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John Paul graduate follows her principal to new school in Arizona

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Dominican Sister Mary Jordan Hoover, founding principal of Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries, left in 2016 to open another high school named after the sainted pope. In addition to the similar name, the Phoenix school also will be led by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. Students will be taught with the bioethics curriculum pioneered at the Virginia school.

Sister Mary Jordan wanted to make sure the new school had the same Christ-filled culture of the old. So she invited a familiar face to move to Arizona and teach at the school — John Paul the Great graduate Teresa Morris. The alumna had planned on teaching in the future and fondly remembered her time at the then-fledgling Dumfries school.

“The way everyone interacts there is joy-filled. There’s an understanding that regardless of what classes or sports (you do), every person has profound dignity and you are treated as such,” said Morris. “There was always a clear understanding that there was a who behind the what of what we were taught, and the who was the person of Christ.”

Morris was a student at John Paul the Great when a little more than 200 students attended, so Sister Mary Jordan got to know nearly all of them, she said. “Teresa was a three-sport athlete, and she was a standout in many ways,” she said. After Morris graduated, she studied philosophy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, in part inspired by the bioethics curriculum. She and her former principal kept in touch when Morris would stop by to pick up her younger brother from her alma mater.

Morris currently is working toward a master’s in bioethics from Loyola University Chicago. She was spending a year as a missionary teacher in Belize when Sister Mary Jordan reached out. This fall, Morris will teach ethics, English and public speaking at the new school.

“It’s a huge gift and massive responsibility to be teaching at all,” said Morris. She’s most excited about the ethics class. “It’s beautiful to teach young minds these difficult and controversial ideas, and to equip them to go out and think for themselves and be confident in defending the faith in a logical way.”

Sister Mary Jordan is proud to see Morris and many of the John Paul the Great graduates making an impact at their universities and in their careers. “(I hear of former students) doing wonderful things for God because of who they are and the formation they received,” she said. “For me, it's just a wonderful confirmation of God's love.” 

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