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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School
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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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    Wishing all our families a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year...and sharing a few holiday treats from our students!

    Read about the "Very DJO Christmas Carol" in the Dec. 21 Arlington Catholic Herald.

    Enjoy some of the sights and sounds of the Advent Season at Bishop O'Connell, with music ("O Magnum Mysterium," by Ivo Antognini) performed by the O'Connell Singers:

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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 ( if you'd like to get involved. For more information on PTO activities, visit

    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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    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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  • 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!