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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School
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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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    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. 

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  • 11/30/18--13:13: Entering the Advent Season

    The other day, Twitter and other media outlets were appropriately abuzz with the video footage of Pope Francis' reaction when a six year-old boy from Argentina wandered on to the altar during a papal audience to find out if the Swiss guard was a real person.  The boy's mother came before the Pope and shared with him that her son could not speak and the Pope said of the little boy:

    “This child cannot speak, but he knows how to communicate.  He is free. When Jesus says we must become like children, He is telling us we must have the freedom children have with their father.  This child has taught us all.  And we ask for the grace that he may speak."

    As we begin the Advent season, a time during which we prayerfully await the Christ child, perhaps we can learn from the little boy, and the Holy Father's observations, and prepare for Christmas with a great sense of child-like wonder about the miracle that is the source of our Faith.  

    If you haven't seen the video of this moment, it is worth a look HERE...

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    Koons DedicationBishop O'Connell High School celebrated an important moment in its history on the December 3 when the school's gym was renamed as the Koons Athletic Center.

    With the morning sun shining through the upper windows and the gym bleachers filled with enthusiastic students, O'Connell's Head of School, Dr. Joseph E. Vorbach III, shared with the assembled crowd about a transformational donation to the school's capital campaign.

    "Because of this gift, we are able to proceed with the work we have begun here at the school that includes the new plaza out front, the new main entrance and open corridor, and the new wing on the site of the old convent that will have modern and flexible classrooms, as well as the new Immaculate Heart Chapel," said Dr. Vorbach.

    He then turned to introduce Jim and Cece Koons, both members of the O'Connell class of 1969. "We would not be moving forward with these bold steps without their help."

    Jim Koons called this a "special treat" to be at O'Connell on this day. He introduced his wife, Cece, along with his sister-in-law Denise Zimmerman (class of 73) and his daughter Krystal, who had joined him for the ceremony. "O'Connell and the Koons family share a lot of history," he said. He met his wife, then Cece Zimmerman, at the school, and the two are getting ready to celebrate their 50-year class reunion in 2019. He has three siblings who also attended O'Connell, and his older brother Joe (class of 1964) has been inducted in the Hall of Fame. Cece's father, Dr. Zimmerman, served as the school's team doctor for 30 years and is also in the school's Hall of Fame.

    Having the Koons name on the athletic center is a fitting tribute to his family's legacy. "Sports were a huge part of our life at O'Connell," Koons continued. "From this we got life lessons like discipline, positive attitude, hard work, teamwork, and respect for others."

    Rev. Gregory Thompson, the school's chaplain, invited the assembly to pray together, to "...bless all who assemble to compete in good sportsmanship, to teach the virtues, and to give support to all who participate in the various activities held in this building."

    The newly dedicated Koons Athletic Center then erupted in high spirits as the boys and girls varsity basketball teams, along with the school's cheerleading squad and dance team hosted a pep rally as a way of thanking the Koons family and kicking off this new era of O'Connell athletics.

    View photo highlight from the Dec. 3 event below or CLICK HERE.



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  • 12/06/18--05:55: Fall Blood Drive Success
  • Blood Drive 2018On Tuesday, Nov. 27, the O'Connell Health Services Club held their first blood drive of the year. Members of the club, led by officers Grace Motta, Anneliese Fantini, and Franny Seldin, worked beforehand to promote the event and register both teachers and students as donors. On the day of the drive, the club members were responsible for signing donors in and providing support, comfort and snacks to all those who gave blood. Before and after the event they all pitched in to set up and clean up, too.

    "Thanks again for another successful and productive Bishop O'Connell blood drive" said INOVA blood drive coordinator, John Ronan. "We registered 71 donors and collected 42 whole blood, 16 red cells, and 7 platelets, for a total of 65 blood products. This means that 195 lives can be potentially saved!"

    "This drive was held the day our students came back from the Thanksgiving holiday," said O'Connell's club moderator, Ms. Alicia Doran. "I was worried initially that our turnout would be low, but I'm so proud of everyone who stepped up to make this such a great event."

    The club plans on hosting another blood drive this spring. Stay tuned.

    A Special Note - The enthusiastic response to these blood drives is a great tribute to former O'Connell counselor, Mrs. Kathy Black, who passed away just a few weeks ago. During her time at O'Connell (1985 – 2015) she worked tirelessly with the Health Services Club to educate others on the critical needs for blood in our area, and to ensure the success of the school's blood drives. She leaves behind a wonderful legacy of giving back to the community.









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  • 12/07/18--13:03: Service and Sacrifice
  • In the summer of 1984, my second summer at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, I spent five weeks on a cruise aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Taney, a 327-foot ship named after Roger B. Taney, the 12th Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. In 1984, the Taney was 48 years old and was a unique ship on active service in the Coast Guard because it was present at Pearl Harbor 77 years ago today on December 7, 1941--a date that, as President Franklin Roosevelt correctly predicted, lives in infamy. You can visit the Taney in Baltimore Harbor where it has been a National Historic Landmark since 1988. Even though it is gradually disintegrating, I still have my "Cutter Taney" ball cap from 1984.

    Obviously, I was thinking of the Taney because today is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Dates like this are valuable times to reflect on values like patriotism, service, sacrifice and the fortitude that our nation has shown over the course of its history. I asked the students at an assembly yesterday to use the time during the singing of the National Anthem at school events to reflect on those moments in our nation's history when such strength of character was called for especially, as well as on those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

    Seeing our Sisters renew their vows during Mass yesterday was another moment for being reminded about service and well as humility and many other attributes.  As she has done in the past, Sister Regina, on behalf of all the Sisters, thanked the students for letting the Sisters be part of their lives. So, as we were trying to salute the Sisters, Sister turned the salute back to the student body in a way that reflects the selfless service we see in all of the Sisters we are blessed to work with in our community. It happened that the General Superior of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was with us at Mass yesterday too. She shared with the students that when the IHM Sisters of her community around the world rise before dawn to pray each day, they pray the Angelus for the students of the school communities where they serve.  I thought this was a powerful moment for the students to get a stronger sense for both the meaning and the power of prayer.

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    All week long we've been blessed by the gifts of the Christmas season -- a really beautiful choral concert on Tuesday evening, the faculty being spoiled by the PTO at the annual Christmas breakfast on Tuesday morning, the in-school combined concert later on Tuesday, and a fantastic instrumental concert last night.  Each of these moments was full of extra treats that were reminders of how much God-given talent resides in our student body and with the faculty, counselors and coaches who assist their development. The choreography of the choral concert, the integration of visual art into the strings performance, and the variety of solos in the Jazz and Concert Band performances are all good examples these extras.  The smiles on the faces of drawing winners at the faculty breakfast were another blessing. And thanks to our counselors, since it is the week before mid-term exams, there were a variety of stress relieving activities layered into the week too -- a moon bounce and therapy dogs to name a few.

    So we are very busy and full of anticipation. Our immediate prayers are for our students as they endeavor to do their best with their mid-term exams next week.  We also pray for one another as we "wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior," recalling this verse from "O Come Divine Messiah":

    O come, divine Messiah!
    The world in silence waits the day
    When hope shall sing its triumph,
    And sadness flee away.  

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    Earlier this week I was engaged in a conversation with a few colleagues that started with a reference to a recent Wall Street Journal editorial on the unique value of Catholic education. The June 1, 2018 editorial made its way around Catholic education circles because of its focus on the positive impact of a Catholic education, rooted in the focus on self-discipline. 

    It got me thinking about what it is I believe is meant by "self-discipline" as used by those who conducted the study referenced in the WSJ editorial, and, indeed, what I hope students learn well while at Bishop O'Connell:

    1. Respect yourself - take care of yourself, don't do things that are self destructive
    2. Respect others - think in terms of seeing the face of God in others and trying to be the face of God for them
    3. Honor your parents and their commitment to your education
    4. Make the most of the talents God gave you...for the greater societal good.
    5. Develop the trait of humility (Micah 6:8 - Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God)

    I am grateful for the blessing of a team here at Bishop O'Connell that is committed to the development of the whole person in every student.  They understand the unique mission and the great transformative potential of Catholic education and they desire to make a positive difference in the lives of the young people they encounter.  We know our students face great challenges as they develop their self-discipline, and it is therefore a great responsibility for us to be alert to those challenges, their changing nature, and to whatever best practices we can avail ourselves of to combat them.  

    During this current school year, we are actually engaged in a self-study, a methodical examination of how we are doing at accomplishing our mission.  This is done in advance of a Fall 2019 re-accreditation visit from our accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), a component of the company Advanc-ED.  The self-study might be thought of as an audit of our collective self-discipline as an institution. It incorporates a wide array of data and allows us to calibrate our strategies for continuous improvement.