Christendom gives back to its home diocese

"I consider myself the most blessed bishop in the world. Why? This diocese is not only home to one of the fastest growing flocks in the United States, but we are also home to one of the finest Catholic colleges in the entire country and beyond, here."

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde made those remarks at Christendom College's commencement ceremonies last May. For nearly 40 years, Christendom has thrived in the diocese thanks to the initial support of Bishop Thomas J. Welsh in 1977 and each bishop after him.

The Arlington Diocese has supported Christendom over the years, and Christendom has given back to the diocese in turn. More than 30 percent of Christendom's alumni have chosen to stay in the diocese post-graduation. Some are active in the religious life, others are educators or business leaders.

Since its founding in 1977, Christendom has helped inspire 158 religious vocations, including 75 priests and 50 sisters. Of that number, 14 alumni priests currently serve in Arlington, along with three Poor Clare nuns and one deacon.

Christendom alumni Father Stephen McGraw, head chaplain, and associate chaplain Father Mark Wenzinger helped establish a campus ministry at Shenandoah University in Winchester. They celebrated the first Catholic Mass on campus last month.

Other alumni priests bring Christ's teachings to schools as well, with alumnus Father Bjorn Lundberg serving as chaplain of Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries. Father Lundberg is joined by five other Christendom alumni on staff, who teach the next generation of Catholic leaders religion, bioethics, social studies and more.

Across the diocese, more than 125 alumni work for educational institutions. Melissa Manaker, who earned her master's from Christendom in 2015, serves as middle school administrator at St. Rita School in Alexandria, chairman of the board for Angelus Academy in Springfield, and as head of the Women's Apostolate for Youth.

Many alumni work as parish directors of religious education, including 2005 alumnus Jimmy Blankenship. At St. Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville, he is responsible for the religious education of more than 800 students in grades kindergarten through high school.

Another alumnus, Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo, is helping in adult faith formation through the Institute for Catholic Culture, which he founded. The institute offers programs on theology, philosophy, political science and history at diocesan parishes throughout the year, featuring some of the greatest Catholic intellectuals, including Christendom's own faculty.

Whether they run small businesses, serve as lawyers or work in insurance firms, countless lay alumni impact the secular world the diocese inhabits, making it a better place for families to grow and thrive. The Arlington Diocese gave Christendom founder Warren Carroll its support to establish the college in 1977. It is only fitting that Christendom alumni give back an abundance of blessings in return.

Smith is public relations specialist at Christendom College in Front Royal.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016