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Students celebrate cultures from across the globe at International Day

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Dressed in traditional garments of orange and black, the Cameroonian choir, St. Theresia, danced and sang religious songs to students wearing clothes from Korea, Colombia and France. 

Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Vienna held its annual International Day March 10 to educate students about Catholic communities outside of Northern Virginia while planning to support them. This year, students have been learning about the 54 different countries in Africa, and have committed to raise $3,000 for subsidized tuition and textbooks at St. Mary’s Karonga Secondary Girls’ School in the Republic of Malawi. 

"Nigeria has the largest Catholic seminary in the world. Our faith is just exploding in Africa." Corinne Monogue, director of the Office of Multicultural Ministries

Students hope to collect money though dress-down days, dining for dollars at Potbelly Sandwich Works and more. 

When the school implemented the outreach component to International Day nine years ago, they collected $10,000 for a computer lab in a school in Springbok, South Africa.

“Our former pastor, Oblate Father William J. Metzger, is friends with Bishop Martin Mtumbuka,” said Inge McKenney, parent and coordinator of the International Day.

Bishop Mtumbuka oversees the Diocese of Karonga, where St. Mary Karonga School is located, and is a frequent guest and Mass celebrant at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church.

Typically, the country or area chosen for International Day is represented by immigrants, but because of the few Malawian Catholics in the diocese, the Cameroonian choir was invited.

According to Corinne Monogue, director of the Office of Multicultural Ministries, the Cameroon Catholic population in the diocese is more than 100. Each month they celebrate Mass with their cultural traditions at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church.


During International Day, Monogue provided facts about Africa and the various African Catholic communities in the diocese, which include Cameroon, Congo, Eritrea, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. 

“Nigeria has the largest Catholic seminary in the world. Our faith is just exploding in Africa,” she said. 

While Africa was the focus of this year’s International Day, students displayed their heritage and walked in the “Parade of Nations,” waving flags and strutting in clothes of their ancestral roots. 

“It’s like the Olympics,” said Alice Grabowski, parent volunteer.

“It helps the kids show their heritage and their faith,” said McKenney.

Students were given World Mission rosaries from the Arlington Mission Office. Oblate Father Matthew J. Hillyard, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, blessed them and explained the five different decades on the rosaries — each a different color.

Green represents the grasslands of Africa, red recalls the fire of the missionaries who came to the Americas, white symbolizes the home of the Holy Father in Europe, blue represents the ocean that surrounds Australia and the Pacific islands, and yellow reflects the morning sun of Asia and the Middle East.

Father Hillyard and Roberto Bacalski, development coordinator of the Arlington Missions Office, prayed with the students.

“Help us to welcome the stranger, just as our ancestors came here looking for a better life,” said Father Hillyard in prayer.

To buy photos from International Day go to catholicherald.smugmug.com.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017