Refugee students receive school supplies; a local teacher heads to Ghana; St. William of York School has multiple sets of twins, and one set of quadruplets enrolled; and more in our Back to School special section.
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The Edward Douglass White Knights of Columbus enjoy a Labor Day picnic on council grounds in Arlington. Deputy Grand Knight Chris Bannon, Al Camacho and Kenny Goss served as “Master BBQ chefs.”   More

Christian filmmakers Ron Newcomb and Scott Mathias, along with a team of actors and crew, have transformed Virginia’s scenic Rappahannock County landscape into the “land of Adrasil” for their upcoming production, “The Rangers.”

Here, Mathias talks about the web series, due out in December. Click here to read more about the series and see photos from the production.


St. William of York School, just a few miles away from Quantico Marine Corps Base, serves a large number of military families. Aug. 25 marked the first day of school.

This year three sets of twins and a set of quadruplets will attend the school. Read about their story here.   More

We deny its encroachment with gels and creams, dyes and surgery. We give it euphemisms like “passed away” or “gone on.” Of course we do. Death is “the great unknown.” In fiction and fairy tales, the personification of death is a frightening image. We, as a culture, are scared of death.

In the past month, I’ve gone to a funeral for a 32-year-old mother of four who died from a ruptured brain aneurism and to the home of a 101-year-old man who died two days later. I also have a dear friend who is losing her maternal and paternal grandmothers at the same time. Another good friend just lost his childhood friend at age 32.

So, not surprisingly, I’ve thought a lot about death lately. And the more I think about it, the more important I believe it is to look at death more closely and to meditate on it more regularly. Maybe that sounds morbid, but it need not be.

In the Catholic faith, the most powerful image of death — the Crucifixion — is also an image of life, for it anticipates the Resurrection. Yes, we should contemplate that powerful mystery of course, but there’s another way that we might link death to life.

If I spend time thinking about the reality — the absolute certainty — of death, it can help me call to mind the ripple effects of my little actions. Not the huge ones, the small ones.

Sarah Harkins, the mother pregnant with her fifth child who died July 28, home-schooled, started a Bible study and made clay rosaries. She even made her own natural toothpaste.

One of the things that stood out to me about Sarah was the care she took in designing and making each rosary bead. An anchor, a rooster, a shamrock, a flower; each piece symbolic and selected for a reason. Sarah’s midwife, Parveen Kelly, sent me a photo of the rosary made especially for her. You could sense how loved Parveen felt to have each bead chosen with her in mind, each round and colorful ball molded with care. It was a tangible, lasting gift of the gift …   More

For the past few weeks, Facebook and Twitter have been filled with videos of everyone, from families to bishops to celebrities, dumping buckets of ice water on their heads. The event has raised tens of millions of dollars in funds for researching ALS, the neurodegenerative disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The ice bucket challenge started in America, but it quickly caught the attention of a clergyman halfway around the world. Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna of Baghdad is in the midst of a desperate situation. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, kidnapped and forced to flee their homes. Militants have chased the last Christians out of Mosul, according to a report from Catholic News Service.

It’s hard to imagine what someone in Iraq would think of a bunch of comparatively pampered Americans dumping cold water on their heads and calling it a “challenge.” But the bishop took the moment as a teaching opportunity — and issued his own request.

“I think that the real challenge is the challenge of evil and immorality that exists in our world. I think that the real challenge is a spiritual challenge: the challenge of evil that we produce in our hearts and our minds by thoughts, by actions, by intentions.”

Bishop Hanna’s challenge to Catholics everywhere: “Have faith and be in prayer” for peace and for the refugees in Iraq. Specifically, spend 30 minutes in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament on Tuesday, Aug. 26, at 11 a.m. EST (6 p.m. in Iraq). Then, take a picture of yourself and your group and post it to his Facebook wall.

Wouldn’t it be great if Catholics in the United States could help him take it one step further? Let’s try to get the challenge trending on Twitter. If you post your photo or tweet about the bishop’s appeal, use the hashtag #prayerchallenge to help him raise awareness.

As Bishop Hanna said, “I challenge you. Don’t forget, …   More

I came across a Facebook post today that asked homeless people in Orlando to write on a piece of cardboard an interesting fact about themselves. No audio interviews, just video snippets of each person writing and then holding up their piece of cardboard. Surely, not a coincidence that the organizers had the people use torn pieces of cardboard, not fresh bright white poster boards.

“Lost it all, starting over,” read one. Another guy wrote, “I’m recovering from open-heart surgery” as he pulled on his T-shirt to reveal a scar. One woman held a sign saying, “I surrendered my kids to save them from homelessness.”

“I speak 4 languages,” one older man’s sign read. Another, “I was born deaf.” One woman said, “I am homeless and I do have a job,” another “I was a figure skater.” A man caught a football tossed to him after showing his sign, “I was on the Buffalo Bills practice squad from 1998-2000,” another “I’ve built robots.”

You get the idea: Homeless people are people with families, back stories, tragedies and triumphs. Who knows why they are homeless: underemployment, costly housing, mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, divorce, domestic violence, just bad luck … who knows.

Have you met a homeless person, do you know someone who is homeless? That changes the equation a bit, doesn’t it?

I knew a guy who lived under a highway overpass. He’d been to college, was smart, good-looking, but had an addiction he just couldn’t beat. His family couldn’t help him because he didn’t want to or was unable to change. A friend of mine, just a decade older than myself, is living in a homeless shelter in Canada right now. A falling out with her family after her father died left her without a home, no job, poor health and vulnerable to so many things.

I see another older woman around Arlington a few times a week. She goes to the local post office to pick up her social security check, but I see her late at night …   More

Campers at St. Louis Church “Vocation” Bible School in Alexandria traded neon VBS shirts for handmade habits Aug. 4-8.

Volunteers sewed more than 40 mini-habits so that each day the campers could dress up as a different religious order and participate in activities that matched their order’s charism. The Benedictines gardened and prayed, and the Dominicans acted out the Gospel story for each day. The Franciscans built a cardboard church in the school gym and begged for snacks to give to the cloistered Carmelites, who prayed and did activities behind the gym curtain.

See pictures and read more about the campers' experience.   More

Starting his first visit to Asia, Pope Francis urged South Korean political and civic leaders to seek peace on their divided peninsula and strengthen their nation's commitment to democracy and social justice.

"Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice," the pope said Aug. 14 in a speech at Seoul's Blue House, the official residence of President Park Geun-hye.

Read more about the pope's visit here.   More

The Arlington Diocese celebrates a mini-milestone today -- its 40th anniversary.

The Cathedral of St. Thomas More was packed with friends, family and clergy as Bishop Thomas J. Welsh was installed as Arlington’s first bishop Aug. 13, 1974. Among those celebrating the formation of Virginia’s second diocese was Philadelphia Cardinal John Krol, Archbishop Jean Jadot, apostolic delegate in the United States, and Baltimore Archbishop William D. Borders.

The Richmond Diocese was well represented. Bishop Walter F. Sullivan, Auxiliary Bishop J. Louis Flaherty and retired Richmond Bishop John J. Russell were all in attendance.

The newly established diocese had 136,000 Catholics in 49 parishes and seven missions.

Msgr. Richard J. Burke, as rector of the Cathedral, organized the installation ceremony and read the papal document that brought Bishop Welsh from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., to the suburbs of Washington. Msgr. Paul V. Heller, then pastor of St. James Church in Falls Church, read the “Bull of Erection,” which outlined the boundaries of the new diocese.

Among those chosen to represent the clergy of the diocese was a newly ordained parochial vicar from St. Bernadette Church in Springfield, Father Patrick Holroyd, who now serves as pastor of St. Mark Church in Vienna.

Father John O’Connell, then pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Arlington, and Father Franklyn McAfee, then parochial vicar at the Cathedral, served as masters of ceremonies.

Bishop Welsh appointed Rosemarie Bock as his secretary and John J. Connell as the diocese’s first business manager.

Thanks to our friends at the Catholic Virginian for providing coverage of the installation ceremony.

Send your memories of the establishment of the Arlington Diocese to


Once, during a trip to New York City, some friends and I stopped into a restaurant on Seventh Avenue for dinner. I was happily slurping down my pho, a Vietnamese noodle dish, when I heard a familiar voice. The comedian Robin Williams — Mrs. Doubtfire himself — was sitting less than 10 feet away, telling hilarious stories to friends gathered around his dinner table.

It was really neat to see that Williams was as funny in real life as he appeared to be on the stage and screen.

What I didn't know that night was that Williams struggled with depression, like hundreds of thousands of human beings. It was that depression that may have caused his tragic death in August.

When our society characterizes people with clinical depression, it paints pictures of moody teens wearing black. It does not consider depression as it honestly is: a real illness that can hit anyone of any socioeconomic background. It can affect a parent as well as a student, the rich and the poor. Like a cold or the flu, anyone can experience it.

Clinical depression has a lot to do with the way chemicals function in your brain. Scientists have found that chemicals that help regulate your mood are severely low in people who have depressive episodes. But society stigmatizes depression as just a case of "being sad," and tells the depressed to "just get over it." That leads the clinically depressed to hide their illness until it is too late, scared of what people might think, instead of reaching out for the treatment that can help return them to happiness.

But, just as if you were to get the flu, if you feel depressed, you should go to the doctor and get medicine and advice for feeling better. You would tell your friends to do the same. Why suffer a headache when there are painkillers? Why suffer a sinus infection when you can get a decongestant?

Doctors have effective medicine and methods to battle clinical depression. And yet, it is a condition that makes people feel as they …   More

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