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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School
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    Serving the Homeless

    In an effort to build up the larger school community, the Bishop O'Connell PTO has organized smaller "regional communities," focused on family fellowship, service and just plain fun!

    The geographical regions are designated using the initials from the school's name: Bishop Denis J. O'Connell:

    Region B - Arlington, McLean, Great Falls, Washington DC north of the Anacostia River and Montgomery County.
    Region D - Alexandria, Fort Belvoir, Washington DC south of the Anacostia River, Prince George's County and Charles County.
    Region J - Fairfax County south of I-66, Falls Church south, Prince William County and Stafford County.
    Region O - Falls Church north (22043, 22046 zip codes), Fairfax County north of I-66 and south of Route 7, Loudoun County and beyond.

    Serving the Homeless

    Most recently, "Region J" families held a service project focused on feeding and serving the homeless in the local area. On Dec. 27, members of the community put together care packets and lunch bags ahead of time and then began the very cold day at Franklin Square Park in Washington, DC. They finished the day at the Bailey's Crossroads Community Shelter to share the abundance of food they had collected and prepared.

    Family Fellowship

    Earlier in December, "Region D" families got together to ring in the holiday season with a cookie party in Old Town Alexandria and a viewing of the annual Holiday Boat Parade on the Potomac.

    Coming Up Next

    Families in "Region O" – Save the Date – On Sunday, Jan. 28 a service project is planned at the Virginian Continuing Care Retirement Community in Fairfax. Two hour volunteer slots will be available in the morning and afternoon, with the opportunity to gather for lunch as a community in between the two times.

    Stay tuned for more regional community events, and feel free to contact the PTO (pto@bishopoconnell.org) if you'd like to get involved. For more information on PTO activities, visit www.bishopoconnell.org/pto.

    View photos from the Dec. 27 service event below or by CLICKING HERE. Out of courtesy and to preserve the dignity of our homeless brothers and sisters, their pictures are not included in the photos below from a wonderful day supporting Jesus.





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    THOUGHTS FROM OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL, JOSEPH VORBACH:

    As we began the New Year this week, I had the privilege of being involved in something new and special at the IHM Sisters new convent. Bishop Burbidge dedicated the altar in the Sisters' new chapel during a special Mass. The process includes the anointing and incensing of the altar by the Bishop. Because the chapel is small, we were all very close and thus able to be very connected to what was transpiring.

    The Bishop anointed the altar by making the sign of the cross with oil over the altar stone and then over each of the four corners of the altar. He then rubbed the oil over the altar to ensure the entire surface was covered. As a first time observer of a Catholic rite like this, I found myself reflecting on the importance of each step in the process. Ultimately, the dedication reflected the importance of the altar to our Faith.

    It was a special moment for many reasons. Our Bishop--whose connection to the IHM Sisters goes back to his own days in grade school--spoke with great respect and admiration for the Sisters' devotion to their vocations. In their beautiful new convent, the IHM Sisters of Bishop O'Connell gathered around the altar of the most important room in their home. At the beginning of the New Year, a new chapel was dedicated and the moment was an opportunity to appreciate the contributions and sacrifices of hundreds of IHM Sisters who have served the Bishop O'Connell community over the past 60 years.

    As we move forward in 2018, focused on the development of a beautiful new wing of our school at the site of the original convent, we look forward to the day when Bishop Burbidge will join us in the new chapel at our school, a beautiful sign of our Catholic identity emerging toward Trinidad Street, to dedicate the altar there.

    Read more from the Arlington Catholic Herald about this special altar blessing...


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    THOUGHTS FROM OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL, JOSEPH VORBACH:

    On Monday, our nation remembered Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose life, example and words had a transforming effect on the Civil Rights Movement. His legacy continues to inspire our collective efforts to "...hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." A quick search for inspirational words from Dr. King leads one to a sea of quotations at times very simple, but profound. One that caught my eye immediately was:

    Life's most persistent and urgent question is 'What are you doing for others?'

    On Tuesday, the faculty and staff gathered in retreat at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Vienna where Father Fred Edlefsen, the pastor at Saint Agnes in Arlington, offered a reflection on the concept of "accompaniment," drawing upon the words and actions of Pope Francis. He encouraged us to consider our role as an "accompanist" in our interactions with loved ones, friends, peers and students—defining an accompanist as someone who prays and listens attentively for the Holy Spirit's prompting to gently inspire the "right words" at the "right time" that may bring healing and new life to another.

    Yesterday, it was my privilege to participate in an "in-school" field trip—a Founding Fathers Symposium—organized by our AP U.S. History teachers, Errika Durdle and Jim Shirey. Students prepared for this event by reading one of three biographies (David McCullough's John Adams, Jon Meacham's book on Jefferson "The Art of Power", and Ron Chernow's work on Alexander Hamilton). As part of the morning panel discussion, I was able to witness a thoughtful discussion on leadership qualities and accomplishments of these founding fathers, and a challenging discourse on the complexities of their legacies, particularly in the case of Jefferson regarding the question of slavery.

    As I write this today, a large contingent of our students and faculty are participating in the Rally for Life at George Mason University followed by the annual March for Life in downtown Washington, D.C. They went forth today inspired by the words of Pope Francis who reminds us that "all life has inestimable value. Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God's creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect." This morning they heard our Bishop Burbidge reinforce that point when he said, "Each and every day, the unborn and unprotected are crying out for our help...How blessed and privileged we are today to go forth in His name." Our students are accompanied today, as they are every year, by a contingent of our faculty and staff whose witness is a powerful part of the experience.

    Dr. King challenged us as a nation to look closely at ourselves in the mirror and ask questions about whether we were living up to our nation's ideals. When we think about the urgent question he posed, we can consider how we are doing when we are called upon to accompany others...either to help them through a struggle or to support and all of these experiences. The discussion with Father Edlefsen reminded us of our responsibilities when we are called to accompany another. The AP history panel highlighted for me the responsibility we bear as educators, particularly as we are helping students develop their critical thinking for confronting challenging issues. Today's March for Life draws us back to what our faith teaches us about the dignity of all human life and the blessing of living in a country where we are free to assemble peaceably to advocate for policies we believe in.


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  • 01/26/18--11:04: Building for the Future
  • THOUGHTS FROM OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL, DR. JOSEPH VORBACH:

    At back to school night last fall, I was excited to share some detail about the capital improvement plans we are pursuing. I shared then that our IHM Sisters were moving to a new Convent on Rochester Street, about a 1/4 mile from the school. This move took place in December and we are now in the process of preparing the original Convent for demolition this coming summer.

    Last April, we began a capital campaign to raise critical funding for the exciting work we plan to accomplish by 2020. Specifically, with the at least $4 million we will raise, with support from the Diocese, and with financing, we will:

    • Demolish the original convent and replace it with a three story building that features modern and flexible academic space on the two upper floors and a beautiful 180 seat chapel that emerges from the building to face Trinidad Street. The chapel--which is featured in an article published this week in the Arlington Catholic Herald--reflects inspiration that our architectural team took from studying Church architecture in Ireland, the birthplace of our namesake Denis J. O'Connell.
    • Replace the breezeways connecting the main wing and Trinidad wings with a new atrium style main entrance that connects to a new glass enclosed main corridor that will provide a main indoor artery for the school on both the first and second floor. This part of the plan, which also includes the installation of an elevator, solves some current circulation challenges, creates more open collaboration space in the building, and sets the stage for the next parts of our renovation effort after 2020.
    • Create a pedestrian plaza in the center area of the lawn along Little Falls Road. This plaza will serve as a gathering place for students before and after school in good weather and as a potential venue for alumni gatherings. It will also provide easy pedestrian passage to a main crosswalk leading to the new main entrance.

    Since late April of 2017, nearly $1.8 million of the $4 million in cash and pledges has been raised and we are adding to that total every day because of the generous support of donors who have engaged during this leadership phase.

    In the coming months and over the next two years, we plan to proceed as follows:

    • Demolition of the original Convent this summer.
    • Infrastructure preparation, pre-fabrication work, and work on the pedestrian plaza in the 2018-19 school year.
    • Construction of the new main entrance and main corridor in the summer of 2019.
    • Construction of the new building and chapel during the 2019-2020 school year and into the summer of 2020.

    As we move forward, we will continue to keep you apprised of our progress. In the meantime, we ask for your continued prayerful support. This major capital campaign is a fundraising challenge over and above our Knight Fund efforts that help us keep an excellent Bishop O'Connell experience within the reach of as many families as possible who are seeking Catholic education for their high school students.


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  • 02/02/18--13:18: Catholic Schools Week
  • THOUGHTS FROM OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL, JOSEPH VORBACH:

    Over the course of this Catholic Schools Week it was fun to both share and observe celebratory highlights from Catholic schools around the country through connections on social media (#CSW2018). If you follow me on Twitter (@j_vorbach) you may have seen that my personal highlight might have been taking our Chaplain, Father Thompson, to the Caps vs. Flyers hockey game on Wednesday. Snapshots like this from many others schools near and far were great reminders of all that is fun and special about Catholic education. We hope it was a fun week here for your students, too!

    Tomorrow night we will continue the celebration of O'Connell's rich Catholic history and traditions with the 17th annual Gala and Auction. I hope to see some of you there!


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  • 02/07/18--18:32: Spotlight on Our Counselors
  • This week is National School Counseling Week -- a time to focus public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors. National School Counseling Week, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a college and career. This year's theme is "School Counselors: Helping Students Reach for the Stars."

    At Bishop O'Connell we are grateful for the dedicated team of counselors who support our students and their families every day!

    As we celebrate this special week, we encourage you to learn something new about our team from our Spotlight on Our Counselors page.



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    Workmaster Artwork for Decal

    Congratulations to junior Schuyler Workmaster, whose artwork was chosen by popular vote as the winning entry in Arlington County's annual auto decal contest.

    Workmaster was a finalist in the contest the previous two years, but her perseverance paid off this time.

    "It's nice to see my efforts realized," she said. "I put a lot of work into my pieces and the recognition is appreciated. I'm overwhelmed by the amount of people who have supported me."

    Read more in the Arlington Catholic Herald...


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    THOUGHTS FROM OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL, JOSEPH VORBACH:

    Last week, Catholic Schools Week, was a broad celebration of Catholic Schools around the country. This week ended today with a moment that highlights the unique Catholic identity and spirit of Bishop O'Connell High School -- the Superdance Assembly.

    Today's assembly kicked off a month of preparation for the 43rd annual Superdance on March 10th. This unique assembly is a blend of spirit, entertainment, education about cystic fibrosis and the pursuit of a cure, and practical information for students to help them be part of an endeavor we hope will raise $150,000 or more to support research to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. Mrs. Connolly and Mrs. Cerniglia teamed up to provide the assembly with some historical perspective both about why we have a Superdance and what we do to make it successful. Their remarks were followed by those of Bridget O'Donnell Bean, an alum and past parent who endured the loss of four siblings to the disease in the 1970s. The O'Donnell family is the inspiration for our Superdance and Bridget, with great grace and passion, challenged our students to keep up the effort for this year's dance.

    There is no question it is a monstrous undertaking, one full of great opportunities for students to exercise leadership. Please take a look at our website (www.bishopoconnell.org/superdance) to learn more about Superdance and encourage your sons and daughters to look for ways they can be as involved as possible in the success of this event.

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  • 02/14/18--12:53: Spring Tryout Schedule
  • Spring Tryouts - Feb. 20-22, 2018

    Below is the spring team tryout schedule, with possible rain information on the bottom of the list.

    If you have any questions, please contact the team coach or Athletic Director, Joe Wootten at jwootten@bishopoconnell.org.

    Boys Lacrosse (Tuesday - Thursday): 3:30 - 6 p.m. at Pine Ridge Park *Bus leaves O'Connell at 3:15 p.m.

    Girls Lacrosse (Tuesday - Thursday): 3:15 - 6 p.m. on Stadium Field

    Baseball (Tuesday - Thursday): 3:30 - 6 p.m. on Baseball Field

    Softball (Tuesday - Thursday): 3:15 - 6:30 p.m. in Auxiliary Gymnasium

    Boys Tennis (Tuesday - Thursday): 3:30 - 5:30 p.m. at Bluemont Park *Bus leaves O'Connell at 3:15 p.m.

    Track (Tuesday - Thursday): 3:15 - 5:30 p.m. on Track

    Golf (Tuesday - Wednesday): 3:30 - 6:30 p.m. at Chantilly National Country Club *Bus leaves O'Connell at 3:05 p.m.

    In Case of Rain:
    This will be handled on a case by case basis. If it is raining, Softball and Baseball will be in the Auxiliary Gymnasium at the following times:
    Softball (3:15 - 5 p.m.)
    Baseball (5 - 7 p.m.)

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  • 02/16/18--10:00: A Reflection on the Week
  • THOUGHTS FROM OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL, JOSEPH VORBACH:

    On Wednesday, Bishop Burbidge celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass with us. For his homily, he came down from the altar and stood in front of the seniors. He recalled how St. Teresa of Kolkata was once asked "What needs to change?" Her response was, "You and I." Bishop Burbidge then offered a reflection on how, with God's help, we might make positive changes in our lives through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Shortly after he left O'Connell, Bishop Burbidge returned to the Cathedral where he offered another Ash Wednesday Mass that was reported in the Arlington Catholic Herald. You can get a better sense for Bishop's homily by reading this short article.

    At the beginning of Lent, offering up our own suffering, we hold in prayer particularly this week all those who lost their lives in the school shooting in Florida this week, as well as their families and all those who mourn their passing. We pray too for all public servants who play important roles working to ensure that our communities our safe.

    It is very natural in the wake of tragedies like the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, for parents and others involved in any school community to worry about the safety of their school. Please know that the safety of students at Bishop O'Connell is our foremost concern and I invite you to read this message about our school security posture, what we are doing to review our systems and policies, and how you can help.