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Dumfries high school named
New school to honor late pope’s love of youths, respect for life
Gretchen R. Crowe | Catholic Herald

The legacy of Pope John Paul II and his love of young people will live on in the form of the newest Catholic high school currently under construction in the Arlington Diocese.

Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School will open its doors next fall — and its namesake is an “incredible witness (who) had great respect for youth,” said Dominican Sister Mary Jordan Hoover, principal.

“He led the world, and especially the youth, to Christ,” she said. “He had a way of speaking in a personal way. There’s something very magnanimous about him. His witness was just incredible.”

Ground was broken last September for the new high school, which is located on the Cherry Hill peninsula in Prince William County, and construction has increased steadily since then. According to diocesan consultant Jim Robinson, 90 percent of all foundations have been completed, with only that of the library to go. Portions of the roof have also been installed, the football field and baseball field both have been sodded, and the soccer field should be completed in the next two weeks.

The finalization of the school’s name was a significant step toward its coming to fruition.

Pope John Paul the Great’s emphasis on the dignity of every human person makes his name a perfect fit for the school considering its innovative bioethics curriculum, Sister Mary Jordan said.

“I definitely believe that John Paul (the Great’s) writings on the dignity of the human person and the Gospel of Life will connect so clearly and nicely with the bioethics curriculum and everything that we’re trying to build in terms of the Catholic school culture,” she said. “He led the world, and especially youth, to Christ. He was gifted in terms of speaking the truth, but speaking it in a way that was loving.”

In choosing Pope John Paul the Great as the namesake of the new high school, “we can now marry a name with the specific mission of the school and who’s providing that mission,” said Dr. Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools.

The name complements the mission of those providers — the Dominican sisters who will staff the school.

“I think their charism, their history and their mission dovetails so much into what the pope stood for and what he said,” McNiff said.

The Dominicans will implement the teachings of Pope John Paul II into the curriculum, especially his teachings on life issues, such as the “Gospel of Life” and “Theology of the Body,” Sister Mary Jordan said.

“There’s a very nice connect because he was a strong teacher on the life issues,” she said. “The bioethics curriculum will be teaching us about the human person and then we’ll be integrating that with the sciences, with history, with the rest of the curriculum.”

“Pope John Paul II shaped a generation of Catholics, including the young generation we see in our schools today,” said Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde in his column on page 9. “Always paying special attention to youth, John Paul II saw in youth the young Church, and he loved them as he loved all the members of the Church.”

The bishop added that Pope John Paul the Great had an extensive role as an educator, “through his writings, his homilies, his prayerful devotions and his actions.”

“Guided by this example, the Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School will continue in the great tradition of the other three existing diocesan high schools in its education of the total person,” he said.

A statue of the late pope will stand outside the school, with an additional 10 life-size statues of saints inside, some of which were canonized by John Paul II.

Because the school is not yet able to host open houses, area parishes and schools have shared that responsibility. The first will be Nov. 3 at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School and Our Lady of Angels Parish, both in Woodbridge, from 1 to 3 p.m. St. Francis School in Triangle will host a second open house on Nov. 17, also from 1 to 3 p.m. These schools, along with St. William of York in Stafford, Holy Family in Dale City and Holy Cross Academy in Fredericksburg, will be the primary sources of students for the high school.

Since late August, Sister Mary Jordan has been traveling to area schools and parishes to promote the new school. Her next stop will be Oct. 27-28 at Holy Family Church in Dale City.

Sister Mary Jordan is accepting applications to work at the school. Available positions include teachers, assistant principals, development, athletic and admissions directors and a business manager. For a list of all opportunities and how to apply, go to www.jpthegreat.org.

Before Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School, the last high school established by the diocese was Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, which opened its doors to students in 1983. Namesakes of other high schools include former Richmond Bishops Denis J. O’Connell and Peter L. Ireton, along with Pope Paul VI, who established the Arlington Diocese in 1973.

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