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Bishop Burbidge’s back to school ABCs

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Catholic school educators from around the diocese gathered to open the school year in prayer at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas Aug. 20. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and diocesan priests celebrated the Mass. Student singers and instrumentalists played the music. 

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge told teachers and administrators his “ABCs” of the school year. He began with A — awe. “Be filled with a sense of awe for the vocation the Lord has given to you as he entrusts you with assisting parents in the faith formation and education of their children,” he said.

The second letter is B for bravery. “The society in which we live often questions, rejects and even ridicules what we teach our children especially in regard to the sacredness of all human life at every stage, the sanctity of marriage as Jesus taught, the call to chastity, the rejection of relativism and the true meaning of freedom,” said Bishop Burbidge. “Out of our love for our students, we must be committed to never watering down who we are and what we believe. Our Catholic schools will no longer thrive or serve a purpose without brave educators who teach the truth in love.”

The third letter C is for contemplation. He urged all educators to find their strength through prayer. “I think being with the Lord is the best gift you can give your students, for there you find the strength for the doing,” he said.

Bishop Burbidge encouraged school principals to inspire awe by lifting up the vocation of teaching and by encouraging young people to become Catholic educators. School leaders can encourage bravery by providing ongoing faith formation for teachers. They can foster contemplation by making time for prayer. 

“I am so inspired that some of our schools have chapels and sacred places where even just for a few moments, in the midst of a busy day, our teachers can visit and be alone with the Lord,” he said. “Please provide such sacred places and, most especially, encourage frequent visitors to them.”

At the close of the Mass, Joseph Vorbach, new superintendent of schools, and Bishop Burbidge congratulated Blessed Sacrament School in Alexandria for being the two-time recipient of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. They also thanked the teachers celebrating 10, 25 or 30 years of teaching in the diocese.

Catherine Milligan was one of them. She attended Catholic schools her whole life and began teaching in the diocese at the Cathedral School of St. Thomas More in Arlington in 1987 before moving to St. James School in Falls Church in 2000. 

The second-grade teacher said that over the past 30 years she’s loved teaching children about the sacraments and helping Catholic parents establish their own faith traditions. “We do a decade of the rosary every day in the classroom and some of the children go home and say to Mom and Dad, can we do a decade before we eat or before bedtime?” said Milligan. “They have that love in them they want to share.”

Teachers celebrating anniversaries 

25 years

Michael Rauer, Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria

Stephen Crooker, Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria

Maria Khorsandi, St. Agnes School, Arlington

Gracelin Emmanuel, St. Agnes School, Arlington

Claudia Hunt, St. John the Evangelist School, Warrenton

Kathy Karcz, St. Joseph School, Herndon 

30 years

Catherine Milligan, St. James School, Falls Church

Brenda Bauer, Cathedral School of St. Thomas More, Arlington

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019