audience members. We are very grateful to Eric Church for supporting music in our schools."

    More Links:

    Read about this in the Arlington Catholic Herald.

    Hear Mr. Kadeli and a choir member interviewed on 98.7 WMZQ.

    Have you seen the video clip from the show? View it below or at

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  • 05/26/17--10:58: Volunteers Are the Backbone

    Any success that Bishop O'Connell has during a given school year relies on so many variables, including the gifts of time and talent offered by volunteers, very often parents and alumni, who sustain the PTO and our several booster clubs in order that we can have wonderful events like last week's Baccalaureate Breakfast for the Class of 2017, a trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn. for our music program, the year long operation of our new concession stand, and the logistical backbone that allows our crew team to be on the Occoquan River one weekend, in Philadelphia the next, and New Jersey this weekend. The support, offered with love for our students and the school, is amazing and its value incalculable. We are blessed.

    There was a moment on Wednesday evening this week when I was reminded again of the blessing of volunteer support for our school. The Chair of our Board of Governors, Mr. John Brough, a graduate of the Class of 1982 and a current parent, received the Arlington Leadership Center of Excellence's Legacy Award for Ethics. As Chair of our Board, John leads a remarkable group of volunteers on our board and its supporting committees. These men and women give of their time, talent and treasure in extraordinarily generous ways and John's leadership by example sets a high bar. Whether it relates to strategic planning for the school's future, or solving an immediate challenge, the board's accessibility, expertise, and genuine interest in the continued success of our school's Catholic mission is ever present. Several members of the board and board committees joined me at the Leadership Center for Excellence event to salute John Brough as he received this well deserved honor.

    As we celebrate our 60th Anniversary, we are reminded that volunteerism has been at the core of O'Connell's success from its very beginnings. The passing this week of Mr. Arthur Devlin, a board member during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the father of current board member Sheila Leverone, and the grandfather of three current O'Connell students, is a reminder of that tradition. May he rest in peace with God.

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  • 06/01/17--05:30: Graduation Day

    Today is a big day in the life of our school. For the 57th time, a class of students will graduate from Bishop O'Connell. In the several decades-long tradition of our school, they will do so before their parents, loved-ones and friends at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. -- a place we are certainly blessed to be able to use for this great moment in our Catholic school's annual calendar. These graduates join a long line of alumni who used their Bishop O'Connell education as a launching pad for lives lived in service to God and others all around the world. The more I learn about our alumni community, the more aware I am of the scope and depth of the contributions made and being made by Bishop O'Connell graduates -- to the Church, in government, in education, in science and medicine, in community service, and across the business landscape as innovators and problem solvers. Across the altar of the Shrine today walk young men and women destined to add to this impressive legacy. As they do, we congratulate them and their parents and guardians, we give thanks to God for the blessing of their presence in our school and the community they helped form over these past four years, and we pray that as they pursue their hopes and dreams, they will do so comforted by the knowledge of God's presence in their life.

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    Bishop O'Connell High School held its 57th commencement exercise at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, June 1. The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, presented diplomas to the 231 members of the class of 2017.

    Included in that number were 26 legacies, that is, graduates with a parent who is an O'Connell alum. Seventeen graduates received a certificate along with their diploma to indicate the equivalent of a ninth semester of study as part of the Global Studies program.

    Head of School Joseph E. Vorbach III, a 1983 graduate himself, welcomed the students, families and honored guest to this celebration. "Today we take note of and celebrate what God has made possible in you to this point in your lives," he said. "We anticipate all that is possible for you, with God's help, as you begin your next adventures."

    Bishop Burbidge addressed the graduates, reminiscing fondly on his first visit to Bishop O'Connell just a day after he was named the seventh Bishop of Arlington. He reminded the Class of 2017 that Jesus tells us to be childlike. "As you embark on this new stage in life, walk humbly with your God, trusting in him as a child trusts his or her parent," he said. "Walk as God's family, as brothers and sisters in Christ," he added. "Make new friends who will lift you up." He encouraged the graduates to allow God to show them the way: "You will not get lost," he told them.

    Luke Brinkmann, the class salutatorian, compared the past four years to a roller coaster, "an amazing ride and one that is over wicked fast." He reflected on the collective accomplishments of the class of 2017 during their four year tenure at Bishop O'Connell—in the classroom, in the arts and athletics, and in service to others. "What we have done here is just the beginning," he said. "We must continue to persevere, to excel and to give wholly." Luke is headed to Villanova University in the fall.

    Brooke Tran, the class valedictorian, challenged conventional graduation speeches that focus on achieving goals and successes through hard work and determination. "Where is the end game here?" she asks. "These external things bring us only fleeting satisfaction." Instead, Brooke urged the class of 2017 to search for the meaning that is inherent in all things that they are passionate about. "They all lead to things we actually long for: happiness, truth, beauty and goodness," she said. "They point to the origin from which we come: God." She wrapped her thoughts up by saying, "Our life does not become great when we do or achieve great things, it becomes great when even the smallest, most minute details of our lives become so full of meaning and purpose that our hearts burst with gratitude and joy." Brooke will be attending Stanford University in the fall.

    God Bless the Class of 2017!


    Honors and awards for the class of 2017

    Colleges and universities where members of the class of 2017 were admitted

    Graduation coverage in the Arlington Sun Gazette

    Caroline Jones '17 highlighted in the Arlington Catholic Herald

    Photos from the Baccalaureate Mass and Breakfast

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  • 06/09/17--11:12: Look to the things above

    Today we had the last Mass of the school year after the morning exam. In the first reading from the First Letter of John (1 John 4:7), we were reminded to "love one another, because love is of God [and] everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God." In the Gospel reading (John 15:9-11) Jesus says, "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete." These readings, and Father Thompson's reflections in his homily, brought me back to Bishop Burbidge's charge to our graduates last week that they should "look to the things above," including the commandment to love.

    Just before Mass ended, Father Thompson invited all of us to join him in giving Father Benetti a warm send off before he leaves for Massachusetts. As Father Benetti received a prolonged standing ovation, my thoughts wandered back to Mr. Roque's words at a faculty meeting yesterday about Father Benetti. Mr. Roque began by pointing out the difference between leading others to Christ and "converting" someone. He noted that all of us, by our actions and our prayers, can lead others to Christ, but that Christ does the converting. He brought this up as preface to a story he wanted to share about Father Benetti. Mr. Roque was in Italy with Father Benetti with a group of O'Connell students over Easter break this year. On Holy Thursday, the group was in a church in Father Benetti's home town in the Alps and Father was celebrating the Mass. During the Mass, Father Benetti washed and kissed the feet of the O'Connell students on the trip in what was an emotional moment for all of them.

    Father's efforts at Bishop O'Connell these past four years, in and out of the classroom, have led others to Christ time and again and this moment on Holy Thursday in Italy is just one powerful example. We are grateful for his service to our community and the love of Christ he has shown toward his students and his colleague. We will keep him in our prayers as he heads to Boston next week for new challenges and new opportunities to serve.

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    John Meehan

    Congratulations to O'Connell English teacher, John Meehan, who is one of 46 educators named to the 2017 Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Emerging Leaders program.

    "The 2017 class of emerging leaders joins an elite group of educators who are making a meaningful impact on students across the world," said Ronn Nozoe, ASCD Associate Executive Director. "The caliber of this year's group is inspiring, and we look forward to learning from these leaders as they engage with the education community."

    In addition to his work in the classroom at O'Connell, Meehan serves as the coordinator of the school's "igKnight" teacher professional development program. His role as an instructional coach has also been recognized at the state and national level--with presentations at the annual conference of the Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the annual conference of the National Catholic Education Association, a panel presentation at Notre Dame University's Play Like a Champion Today Athletics Leadership Conference, and an appointment to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's 2016-2018 Teacher Advisory Council.

    Educators selected for the Emerging Leaders program have been in the education profession for 5–15 years; demonstrate a passion for learning, teaching, and leading; come from a diverse range of positions, locations, cultural backgrounds, and perspectives; hold promise as leaders; and are committed to ASCD's beliefs and to pursuing leadership opportunities.

    Following the nomination process, this year's leaders were chosen by an advisory panel composed of ASCD staff, education thought leaders, and emerging leader alumni. The 2017 class of emerging leaders is one of the most geographically diverse cohorts in the history of the program with emerging leaders hailing from 23 states, China, Colombia, Canada, Singapore, Taiwan, and Pakistan. The class includes superintendents, principals and assistant principals, teachers, literacy coaches, professional learning specialists, and a digital learning specialist, among other roles and titles.

    While in the program, Meehan and his cohort can take advantage of numerous opportunities such as:

    • Attending the invitation-only Leader to Leader conference in July, where leaders of various ASCD constituent groups convene to learn, share, and lay the groundwork for further collaboration.
    • Presenting at ASCD conferences and events.
    • Writing for ASCD publications, including the Inservice blog, and contributing blogs and articles to other outlets.
    • Hosting episodes of ASCD Learn. Teach. Lead. Radio, a weekly program produced in partnership with BAM! Radio Network.

    To view the entire list of the 2017 emerging leaders, visit the Emerging Leaders Directory. For more information on ASCD's Emerging Leaders program, visit To learn more about ASCD's other programs, products, services, and memberships, visit

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    Small plane crash lands on football field.

    On the afternoon of Thursday, May 12, 1988, O'Connell students were sitting in their eighth period class counting the minutes until the bell ending the school day rang. However, a few short minutes before the bell signaling freedom rang, a voice came over the P.A. "Please remain in your class rooms until further notified. A plane has just crashed on the football field." The reactions varied wildly from amazement to worry. The people who undoubtedly had the most to way on the subject however were the 100 or so students who were having gym class out on the field that period "Everyone was pushing and panicking, screaming. It was like a dream, it was so unbelievable!" stated Sophomore Andrea Cooper.

    O'Connell made the evening news as well as the newspapers the next day, and it was through these mediums that students most O'Connell earned what had happened. The plane was on business trip from Toronto to Raleigh, North Carolina, and was planning to refuel at National Airport. Edward Sanchez, the pilot and his passenger Dick Sheeringa told investigators that their gas gauges had indicated that a quarter of a tank of gas remained in the plane; enough to make it to National Airport, when the plane began losing power and altitude and was forced to crash land on field. Investigators later found that the tanks were empty. Sanchez was congratulated for his amazing landing as he managed to avoid hurting any of the students on the field. Eyewitnesses on the athletic grounds testified to the nearness of serious injuries.

    "The plane was heading right for one kid'' said Coach Ed Iacobucci, ''I yelled, 'Get out of the way Michael.' It missed him by a couple of feet. Michael said he was going to church tonight." Said Sophomore Rosemary Pellegrino, "l was running right next to the airplane. I had to pull my friend down, the wing was right beside my face."

    Happily enough, the near disaster remained only that. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured and the crash soon became the subject much humor. Undoubtedly, the story "the day the plane crashed at O'Connell'' will remain on the lips of the students, faculty and neighbors of O'Connell High School for years to come. Who ever said that nothing exciting happens at school?

    - From the 1988 Bishop O'Connell Yearbook - The Shield (pgs. 314-315)


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    Betthauser summer learning in GermanyO'Connell economics teacher, Bill Betthauser, was selected as a fellow in the Transatlantic Outreach Program (TOP) Study Tour operated by the Goethe Institut. He is currently traveling in Germany with a group of U.S. K-12 social studies teachers as a part of this program.

    "The focus of the trip is on contemporary Germany," said Betthauser. "We are looking at everything from education and politics to economics, immigration and entrepreneurship. I'm hoping to bring back to my classroom a better knowledge about Germany when it was divided into two economic systems (East vs. West Germany) and the challenges that still exist today."

    The trip began on June 23 and he returns on July 8. The best news is that we can follow along in his travels as he blogs his way through Germany. Learn about these photos and many more at

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