O'Connell students blessed by a special Italian priest

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:14-16). 

This verse personifies the beloved, fun-loving, and insightful Italian priest, Father Michele Benetti, who has been a part of the Bishop O’Connell community for the past four years, bringing the light of Christ into any room he enters. Father Benetti has taught theology for freshmen and juniors, and AP Physics 2 for seniors. He explained that he loves teaching both subjects because they are incredibly beautiful. Father Benetti looks for the beauty in everything he encounters — even the ordinary things. 

father benetti

Fr. Michele Benetti, physics and theology teacher at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, rings the bell of the chapel at Camp St. Charles in Newburg, Md., to signal the start of Mass during the recent Kairos IV retreat for juniors and seniors. COURTESY O'CONNELL 

His charism comes from his religious order, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, and is inspired by the words of Pope John Paul II in 1984: “Go into all the world to bring the truth, the beauty, and the peace which are found in Christ the Redeemer.” He carries this charism through his relationships with students and with his colleagues.

“Father Benetti has made a significant impact on the spiritual life of students at O'Connell,” said O’Connell’s chaplain, Father Gregory Thompson.  “His zeal for souls is inspiring. Father generously makes himself available for our students and faculty — for the sacrament of reconciliation, for retreats and much more.”

Father Benetti started the School of Community (SoC), a meeting of those pursuing growth in their faith. This coed group meets every Friday, and twice a month visits the Missionaries of Charities home in Washington to help out wherever needed. Once a quarter, they join SoC groups from other schools for study days and talk about different faith issues.

“I feel a special connection to the senior class,” said Father Benetti. “I was new when they were new and I feel intensely privileged to be able to have witnessed the growth of their faith over the last four years.”

Father Benetti brings the same zeal to his colleagues at O’Connell, referring to them as his brothers and sisters. “It’s a great joy to work along with these men and women who share the same desire to communicate the faith in dynamic ways,” said Father Benetti. “The campus ministry team has been so fruitful because they share a desire to see students cultivate the seeds of faith that have been planted by their families, their church, their teachers.”

Father Benetti’s order has asked him to take on a new role at another school next year. He is headed to Saint Clement High School outside Boston in the fall. He hopes the legacy he leaves behind at O’Connell is a continued desire among students to know God.

He quotes from 1 Corinthians 3:6: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 

"Father Benetti will be very much missed,” said Father Thompson. “We pray that the Lord will bless his new opportunity at Saint Clement High School abundantly."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017