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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School

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    Lt. Col. John Gutter photo

    John Gutter, former Asst. Principal for Student Life at Bishop O'Connell, is being posthumously honored next month at the University of Rhode Island, where he is being inducted into their Army ROTC Hall of Fame.

    O'Connell alumni from the past three decades will remember Gutter in his role as Assistant Principal of Student Life. But few know of his previous life as a scholarship football player at URI, followed by a 20 year career as a U.S. Marine Corps officer, serving two tours in Vietnam. He was wounded in combat in 1965 while coming to the aid of a fellow Marine and spent seven months recovering. He retired as a lieutenant colonel and in 1984 he joined the faculty at Bishop O'Connell, where he was involved in student development, facilities management and coaching. Gutter retired from O'Connell in 2011 and passed away in 2012.

    "John loved Bishop O'Connell High School and he made important contributions to the personal development of thousands of students during his tenure. He also lent his project management experience to a number of major building projects," said Head of School, Dr. Joseph Vorbach.

    Read more about the Nov. 11, 2017 URI Army Hall of Fame induction ceremony...

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  • 10/27/17--06:14: A busy few weeks
  • Since I last wrote on October 13th about our Respect Assembly, we have had a busy two weeks that culminate this weekend with Homecoming. During that time, our first round of senior retreats and the winter sports retreat took place, we had the fall instrumental concert on the 19th and a choral concert last night, and the Hispanic heritage Mass and assembly last Friday. Our Dean of Mission, Mrs. Meghan Lonergan, closed the assembly with remarks that acknowledged the hard work of all involved and connected what had happened at the assembly with the themes we addressed at the respect assembly. I share here some of her words:

    Last week we focused on our community and the opportunities we have for encounters that lift up and support each other. Today we are reminded that our community is made up of many unique and beautiful parts and it is only when we understand our unique backgrounds and experiences that we can have truly meaningful encounters. We recognize that our diversity is a strength to be cherished and not something that divides us. That is why assemblies like this are so important. They allow us to better understand and celebrate our diversity. This requires those willing to share their stories, cultures and talents, but also a willingness to listen and to learn.

    Tonight we host our annual Alumni Awards Dinner, an event that has become a particularly special moment for alumni and their families where we recognize their accomplishments, their dedication and their service to others. It is always an evening that affirms the mission and the traditions of our school as award recipients acknowledge the impactful roles played by teachers, coaches and counselors in their lives. It is also great fun to watch alumni gather together, sometimes seeing one another for the first time in years.

    For our students, Homecoming weekend is the cap on a fun week of school spirit with special events at the football game, the crowning of the Homecoming King and Queen, and of course the dance. Today's Knights are building their own memories, rooted in the school's rich traditions.

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  • 10/30/17--07:32: Romeo & Juliet - Nov. 9-12
  • Romeo & JulietAncient grudge. Star-crossed lovers. A story of woe. This classic Shakespeare play comes to the DJO stage, modernly adapted by The O'Connell Players. Set in a post-WWII 1948 New York City as two rival Italian families fight for control of the city, comes the story of two young lovers destined for a tragic end.

    Show dates, times and ticket information:

    Thursday - Saturday, Nov. 9-11 at 7 p.m.
    Sunday, Nov. 12 at 2 p.m.

    General Admissions - $10
    Students and Seniors - $5

    Limited premium seats available (guaranteed reserved seating in the first three rows--first come, first served) - $20

    For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit

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  • 10/31/17--08:51: Winter Sports Tryouts
  • Students trying out for winter sports team must be cleared by the Athletics Training Office. Each athlete must have a current physical and permission forms uploaded in our Magnus Health Portal (accessible through the parent's account on MyDJO).

    If you have any questions concerning tryouts, please contact the coach.

    Please note:

    AG - Upstairs auxiliary gym
    MG - Main gym
    Trinity - Students will be transported to Trinity Presbyterian Church, 5533 16th Street N, Arlington, Va.

    Girls Basketball

    11/8 - Frosh/JV: 3pm - 5:30pm in AG
    11/8 - Varsity: 5:40pm - 8pm in MG
    11/9 - Frosh/JV: 3pm - 5:30pm in AG
    11/9 - Varsity: 5:40pm - 8pm in MG
    11/10 - Frosh/JV: 3pm - 5:30pm in AG
    11/10 - Varsity: 5:40pm - 8pm in MG
    11/11 - Frosh: 8:30am - 10am in AG
    11/11 - JV Girls: 10am - 11:30am in AG
    11/11 - Varsity Girls: 11am - 1pm in MG

    Boys Basketball

    11/8: Frosh: 3:30pm - 5:30pm at Trinity
    11/8: JV: 5:30pm - 7pm in AG
    11/8: Varsity: 3:30pm - 5:40pm in MG
    11/9: Frosh: 3:30pm - 5:30pm at Trinity
    11/8: JV: 5:30pm - 7pm in AG
    11/8: Varsity: 3:30pm - 5:40pm in MG
    11/9: Frosh: 3:30pm - 5:30pm at Trinity
    11/9: JV: 5:30pm - 7pm in AG
    11/9: Varsity: 3:30pm - 5:40pm in MG
    11/10: Frosh: 12:30pm - 2:30pm in AG
    11/10: JV: 1pm - 3pm in MG
    11/10: Varsity: 8am - 11am in MG


    11/7: 6am - 7am at Marymount University
    11/9: 6am - 7am at Marymount University


    11/8 - 3:45pm - 6:15pm
    11/9 - 3:45pm - 6:15pm
    11/10 - 3:45pm - 6:15pm
    11/11 - 9am - 12pm

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  • 10/31/17--11:00: Fall Mothers' Tea
  • Mothers Tea

    New and Transfer Mothers' Tea
    Hosted by the PTO at Bishop O'Connell High School

    Our kids call us mom, mother, ma, momma, and numerous other variations. What do we call ourselves as mothers? How do we see, or describe ourselves? What character traits do we hope our children will possess after high school?

    On a Sunday afternoon in October, 40 moms and female guardians, gathered in the cafeteria to hear Sister Catherine lovingly remind us of Mother Mary's calling as the mother of Jesus, and how her calling is similar to our vocation as moms. She reminded those gathered about the mysteries of the Rosary and asked us to keep our mind on our calling as mothers, as we pray and teach our children.

    We had a chance to share our thoughts about the traits we hope our children will have going into the world as young adults. Not focusing on academic, achievement, or athletic performances, but rather describing character traits that we hope they'll take with them on their journey in life.

    This gathering of mothers, and women in the lives of the students at Bishop O'Connell, was a powerful way to connect with each other. Sharing our experiences, our fears, our struggles, and our dreams for our children, allows us to continue to build the Church that He wants us to construct together. Building His Kingdom on earth.

    The PTO is grateful to have the opportunity to host this event with the support of Sister Catherine, the kindness and cooking talents of FLIK, and the staff at school. We hope to invite the incoming freshman and transfer moms again next year. If you're not a new mom to the school, and would like to come, please let us know. You'd be most welcome!

    Mothers Tea

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    ADL ConcertA group of 20 O'Connell students and faculty members attended the annual Anti-Defamation League's Concert Against Hate, held on Monday, Oct. 30 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

    The National Symphony Orchestra performed a selection of music, including Stephen Falherty's "Make Them Hear You," from Ragtime and John Williams' theme from Schindler's List. The evening's hosts included Academy Award-winner, Louis Gossett Jr., along with Emmy Award-winner Blythe Danner.

    "It was a powerful experience, especially hearing from holocaust survivor, Ann Jaffe," said chaperone Monica Stabile.

    Jaffe is a retired educator of Jewish studies, who has impacted countless communities by sharing her story of survival to schools, churches and universities. She was born in a small village in Poland and was only 10 when the Nazi's first invaded her village. After being liberated, her father said to her, "I don't ever want to hear the word hate come out of your mouth." He told her, "Find kindness in your heart instead, because that was what made us different from those who did this to us."

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  • 11/02/17--09:49: Homecoming 2017 in Pictures
  • "A Knight on the Red Carpet" was this year's Homecoming theme. A week of special dress days were capped off with a Saturday afternoon football game and a beautifully decorated gym for students to dance the night away!

    View photo highlights below or at

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  • 09/29/17--12:18: Ahh! The Bye Week!


    The bye week.

    It probably could not have come at a more opportune time for the Varsity Football Team, especially considering the Knights' disappointing 0-3 start to the 2017 campaign against three of the scholastic scene's heavyweights. And, to their credit, the O'Connell coaching staff made the most of it.

    Changes were implemented, both in personnel and tactile decisions. Responsibilities within the staff shifted, with the offensive coordinator and offensive line coaches switching roles – and, in doing so, making a change at the quarterback position and "simplifying things" on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line was shored up and a counter run play was added to the offensive arsenal. An emphasis on ball security was introduced into the first 10 minutes of practice daily for skill position players and linemen alike the past two weeks.

    Change was in the air.

    And, as it turns out, that was a good thing. Apparently, it was needed.

    The end result: a 42-6 thumping of rival Ireton on Saturday afternoon at BI.


    The Knights started fast – scoring on their first possession from scrimmage on a seam route that they had been working on the past two weeks. The team knew that they were opening the game with that play. The timing was perfect as quarterback Aidan McGowan (pictured right) hit Devin Morrow in stride with a strike, and Morrow went 59 yards untouched for the game's first score. Just as it was scripted!

    The emphasis on ball security paid dividends from the outset, as the upstart DJO contingent forced five turnovers over the course of four quarters. Most notably, wide receiver Bradley Magee recovered a fumble in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. He came from the opposite side of the field and sprinted into the end zone to record the recovery. That hustle and determination by Magee set the tone for the afternoon.

    The Knights came to play!

    It is said, practice makes perfect. Never was that more evident than when center Adam Johnson fell on a loose ball moments later after a BI interception was punched out by tight end Nate Smith. Recovery Johnson, Knights ball!

    The DJO defense created five turnovers and held the host Cardinals to 3-for-12 on third down efficiency.

    It was a great win for Coach Colin Disch and his chargers. "A great team win" as he is quick to inject, with multiple players asked to play two or three positions throughout the course of the game.


    Some individual highlights included senior Hakeem Clinton (pictured left) toting the pigskin 11 times for 180 rushing and two touchdowns; QB Aidan McGowan throwing for 180 yards and two TDs on 8-for-13 accuracy in his debut under center; Morrow and Magee each hauling in TD receptions; the trio of Jahmal Banks, Patrick Tessier and Jordon Wilson all making interceptions; and Kim Thompson making the move from QB to making plays on both sides of the ball at wide receiver (two receptions) and cornerback – filling in for the injured Nick Rice at a corner.

    Two observations: (1) the need to do a better job protecting the football and (2) a continued emphasis on tackling (which was much-improved), truly finishing tackles.

    It was nice to see that much of what the coaching staff and team implemented over the past two weeks came to fruition in a well-deserved victory for the Varsity Football Team.

    Ahh! The bye week. Gotta love it!

    This is Tommy Orndorff, and that was The Week That Was.

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    Earlier this week, I attended the National Catholic Educational Association's annual Seton Awards dinner. The dinner recognizes significant contributions to Catholic education in the United States, both through long and distinguished service and pace-setting philanthropy. (You can learn more about the Seton Award winners HERE.) It is an inspiring evening that affirms all the good that is taking place in Catholic education around the country and how those efforts are being supported. It reminded me of all the selfless, humble, and generous giving of time, talent and treasure that I am witness to at Bishop O'Connell from faculty and staff, parents and alums. We are very blessed as we work to secure the next 60 years of our school's history.

    The end of the week finds me with other Heads of School and Principals from across the Diocese on a short retreat in Priestfield, W.V. being led by Father Thomas Ferguson. Father has framed his talks to us under the theme of "Living as Missionary Disciples" and he spent some time on the distinction between being a Disciple of Christ (a follower) and an Apostle (one who is sent forth).

    At the school, we seek to support parents and guardians as the primary educators of their children by encouraging the growth of students as disciples of Christ -- young men and women who develop a strong personal relationship with Christ that is sustained by prayer and the sacraments. This is done with the hope that they will become Apostles who through wisdom, courage and right judgment can be witnesses and leaders in their communities. Certainly the retreat was a reminder to all of us in attendance of our need for the same things we hope to strengthen in students and we have all been grateful for some time together to work on that.

    Back at Bishop O'Connell today, we are concluding our two week hearty soup drive to help stock the shelves at our diocesan Catholic Charities food pantries. This DJO tradition brings the entire student body together in the morning for a Living Rosary to pray for those who will ultimately benefit from the student's efforts. We are grateful for our generous community of parents and friends who help make this drive successful each year.

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    The first quarter of the school year is over and it went by very quickly. A lot has happened since I last wrote on October 27th, a day when all the teachers in the entire Diocese were at O'Connell for what turned out to be an excellent day of professional development featuring education thought leader, Todd Whitaker.

    We went from Homecoming into a week that featured our first Kairos retreat of the year. We are able to offer these retreats several times a year thanks to the talents of our retreat coordinator, Ed Fitzpatrick, and the willingness of faculty who make the commitment to being retreat leaders. Speaking as the parent of a DJO grad who really loved her Kairos experience, I can attest to the power of that experience and I thank everyone who makes these four-day experiences possible.

    Just earlier this week, we had parent-teacher conferences and I hope many of you were able to take advantage of these opportunities. Our team at the school is, of course, always available for conversation about matters of concern to you, but these conferences provide a good, formally scheduled chance to meet and discuss progress.

    The freshmen held their elections for class officers this week. I am always especially proud of those who present themselves before their classmates and compete in the arena for an opportunity to be involved in student government. It takes courage to do this, as well as some thoughtful preparation.

    Something else that requires courage and a lot of thoughtful preparation (rehearsal) is performing in a school play. It was my privilege last night to see the opening performance of Romeo and Juliet. Our student actors have clearly poured themselves into their preparation for this performance and I hope you get a chance to see their efforts this weekend. A number of the roles required the actors to commit to memory hundreds of lines. Romeo and Juliet, by one estimate, share over 1,100 lines between them during the play. It's impressive work and as you watch them perform, it's hard not to think about the way this experience will transform their adult lives -- as critical thinkers, persuasive public speakers, conflict mediators and so on.

    Looking ahead, we have the second round of senior retreats next week, the Turkey Blitz is underway to support the Missionaries of Charity in Washington, DC, and it's Discover Catholic Schools Week next week -- if you have the chance to encourage someone to discover Bishop O'Connell, please do. We'd love to give them a tour and or have their child shadow one of our students to get to know the O'Connell experience.

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  • 11/15/17--08:24: District Chorus Honors
  • On Saturday, Nov. 4, Bishop O'Connell High School choir students attended the annual District XII Choral Auditions. Over 700 students from Fairfax and Arlington county public and private high schools participated in the auditions with 235 selected to form the two choirs for the event. Students receive scores for their audition in the categories of vocal tone, intonation, rhythmic accuracy, interpretation, and sight reading. Thirteen Bishop O'Connell students and one alternate were selected for the 2018 District XII Chorus and will participate in a festival on February 8-10.

    District XII is one of several districts in the state of Virginia created by the Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA). The District Choral Auditions are very competitive due to the high level of excellence among choral programs in the northern Virginia area. The mission of the Virginia Music Educators Association is to provide leadership and professional development to ensure quality music education.

    Pictured below – Back row (l to r): Audrey Somerville, Andrew Oliveros, Anthony Socarras, Peter Lucas, Nikolas Rocha, Audrey Gaskins, Elise Welsh. Front row: Ava Coffin, Annemarie Wolf, Emma Powers, Caitlin Mea, Grace Rafferty, Lara Sunter (not pictured: William Varfis).

    District Chorus

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    Melissa Pore - Engineering

    The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) group has named Melissa Pore to their U.S. Education Committee.

    Melissa Pore is on the science faculty at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, Va., where she teaches engineering and technology. Previously, she was the director of technology programs and computer teacher at nearby St. Thomas More Cathedral School, where she helped grade school students successfully build and launch the first elementary school satellite as part of the NASA CubeSat Initiative. Pore is also a member of the Goddard Amateur Radio Club, AMSAT of North America, and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). She earned her first amateur radio license in 2014 and presently holds an FCC Technician Class license as KM4CZN.

    The ARISS program provides learning opportunities by connecting students via real-time amateur radio contacts to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The program is possible because of a partnership between NASA, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, the American Radio Relay League, and other amateur radio organizations and space agencies in Russia, Canada, Japan and Europe. The program's goal is to inspire students worldwide to pursue interests and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by doing hands-on activities about space and amateur radio.

    The ARISS-US Education Committee provides guidance on the educational aspect of the program and Pore joins a small group of educators from across the United States who were named to the committee.

    "I am honored to join the ARISS team of educators, engineers, and innovators who are leaping beyond our earthly foothold to inspire the next generation of explorers," said Pore. "With more than 1,130 amateur radio contacts directly between students and astronauts, this program is an important aspect of the space program's educational outreach, and I am thrilled to be a part of this."

    For more information on ARISS, visit

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  • 11/20/17--10:00: DJO Dads Club Underway
  • The DJO Dads Club is up and running after a festive meeting at the Italian Cafe on Thursday, Nov. 2. Our well-attended meeting included fellowship, establishing new friendships, and brainstorming with ideas on how we can serve the Bishop O'Connell community.

    We discussed the results of our online survey where more than 100 dads provided comments on everything from the name of our club (DJO Dads Club was by far the name we like) to our primary mission (service to the school, fraternity, fellowship and youth engagement). We also shared our professional and personal experiences, especially those that relate to the challenges and joys of parenting sons and daughters in the age of social media.

    We dads are looking forward to growing and sustaining our numbers to well over 100 fathers so that our combined efforts will leave a lasting legacy to our children, our school and to our community. Additionally, it's a great time to join together and cement new friendships. Our children are friends, and that makes it much easier for us dads to build new friendships as well.

    So all fathers are invited to join your brethren at the December meeting where Dr. Vorbach will attend to share with us some of his goals for the school and opportunities for the DJO Dads Club to strengthen these efforts.

    The next monthly meeting is Wednesday, Dec.13 at 7:00 PM at the Italian Cafe, 7161 Lee Highway, Falls Church, VA. Dads should respond via the Evite. If you would like to be added, please reach out to with your preferred contact information. All are encouraged to come with ideas for the first project. We dads are fired up and ready to achieve something great!

    Dads Club

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  • 11/21/17--06:28: A Thanksgiving Message

    As we approach the conclusion of 2017 and the year-long celebration of O'Connell's 60th anniversary, we pray to God in Thanksgiving for all who have helped the school to this point:

    We begin with those who envisioned the possibility of this school and labored to make it a reality in the 1940s and 1950s;

    We include all those along the way who kept its traditions strong throughout the years, especially the IHM Sisters, and Diocesan priests who have served as Chaplains of our school;

    and we are grateful for all current students, faculty and staff, and parents and guardians who bring the school to life each day and keep it moving forward by honoring its traditions and adding to its legacy.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  • 12/01/17--08:37: Look Up
  • Sunrise at DJO


    I parked my car at school this morning just before 7 a.m. As I headed toward the doors at the Trinidad Street entrance to the school, I heard footsteps behind me and I held the door for a student and her mother who were hurrying into the school. As we got into the hallway, I noticed how quickly the mother and daughter were walking and said, "You guys are on a mission," and they said they were trying to get to Mass on time. A moment later, three young ladies in the junior class went running by, said good morning, and said they too were going to Mass. At this point, I could feel the Holy Spirit speaking to me. I'd forgotten about First Friday Mass in the student chapel and I was heading for my office with my breakfast in hand. But the image of students and parents running to Mass was too much. I went to Mass, drawn by the thought of a mom and daughter and a group of classmates who'd obviously made plans to get to Mass together on this Friday morning.

    At the beginning of the year, Bishop Burbidge encouraged all of us to "look up" -- to look to the Lord. Yesterday, I looked up and saw this spectactular sunrise over the school. Today, I was drawn by others to head to the chapel and look up.

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    Royalettes with Awards

    Congratulations to O'Connell's Royalette Dance Team who earned 1st, 2nd and 3rd place team awards, as well as several individual honors, at the Dec. 3 Dance Team Union Regional Competition held at Fairfax High School. The event brought dance teams from a number of high schools around the area, including Brooke Point, Chantilly, Centreville, Dominion, Fairfax, McLean, Oakton, Paul VI and Woodson.

    As a team, the Royalettes earned 1st Place in Varsity Team Performance, 2nd Place in Varsity Jazz, and 3rd Place in Varsity Pom. In addition, members of the team earned recognition individually:

    Junior Solo (ages 13-15)

    1st Place - Gaby Dominguez '20
    2nd Place - Audrey Gaskins '21

    Senior Solo (ages 16+)

    3rd Place - Haley Breaux '18
    4th Place - Erika Williams '18
    7th Place - Julia Stievater '19
    8th Place - Katarina Visek '18

    Junior Duo (ages 13-15)

    1st Place - Angelina Lucchetti '20/Sophia Maceo '20

    Senior Duo (ages 16+)

    1st Place - Erika Williams '18/Haley Breaux '18
    2nd Place - Gaby Dominguez '20/Julia Stievater '19

    "I couldn't ask for a harder working team," said Head Coach Chrissy Salvador. "Each competition is a stepping stone towards Nationals. We just competed two weeks ago, and with our seniors in New York for the Macy's Parade, plus the Thanksgiving Break, we made last minute modifications. These girls stepped up, and we couldn't be happier with the results they so deserved."

    What's next for the Royalettes? A very busy basketball schedule, along with preparations for the East Coast Regional Championships and the UDA National Championships at the end of the month.

    Find out more about the Bishop O'Connell Royalette Dance Team at

    Pictured above: The Royalettes with their awards.

    Pictured below: The Royalettes posing with their friends from the Paul VI dance team.

    DJO with PVI

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  • 12/08/17--13:02: A Long Blue and Gray Line

    Earlier this week, we learned of the passing of Mr. Philip Katz. Mr. Katz is the father of our teacher Caroline McGinn. Caroline and her five siblings are mourning the loss of their father, and at his wake one of her brothers recalled to me his legacy, including his connection to Saint John the Beloved Parish and school as well as Bishop O'Connell High School. The family calculated that Mr. Katz's children and grandchildren had attended Saint John Academy for a total of 174 years and there have been members of the Katz family enrolled as students at Bishop O'Connell for the past five decades.

    Just a few days after learning of the passing of Mr. Katz, I learned that Mr. Everett Bergmann passed away. Mr. Bergmann was one of four sons of W.C. Bergmann who helped build the family dry cleaning business from its beginnings in the inter-war period over 90 years. It remains a well-known and still family run business to this day. All of Mr. Bergmann's nine children are graduates of Bishop O'Connell and some of his grandchildren have attended as well.

    Stories like those of the Katz family and the Bergmann family are part of the fabric of our school's history. Today, as we write new chapters, we can also reflect on how we got where we are today and on the sacrifices of so many who have made the story of Bishop O'Connell High School.

    At Mass today, we took time to honor our IHM Sisters as they renewed their vows on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Like our founding families, the IHM Sisters have been with O'Connell from the beginning. The community of Sisters with us at the school today represent a long line of commitment and sacrifice made by hundreds of IHM Sisters over the years. As today's community of Sisters prepares to move into their new convent down the street next week, we continue to thank God for their presence, their example, and their dedicated service to Catholic education.

    We pray for the repose of the souls of Mr. Katz and Mr. Bergmann and we pray for our IHM Sisters and all of the Sisters of the IHM community.

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    FBLA TeamCongratulations to O'Connell seniors Grace Cook, Caroline Hanson, Harrison McBride, and Taylor Rooney on winning the "ENACTUS at UVA" High School Case Competition earlier this month. This annual competition is hosted at the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce and includes teams from throughout the Commonwealth. ENACTUS stands for "ENTrepreneurial ACTion U.S." and it's main purpose is to encourages innovative thought in high school students to solve complex business problems in creative ways. For the competition, the students were given a specific case outlining a local business' current problem. They were asked to devise recommendations and then present their ideas to a panel of judges which included the owners of the business.

    The students are all members of Bishop O'Connell's Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) club. "I am so proud of this team," said the club's moderator, Mrs. Marie O'Malley. "Their solution to the problem was all their own, their presentation was very professionally done, and they answered tough questions from the business owners without hesitation."

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    Merry Christmas everyone!

    Working in schools provides educators the unique benefit of being around the spirit, energy and idealism of young people everyday. We are also blessed to watch young men and women figure things out on a daily basis. We see it in laboratories, classrooms, athletic fields and courts, and in the performing arts. At Christmas time, we are blessed with Christmas concerts - always joyful, with beautiful selections beautifully performed. For me, the Christmas concert has often been a key moment for getting into the Christmas spirit - a reminder of how blessed I am to be involved in Catholic education at Bishop O'Connell with incredibly dedicated colleagues and amazing students. I can leave aside whatever the concerns of the day are and be reminded by our student performers of the miracle of Christmas.

    Yesterday morning all of us on the faculty and staff at the school were spoiled by the PTO and the FLIK team at the school with a wonderful Christmas breakfast. We are very grateful for the support of the parents in our school community and I extend, on behalf of the whole team here, a heartfelt thanks for the thoughtfulness and generous spirit that made that breakfast possible.

    I ask you all, as you begin your Christmas holiday, to offer a special prayer for our community of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tonight they will spend their first night together in their new convent just a few blocks from the school. It is a beautiful new home, but as anyone who as ever moved knows, there are both physical and emotional challenges to moving. We've tried to help make the physical aspects of moving as easy as possible for the Sisters, but we know that they are closing a convent at the school that has over the years been home to hundreds of Sisters who have served Bishop O'Connell. We pray in thanksgiving for all the sacrifices of those Sisters in support of Bishop O'Connell and in hope that their new beginning marks a fruitful new chapter in the continuing relationship between the school and the IHM Community.

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    Angel Tree ProjectTen juniors and seniors joined a handful of O'Connell faculty members at the annual Salvation Army Angel Tree project in Arlington. This program works with the community to provide Christmas presents for local families who are struggling financially. Last Friday was the program's distribution day, and O'Connell students worked from noon until 7 p.m. to help sort and organize the gifts, before helping parents carry out their families' gifts.

    "The best part for me was when I saw the joy of the people receiving presents," said senior Andrew Oliveros. "When other people are joyful, that brings me so much joy, too."

    "This project is one of my favorite group service opportunities," added O'Connell's Christian Service Coordinator, Kathryn Haas. "Seeing the reaction of the parents receiving the presents for their children brings a great deal of perspective to all of us who participate."

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