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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School
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    Bishop O'Connell High School is blessed by a wonderful racial and ethnic diversity, and when we pause from time to time to celebrate that diversity, we are enriched. Yesterday, at our Hispanic Heritage assembly, students shared through song, historical presentation, and games that involved the audience, the culture and traditions that have shaped their development as young men and women.  

    Assemblies like yesterday's are opportunities to further enhance the integration of our Catholic mission in the work of our school.  As we focus on making the dignity of the human person an integrating element of the freshman year academic experience, and as we emphasize in the sophomore year the value of being part of a community, we see yesterday's experience as a wonderful opportunity to grow in our understanding and appreciation of others in our community.  We must also see these opportunities as moments in the life of our school when valuable seeds are planted. We should tend to these seeds well throughout the year and beyond so that the learning that takes place at the assembly becomes the source of new and increased understanding and appreciation. 

    You might ask your students about junior Kiaris Alvarado Rojas performance of "Lamento Borincano" with ukulele, Skye Hartsoe's performance of "Vivir Mi Vida" with guitar, Victoria Revollo's bilingual solo of "Stand by Me," and Zoe Forino and Maddie Ryan's duet of "Dreaming of You."  They may also share with you about Spanish teacher, Dr. Ascunce, reading her original poem "No Lesser," as well as about the grand finale performance of Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" with senior Patrick Roney on drums, Spanish teacher Ciro Jimenez on bass, and Father Thompson giving Carlos Santana a run for his money on lead guitar.  When this song ended, the audience rose to its feet in applause -- affirming not only the last act but the entire production that was organized behind the scenes so skillfully by senior Miguel Badia, and juniors Cecy Juarez and Minerva Martinez.

    As we continue through the year, we look forward to more opportunities to celebrate the rich diversity of our community.

    View photos from the 2018 Hispanic Heritage assembly below or at THIS LINK.



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  • 10/05/18--05:00: A Shining Moment

    This week started with a special moment for our school.  Katie Finnegan, a junior who receives expanded services, was named a Seton Scholar at the National Catholic Educational Association's annual award gala.  Katie's recognition was associated with Porto Charities' recognition as a Seton Award honoree.  Since Bishop O'Connell began offering expanded services almost four years ago, Porto Charities has been a stalwart supporter of our efforts.  When they were so deservingly recognized at this national award gala, the Diocese of Arlington was present in strong numbers to salute them.  We were honored to be part of the contingent that included all five Diocesan schools with programs supporting students with intellectual disabilities. 

    We were so happy to see Katie on stage with Bishop Burbidge and the other awardees.  She has enriched our school community in immeasurable ways over the past several years and her moment at the gala recalled to my mind all the amazing things that have happened in our school the past three years that made it possible.  Of course, the support of Porto Charities and other charitable groups has been vital.  The way in which Paul VI and Saint John Paul the Great High Schools were so generous sharing their knowledge and experience was also very important to us.  Our teachers and our students have embraced the opportunities made possible by offering expanded services and they continue to make this student experience better every day.  Finally, we thank God for Katie and the other students receiving expanded services.  Their presence in our school has strengthened our community by increasing everyone's appreciation for the different ways people learn.

    Read more on the NCEA Awards Night in the Arlington Catholic Herald.

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  • 10/12/18--15:08: Reflecting on the past week

    Last Thursday and Friday I was able to attend a short spiritual retreat with most of the other Heads of School and Principals in the Diocese.  The retreat master, the priest leading the spiritual reflection throughout the retreat, was Father Jack Peterson, a 1981 graduate of Bishop O'Connell.  As a 1983 graduate, I always enjoy seeing Father Jack, someone I have admired for a long time.  Father led a wonderful retreat and his reflections called all of us to greater focus in our prayer lives.

    Later that evening, I enjoyed, along with a full room of alumni, past parents and friends, the annual Alumni Awards and Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  Throughout this evening, as both presenters and recipients spoke, the value and power of an O'Connell education were affirmed.  Honorees spoke over and over about the importance of the faith-filled environment at O'Connell, the critical roles played by teachers, coaches and counselors during their development, the love of parents, and the lifelong friendships made.  It was, as it has been each year I have attended, a really wonderful evening.

    After a busy weekend of homecoming activities and an always appreciated holiday on Monday, we settled into the school week -- one that included the freshman class retreat and PSAT testing for sophomores and juniors on Wednesday.  This Sunday, we will hold our annual Open House for prospective families -- an important moment on our school calendar that we treat as an "all hands on deck" evolution to share all that is good about an O'Connell education.  If you have the chance to encourage friends and neighbors to come out and give us a look, we are most appreciative of that support.

    On Monday, we begin our hearty soup drive to support Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Arlington.  Thank you in advance for your support of this longstanding tradition that makes a big difference for those in need in our community.

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  • 10/19/18--05:00: So Much Great Heavy Lifting

    We started our week on Sunday this week with a fantastic Open House event for prospective families.  This annual element of our fall calendar is very important to us as we try our best to give our visitors the most complete sense of what we have available and how we try to accomplish our mission every day.  I'm very grateful for the hard work of all my colleagues, the generous spirit of so many students who volunteered to help out at the event, and the many parents who were either present to assist or who took time on Sunday to drive their child in so they could help out.  It was a great event -- we were very encouraged by the turnout and the level of interest expressed.

    The week is closing out with an instrumental pops concert tonight (Thursday) and 1/3 of the sophomore class spending the day all around the Northern Virginia area engaged in direct service for those in need.  Thinking about both of these events, one is again reminded of the heavy lifting that goes on in the background to make them possible.  

    During the writing of this blog, I was asked to unlock a door for a parent so they could collect and transport cases of water and snacks down to the auditorium lobby.  When we got down to the lobby, our music teachers and students were busy in last minute preparations -- joined by our string playing social studies and computer science teachers who are joining in tonight as well.  The lobby was also bustling with the work of Music Booster parents setting up for the evening.

    The sophomore retreat, which is actually three different days of 100 students going out into the community with chaperones, is a logistical project that Mr. Fitzpatrick, Dr. Coolidge, Mrs. Rugo and Father Thompson have pulled together.  I know it is going to be impactful and I look forward to being part of it.

    Last week, an internal communication from Mr. Patton began this way: 

    "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." Proverbs 17:17

    Friends, though we have had an awesome start to the school year, many among us have been carrying heavy burdens at home caring for, and supporting, loved ones who are suffering with illness and, in some cases, end of life issues.  Please pray for them to have strength in their time of sorrow and for the Lord's protection for their families.  Our colleagues who are suffering in this way have shown remarkable strength as they persevere for our students and community with grace and professionalism.  Thank you all for your prayers. 

    Re-reading it today prompted me both to want to share it with all of you and to extend the prayers to our wider community for those suffering and those giving them comfort.

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  • 10/26/18--13:04: A week of rich experiences

    Last week I mentioned the Sophomore service retreat and I thought I should report back on my experience at the Lamb Center with ten of our students.  We were given a tour of the facility in Fairfax so we could better understand all of the services they provide for the homeless, then we participated in a Bible study with clients and volunteers.  Some students were then asked to help prepare and serve lunch while the rest of us went upstairs to sort clothing.  We ate lunch with clients of the Center before spending some time outside doing some cleanup and weeding.  Before returning to Bishop O'Connell, we stopped at Cameron's Coffee, a small business that employs men and women with intellectual and cognitive disabilities.  All of these experiences helped reinforce the Catholic Social Justice teachings we focused on before departing -- options for the poor and vulnerable, the dignity of work and rights of workers, the dignity of life and the human person.  I believe our eyes and our hearts were opened further and I am glad to have had that experience with our students.  

    Some quick references if you have time to look more deeply: First, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's learning resources on Catholic Social Teaching:  Second, here is a nice video about Cameron's Chocolates that is worth a few minutes of your time:

    The Pops concert was excellent last Thursday and the Choir concert on Tuesday of this week was equally so.  The teachers poured themselves into the challenge and the students responded wonderfully.  They are so talented and it really is a beautiful thing to behold when they make music so wonderfully together.

    The last big thing of the week was the Living Rosary to conclude our annual soup drive.  Led by our Student Council Executive Board, the students collected 15,187 cans...what we believe to be an all-time record for the school.  Thank you parents and guardians for helping us accomplish this goal!  The students who delivered the soup to the St. Lucy Project warehouse learned immediately of where the soup was going in the Diocese and how impactful the donation would be for up to an entire year.  As we prayed at the Living Rosary, please continue to pray for all those who need and will benefit from this soup.

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    Tryouts for winter sports (except ice hockey) begin on Nov. 8. 

    Below are the start times and locations of O'Connell winter sports tryouts. Please remember that medical and permission forms MUST be completed and submitted online before the first day of tryouts.

    If you have any questions about tryouts, please contact the coach or athletics office.

    Freshman Boys Basketball
    Nov. 8 (3:05 - 4:35 p.m.) - Auxilliary Gym 
    Nov. 9 (3:05 - 4:35 p.m.) - Auxilliary Gym
    Nov. 10 (8:00 - 10:00 a.m.) - Auxilliary Gym

    JV Boys Basketball
    Nov. 8 (3:30 - 5:30 p.m.) - Trinity Church
    Nov. 9 (3:30 - 5:30 p.m.) - Trinity Church
    Nov. 10 (3:30 - 5:30 p.m.) - Main Gym

    Varsity Boys Basketball
    Nov. 8 (3:30 - 5:30 p.m.) - Main Gym
    Nov. 9 (3:30 - 5:30 p.m.) - Main Gym
    Nov. 10 (9:00 - 11:15 a.m.) - Main Gym

    Frosh Girls Basketball
    Nov. 8 (6:05 - 7:35 p.m.) - Auxilliary Gym
    Nov. 9 (6:05 - 7:35 p.m.) - Auxilliary Gym
    Nov. 10 (10:00 a.m. - noon) - Auxilliary Gym

    JV Girls Basketball
    Nov. 8 (4:35 - 6:05 p.m.) - Auxilliary Gym
    Nov. 9 (4:35 - 6:05 p.m.) - Auxilliary Gym
    Nov. 10 (1:30 - 3:30 p.m.) - Main Gym

    Varsity Girls Basketball
    Nov. 8 (5:30 - 8:00 p.m.) - Main Gym
    Nov. 9 (5:30 - 8:00 p.m.) - Main Gym
    Nov. 10 (11:15 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.) - Main Gym

    Nov. 8 (3:45 - 6:15 p.m.)
    Nov. 9 (3:45 - 6:15 p.m.)
    Nov. 10 (9 a.m. - noon)

    Swim and Dive
    Swim and Dive​ is a non-cut varsity sport. Swim practices start on Monday, Nov. 12. Athletes are expected to bring suit, cap, and goggles. A bus will transport athletes from Marymount University to O'Connell after practice each morning. Dive practices start on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

    ​Mon/Wed - 7:45-9 p.m. at Audrey Moore Rec Center
    ​Tues/Thurs - 5:30-7 a.m. at Marymount University

    ​Tues/Thurs- 6:30-8 p.m. at Yorktown High School

    Contact Swim Coach Joe Smolinske for more information:

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  • 11/09/18--13:38: It's November
  • There are times when I begin writing this occasional blog full of optimism that I might pull several threads of ideas together in an artful way that is more compelling than a reporting of events…and there are times when achieving that goal feels beyond reach.  As Steve Martin said once in his stand-up routine years ago, "Some people have a way with words, and other people...uhh...'not have way' I guess you could say."  Here goes...

    Sitting down today, it’s 49 degrees and pouring rain outside.  The leaves are definitely turning and daylight savings time is over.  It's November, the month during which we pray for all souls, and we are aware this week of families in our community that are mourning the loss of a loved one.  We pray that eternal rest be granted to those who have died and for their families in mourning, we pray that God will give them comfort.

    November 1 is also an important college application deadline for many of our seniors.  We know that they have been working hard, with the support of parents, teachers, counselors and coaches, to put their best feet forward in those efforts.  Deadlines are stressful, and occurring as they do at the end of the first quarter adds additional burdens.  We want to continue to pray for our seniors and all our students -- that they will know God's presence in their lives and continue to turn the Lord for guidance as they discern their vocation.

    November 4-10 is also National Vocation Awareness Week and we have prayed each day this week for the five O'Connell alumni currently preparing for priestly ordination.  We also pray for Allison Gliot, a 2012 graduate who is a postulant with the Daughters of Saint Paul.

    The fall sports seasons are wrapping up.  As I write this, several teams are out competing in championship events -- boys soccer is playing Cape Henry Collegiate in the Virginia Independent School Athletic Association (VISAA) state championship game tonight in Richmond, while our cross country teams head to Fork Union and our volleyball team stays local, competing for a Virginia title. The football team is savoring an exciting 35-33 playoff victory over Paul VI last evening.

    I think the most remarkable thing to happen this week was observing our students in the auditorium speaking directly to American Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, via amateur ham radio, as she flew 250 miles above the earth at 17,000 miles/hour.  In about ten minutes of available radio contact, the students were able to ask about 20 questions and the connection was strong throughout.  In the lead up to and execution of this opportunity, students (particularly those in our engineering electives) were able to learn a lot about the space station, amateur radio, space flight, and a host of related topics.  The attentiveness of everyone in the auditorium was evidence of a collective awareness of how unique, and how cool, this opportunity was.  There have only been about 1,000 connections like this done, so it remains a very unique learning experience.  Our teacher Mrs. Melissa Pore deserves a special salute for her efforts in making this moment a reality.

    The second quarter is underway and because of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday interludes, as well as the pre-Christmas semester assessments, it will go by quickly and we will wrapping up the semester in January before we know it.  


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  • 11/01/18--07:00: Soup Drive Exceeds Goals

    The fall soup drive is a 45-year tradition at Bishop O’Connell which brings out the spirit of the school community while benefiting local Catholic Charities food pantries. After two weeks of stiff competition among advisory classrooms, students gathered on the football field on Oct. 25 to pray a Living Rosary for the people and families who will be the recipients of these donations. When every can was counted, students were thrilled to hear that they reached this year’s goal of 15,000 cans—setting a new record for the school.

    Read more from the Arlington Catholic Herald.

    View a slideshow from the 2018 Living Rosary above or at THIS LINK.

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    ARISS ContactFather, we thank You for the gift that You have planted in every human heart—the gift of discovery, the gift of know Your creation, to know not only the Earth that You gave us, but the universe in which we live. We ask You to help us to appreciate the gift of that spirit of discovery. We ask You to bless all those involved in the exploration of space, so that they might be safe, and that they might advance our knowledge of the universe, to continue to serve humanity and to help each of us to live in harmony with one another.

    With this prayer, Father Thompson opened the much-anticipated Nov. 8 program, where Bishop O'Connell students were able to connect live from the school auditorium with NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor aboard the International Space Station via Amateur Radio.


    Read all about this out-of-this-world experience and view a highlight video from The Arlington Catholic Herald.

    View a photo slideshow on our webpage.

    Watch and listen to the ten minute chat below or on our YouTube channel.

    Thank you to the faculty and administration at Bishop O'Connell who supported this project, and to Mrs. Melissa Pore whose dedication to student engagement in STEM made this happen.  Special thanks to our partners at ARISS, ARRL and NASA SCaN who helped us make the program possible, and who continue to help nurture our students' interests.

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    I started last week asking everyone to keep in prayer those families in the community that are dealing with the recent passing of a loved one.  As I ask you to continue to pray this week, let me be more specific. Please pray for the repose of the soul of, and for the families of these three women, each of whom gave generously of themselves in support of the Church and Catholic education over their lifetimes: Mrs. Ann Buckreis (the mother of our Activities Director Robert Buckreis), Mrs. Gloria Albrittain (mother and grandmother of a multitude of O'Connell alumni), and Mrs. Olga Hill (the mother of our Dean of Academics Sister Catherine Hill. Mrs. Hill passed away last night peacefully at the age of 103). These three women supported, by prayer and works, the spiritual development of young men and women. 

    The second round of retreats for seniors earlier this week would have been of interest to each of them because they gave of themselves in order that young people would have the opportunity to develop personal relationships with Christ.  Mrs. Buckreis, for example, directed the religious education program at Saint Michael's Church in Annandale for 25 years.  The retreats, even in this relatively short 30 hour overnight format, do provide students an opportunity to pause, to pray, and to reflect on how they will continue to hold close those things that matter most as they head off to college.  My observation from the boys retreat this week is that the young men are very conscious of the tension between the fullness of what they are called to be and the things that the culture messages them as being most important.  When I take a few moments, its not hard to put myself back in their shoes and imagine all that I thought was important at that point in my life.  Doing this reflection also brings to mind people from my past who I know never gave up on me -- always prayed for me, lifted me up in times of doubt or discouragement, and encouraged me to continue praying and staying close to God.  I pray that I have the right, best words to offer young people when an opportunity for me to play a role like that comes along.

    It is good to end a week and a blog on a joyful note.  That happened today in the gym when 13 student-athletes made their commitments to compete in NCAA athletics in front of family, coaches, teachers, counselors and, most joyfully, friends.  With the announcement of each name, the gym erupted with cheers from the bleachers.  The students wanted their friends to know how impressed they were with their accomplishments, how happy they were for them, how much they enjoy being their teammates, their friends.  It was a really nice moment.