Bishop O’Connell commemorates Mother Teresa’s visit

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Before the end of the school year in June 1982, Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington hosted a special guest speaker. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, on a trip to address Congress, stopped by the school to speak to the students.

Those in attendance remembered that she did not talk about honors received or about her work as founder of a religious order. She talked about Jesus and how He became poor for our sake and how serving the poor allows us to serve Him. She explained that through prayer and service to others, we, too, will have the joy of loving Jesus.

Father Mark Pilon, school chaplain at the time, recently shared some photos with the school. A commemorative plaque was created and is now on display near the school’s main entrance. The photo and plaque remind all who enter about this historic day in the life of O'Connell.

The photo shows Father Pilon and the Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, Arlington’s first bishop, on stage with Mother Teresa and one of her fellow Missionaries of Charity.

The plaque reads: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, addressing the students of Bishop O'Connell High School, June 1, 1982. "Now you have received this wonderful education. Now you are standing more or less on your feet and you have to face life. Face it with the strength of prayer. My prayer for you then: Let us grow in the likeness of Christ by loving one another as Jesus love us."

Buy photos from Mother Teresa's 1981 and 1982 visits to Arlington and Washington; or print them on keepsake coffee mugs, magnets and more.

Head of School Joseph Vorbach was a member of the class of 1983. "Most of all I remember how quiet the auditorium was as this small woman took the stage," he said. "It was as if we all knew we were in the presence of someone extraordinary."

Former physical education teacher and coach Jim Hayes recalls the question and answer period at the end of her presentation.

"How do you become holy?" a student asked.

Mother Teresa responded, "How do you get a sunburn?"

Another student asked, "How do we become like you?"

"Find your own Calcutta," she replied.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016