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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School
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  • 10/06/17--06:57: Winless No More


    Winless no more!

    As history illustrates, wins have been hard to come by for the O'Connell field hockey program. And this year is no exception. Especially this year, where inconsistency has plagued the Knights game in and game out.

    But Monday was different. For whatever reason, very, very different. O'Connell came to play. And play they did – dominating the action during various stretches throughout the game. Never has the team looked better! And against a formidable foe: St. Mary's Ryken. Yes, that St. Mary's Ryken of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

    The end result: a 2-1 double-overtime, sudden-death victory over Ryken.

    An amazing result and accomplishment for Coach Eighmey Zeeck's squad. Much of the game, their play was flawless. The DJO girls excelled! It was O'Connell's first-ever win over St. Mary's Ryken. That's right, first-ever win over Ryken.

    And to do so, as they did, was awesome. Double OT, sudden death! Pretty amazing! And, as the score would suggest, extremely exciting.

    Junior goalkeeper Skye Hartsoe played a large role in keeping Ryken at bay through the first 30 minutes with some terrific saves and directing the defense as the two teams battled to a scoreless deadlock in the first half.

    Nine minutes into the second half, opportunity knocked and Ryken capitalized. It was disheartening, especially considering the DJO girls had controlled the action much of the half and, for that matter, most of the game. Past teams would have caved in at that point, feeling sorry for themselves or accepting defeat for what it was.... just another loss.

    This year's O'Connell contingent did not. Something was different. A belief not evident in recent years past took hold. If anything, it almost seemed as if Ryken's tally energized Coach Zeeck's charges. Once again, the home-standing Knights were on the attack. At the 24-minute mark exactly, Aubrey Donohue (pictured above) knotted the score at 1-1 with a goal. Celebration erupted on the O'Connell sidelines, while concern surfaced on the Ryken bench.

    Perhaps it was the words of Donohue following the Ryken goal: "Guys, let's not start playing bad just because they scored. We are better than them, and we are getting to the balls first. We got this! Let's keep up the intensity and communication."

    "We got this!" Gotta love it! "We got this!"


    Indeed, O'Connell was not going away! A rejuvenated DJO squad found new life, while Ryken increased the pressure. "Ole mo" had taken a turn, and a determined Ryken contingent turned up the intensity. But O'Connell was not going away! They had come to play on this day.

    Regulation play concluded with the two teams battling to a 1-1 standoff.

    A 10-minute, sudden-death overtime ensued. OT proved quite interesting, with each team fielding only six players and a goalie by WCAC rules (as opposed to ten players and a goalie). The horn sounded after ten minutes, and the score was still deadlocked at 1-all.

    Coach Zeeck had decided to stack the field with her top offensive and defensive performers, all upperclassmen: Kirsten Knauf, Caroline Young (pictured above), Olivia Pope (pictured below), Camille Seldin, Laura Putnam and Donohue with Hartsoe in goal. And, in doing so, elected to change her team's strategy – becoming more offensive-minded. She instructed her defense to hold tough along the 50-yard-line, and if an offensive corner was called in the DJO girls' favor, everyone needed to be on the 16 in order to increase their scoring opportunities. She also employed a little psychological strategy, singling out Seldin – reminding the defender that she always wanted to score, so now was her opportunity. As fate would have it, Seldin delivered as her teammates and coaches mobbed her in celebration.


    The perfect ending to an outstanding game.

    And, on another note, just my perspective and observations as a fan along the sidelines taking in the action.

    Looking back on Monday's victory, Skye Hartsoe was outstanding in goal throughout the entire game. It is as good as I have seen her play. Kirsten Knauf was steady and, as always, impressive in her play and decision-making. Notable also was Olivia Pope's aggression, attacking the goal at every opportune time.... ditto for the fight and scrappiness of Caroline Young in the midfield. And I may be saving the best for last here... #8, Aubrey Donohue, should now be on everyone's radar. She possesses amazing talent and an undeniable desire to win. "We got this!"

    I am really liking what I witnessed on Monday. Some more outings like that, and O'Connell will be looked upon more favorably by the rest of the WCAC. Congratulations, ladies, this was a well-deserved triumph!

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

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    This morning, through the efforts of our counseling team, along with our Chaplain, Fr. Thompson, and faculty and student leaders, we held an assembly focused on RESPECT. Students offered examples of how to strengthen a culture of respect in our community and beyond. Through prayer, reflection and Eucharistic adoration, we endeavored to take to heart the challenges to be models of respect for others, particularly in challenging times. I share with you here my remarks at the outset of the assembly.

    Good Morning Everyone,

    I am glad to have a moment to speak with you at the outset of this assembly focused on respect.

    At this moment in history, when natural disasters remind us of the need to extend our hands in service, generosity and love to those impacted.

    And when the violent acts of deranged individuals challenge us to smother evil with love.

    And when the public discourse, amplified in a social media environment, feels at times to have become more mean-spirited, sarcastic, and at times even hostile.

    It is appropriate that we pause and recognize a fundamental starting point for answering the question: "What can I do?"

    That starting point is an acknowledgment of the fundamental worth and dignity of every human person.

    How will others know they have worth and dignity? – By how we treat them...and they will know we are Christians by our love...

    What does it mean to be the face of God to another?

    What does this mean for us in the daily work-and-school sense?

    How do we lift others up?

    How well do we listen to what others are saying?

    How do we put the needs of others before our own?

    Do we subordinate our own wishes and desires to the needs of others?

    Do we suppress our ego and seek to serve others with humility?

    And where do we find the strength to do this? (because we know it is not always easy)

    Do we do as our Bishop Burbidge has suggested and "Look Up" to the prayer...

    "God give me patience..."

    "God give me fortitude to persevere in what is hard"

    "God, guide me...I want to help, but I am scared..."

    "God forgive me try again and do better"

    We are a community, a community of Faith and hope and we can be part of the light that casts out the darkness. Let us use this time of meditation and prayer this morning to remember this potential in us and to resolve to use at every opportunity.

    Thank you.

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    VMEA Honors

    Congratulations to O'Connell seniors Peter Lucas and Vasili Varfis who were named to the 2017 Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA) Honors Choir.

    This past weekend, Peter and Vasili, along with high school seniors from throughout Virginia traveled to Longwood University to take part in the VMEA auditions. They performed Henry Purcell's If Music Be the Food of Love for a panel of collegiate music adjudicators. Following their solo performances, they were asked to sing a short musical excerpt by sight with no previous rehearsal.

    "The VMEA audition is highly competitive and prepares dedicated music students for auditions with universities and other artistic organizations," said O'Connell's choral director Peter Kadeli. "This is quite an honor for Peter and Vasili and for our school's music programs."

    Both young men have participated in the Bishop O'Connell choral program for the past four years. "They are passionate about music, especially singing," added Kadeli.

    Peter and Vasili are two of only 15 Bass 1 voices statewide who will be performing at the VMEA Honors Choir Festival at the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va. on Nov. 18.

    For more information on Bishop O'Connell music program, visit

    For more information on the Virginia Music Educators Association,, visit

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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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  • 10/31/17--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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    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