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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School
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  • 10/26/18--13:04: A week of rich experiences
  • THOUGHTS FROM OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL, JOSEPH VORBACH:

    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: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/seven-themes-of-catholic-social-teaching.cfm.  Second, here is a nice video about Cameron's Chocolates that is worth a few minutes of your time: http://every1canwork.com/about/.

    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

    Wrestling
    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.

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

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

    Contact Swim Coach Joe Smolinske for more information: jsmolinske@bishopoconnell.org


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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
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    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 curiosity...to 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.

    MORE INFORMATION

    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
  • THOUGHTS FROM OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL, JOSEPH VORBACH:

    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 sacrifice...as 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.